A Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta grant is helping educational outreach organization JCrafts Georgia launch two of its most elaborate, expensive projects yet: the Great Kosher Chocolate Factory and the Havdalah Workshop.
“I think the Jewish community is going to be thrilled to have these,” said Rabbi Levi Mentz, who heads JCrafts under the auspices of Chabad of Georgia. “Kids will be engaged in learning like never before.”
JCrafts is known for holiday-related mobile programming, such as a shofar factory at Rosh Hashanah, a matzah factory at Passover, an olive press for Chanukah and a mobile sukkah for Sukkot. The latest creations, which should be built and ready for rollout in March, are even more elaborate.
The chocolate factory costs more than $10,000, Rabbi Mentz said, features a backdrop 10 feet high and 20 feet long, and can serve 35 participants at a time. The factory starts with grinding cocoa beans and ends with kosher chocolate bars or, for Chanukah, chocolate menorahs.
The Havdalah program teaches about Shabbat traditions while producing intertwined Havdalah candles.
Both factories are appropriate for anyone from age 4 to adult. The script for the program behind the factory changes to remain age-appropriate.
The mobile factories are available to any Jewish organization and can be incorporated into events, Rabbi Mentz said. JCrafts comes in 90 minutes before the start and sets up everything.
It was the interaction with organizations across the community that helped JCrafts win one of four Jewish Continuity Innovation Fund Grants that Federation handed out in December, the fourth cycle of grants under the fund. Federation disburses up to $30,000 a year from the innovation fund to startup nonprofits that have operated in Atlanta for five years or less.
The grants, usually $2,000 to $6,000, aim to support Jewish education, Jewish communal engagement or Jewish leadership development.
In addition to JCrafts, December’s winners were Creating Connected Communities, the organization that grew out of Amy’s Holiday Party to support teens in helping the needy and becoming community leaders; In the City Camp, an intown Jewish day camp for ages 5 to 14; and Honeymoon Israel, a national organization that subsidizes group trips to Israel for newlyweds.
JCrafts won over the grant committee with reports showing that it served more than 5,500 participants at 33 organizations in a year, Rabbi Mentz said.
Rabbi Mentz said he and a Chabad colleague in Maryland are piloting the JCrafts concept and working together on ideas such as the two new workshops. His own ties to the entertainment industry, from growing up in Bel Air, Calif., also have helped.
Now JCrafts is spreading across the country, with the vision of having JCrafts programming available to every Jewish group. The sole purpose of JCrafts, Rabbi Mentz said, is to serve other Jewish organizations, usually by enhancing the educational efforts of preschools, day schools, religious schools and youth groups.
“If we’re all doing the same thing, trying to do the same goal,” he said, “why not work together to make something amazing? If we put all our resources together, we come out with a great product.”