By Guest Blogger Lisa Lepson, Executive Director, Joshua Venture Group
During this season, we speak often about the combination of apples and honey, a mixture that is wonderfully complementary — the crispy, crunchy, sweet but tart apples dipped in a luscious, aromatic pot of sticky honey. When working for social change, we strive to create partnerships that are equally as complementary. The challenges that face us as a community are looming and entrenched, and often, only by reaching across institutional boundaries can we take steps to move the needle.
The desire to create larger impact and leverage communal resources led the Ruderman Family Foundation (RFF) to partner with Joshua Venture Group (JVG) this past summer to create a new Ruderman Fellowship, as part of JVG’s 2012-2014 Dual Investment Program. RFF’s commitment and focus on promoting the full inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the Jewish community through meaningful programs and public awareness, combined with JVG’s expertise in identifying and growing emergent ventures and leaders to support innovation, will foster an impactful new venture to flourish in this area.
Last week, it was announced that Elana Naftalin-Kelman, a San Francisco-based Jewish social entrepreneur and activist, had been named the 2012-2014 Ruderman Fellow. Naftalin-Kelman will receive more than $100,000 in funding and support over two years to launch an inclusion program for Jews with disabilities and their families. The program, Rosh Pina, will provide Jewish institutions across the U.S. with the opportunity to become “Cornerstone Certified” — to demonstrate to the community that the institution takes seriously ideas of inclusion and support of all types of Jews regardless of ability. The certification will require that Jewish institutions evaluate their physical structure, curriculum, family programming, language used, and leadership to fully include children with disabilities and their families.
Of more than 150 applications submitted for our program, one-fifth were focused on improving the lives of people with disabilities within the Jewish community. We were delighted to find highly passionate, creative, and committed individuals throughout the U.S. and Canada who aspired to change the current status quo around this issue.
Through a rigorous process that has been honed over a decade by JVG, and which tapped RFF’s content knowledge and networks, we chose Naftalin-Kelman and her venture to move the needle on full inclusion in our communities’ institutions. JVG and RFF will continue over the next two years to provide the early-stage support that young initiatives like Rosh Pina need. Like apples and honey, our combined support will usher in a sense of renewed energy, commitment, and courage to make significant change in this coming year and beyond.
— Lisa Lepson