The Leader Accelerator, a new provider of funding and advice to small Jewish nonprofits, has named its first cohort of seven grantees receiving $10,000 each, in addition to a slate of 12 organizations receiving between $1,00 and $5,000, said Jonathan and Dina Leader, the organization’s founders and funders.
“We were overwhelmed by the number of small Jewish organizations with whom we were not familiar who are doing wonderful work to help the Jews of the New York City area,” Jonathan Leader said. The accelerator received 50 submissions.
The recipients of the $10,000 grants include the CUNY Alliance for Inclusion (CAFI), which combats antisemitism and anti-Zionism among faculty and students of the City University of New York campuses; Makom, a synagogue that doesn’t require membership dues; and Wine Down Shabbat, a family-centered Shabbat afternoon gathering in Morningside Park that serves the Jewish community in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood.
Wine Down Shabbat, a community-based program, will now become an independent nonprofit thanks to the Leader Accelerator’s support, said Naomi Sage, who co-founded the program with her husband, Sage Ramadge. Each meeting begins with Shabbat-inspired music, and closes with blessings and a family-style pizza dinner. Its most recent event gathered 40 families and was its largest to date.
Jonathan Leader, an investor who founded thefirmLiberty Capital Management, was familiar with the accelerator concept from the business world, where investors provided funding and strategic advice to support startup companies.
In the Jewish communal world, UpStart — a nonprofit consulting firm for other organizations — offers several accelerator programs, including its Change Accelerator. The Orthodox Union’s Impact Accelerator identifies promising nonprofits and supports their growth. The Leaders’ accelerator is similar to the Legacy Heritage Fund’s Project Accelerate, which also focuses on second-stage projects.
The Leaders have been helpful in brainstorming ways to expand Wine Down Shabbat’s offerings, Sage said, adding that she and her husband plan to host 22 Wine Downs in 2022.
“The outside perspective is invaluable, especially when it comes from seasoned professionals and philanthropists like the Leaders,” said Yosef Gillers, founder of Grow Torah, an educational program, which received one of the smaller grants. “We are also eager to meet other organizations and nonprofit leaders.”
Each grant will be asked to keep the Leader Accelerator informed of its progress over the next three months, with the possibility of receiving a further grant by the end of March, Jonathan Leader said. The form that communication takes will be up to the grantees, because the Leaders consider it part of the learning process, he added.
They are also trying to connect grantees to each other and to other organizations they know or support, in the hope that they can work together.
The accelerator disbursed $115,000 grants in its first round and expects to match or exceed that amount in the spring, which could include increased grants to the original grantees and grants to new organizations.
The 12 organizations that received smaller grants include SAMI (Sephardic American Mizrahi Initiative), Jewish Communities Confronting Substance Use and Addiction, the Jewish Fertility Foundation and 3GNY (Descendants of Holocaust Survivors.)