Six months ago on a stage in Tel Aviv, with the sun sinking into the Mediterranean behind us, I and several dozen classmates from San Francisco, Columbus and my hometown of Miami, received our certificates of completion from the Wexner Heritage program. A few months prior, sitting in a bank boardroom, our Heritage classroom for the past two years, we had been told that our Jewish experiences were rare and that, therefore, when we envisioned the future for the Jewish people and our own Jewish communities, we should also keep in mind a more “typical” Jewish experience. By virtue of being part of such a special group convening at that long mahogany table, the point of feeling unique in that moment might have been self-evident, but as I looked back on my Jewish experiences, they mostly seemed “typical.” Remembering my few years of Jewish day school, JCC camp and sports leagues, bar mitzvah, confirmation, trips to Israel, March of the Living, Shabbat dinners, Passover seders and High Holiday services, nothing stood out as unique other than the consistency and quantity. Thanks to all these experiences, I developed a strong sense of Jewish identity, but still felt as if I was wandering in the desert of my Jewish journey.

Several years ago, I was handed a Slingshot Guide

and invited to participate in the Slingshot Fund grant allocations process, through which an entire community of Jewish life I never knew existed was suddenly revealed to me. I was, and continue to be, impressed and inspired by the multitude of original and diverse Jewish organizations that make being Jewish relevant and meaningful. I was opened up to a community of people who are deeply engaged in Jewish life in ways I never would have imagined. I suddenly felt rooted in a people and history like never before. Slingshot is my “unique” Jewish experience, but connecting “typical” Jews with a personally relevant Jewish experience should not be unique.  

The organizations in the Slingshot Guide are all self-identified North American Jewish organizations. They each have a fresh and compelling way of expressing their organizational Jewish identity to the populations and missions they serve. All of the organizations have proven successful in their work, both in terms of their own standards for success, as well as that of the Slingshot evaluation criteria for innovation, impact, organizational effectiveness, and strong leadership. All of the organizations in the Slingshot Guide are eligible for grants from the Slingshot Fund, which has granted $2.1 million to 30 different organizations over the past seven years. Slingshot has grown to become not only an important funding source, but also a closely watched seal of approval for many Jewish funders and foundations.  

While funding is a key component to success and sustainability, it is only a resource to fulfill a mission. The virtue of being in the Slingshot Guide is not the potential for a grant or even a seal of approval. The real value of Slingshot, the true Slingshot effect, is the inspiration one feels from being connected to a larger community. Slingshot’s driving purpose is to create awareness of the many organizations, projects, and people who have implemented breakthrough ways to make 21st century North American Jewish life more relevant, connected and meaningful. If you are an innovator, we need to know about you.

Slingshot is now accepting applications for its 2014-15 guide. If you are involved in a transformative Jewish organization or project, I strongly encourage you toapply for a Slingshot grant – not just for the potential funding, but for the opportunity to be that unique spark that touches a Jewish soul by encouraging someone to reconnect with his or her Judaism, and to embrace a changing and exciting community of Jewish innovation.

Jonathan Raiffe, a Wexner Heritage alum (Miami 11), serves as the Chairman of the Board of Slingshot, Treasurer of Jewish Community Services of South Florida, and as an executive board member of The Network of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Professionally, Jonathan is the Executive Vice President of Adler Development, LLC, a real estate development company based in Miami. Jonathan earned a Bachelor of Arts, in anthropology, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, in marketing, from Washington University. He also received a Master of Science in Finance and a Master of Science in International Real Estate from Florida International University. Jonathan can be reached at