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Innovation: It's not just for start-ups


I am an "affiliated" Jew. What does that mean exactly? As a kid, I attended religious school, went to Jewish camps, and was involved in youth groups.  And now that I have a family of my own, we send our kids to Jewish day school, belong to the local JCC and synagogue, and have leadership roles with several Jewish agencies. I have also worked for Federation and other Jewish organizations.... You get the picture.  

So how is it, then, that I also find myself on the board of UpStart, a cutting-edge organization at the forefront of innovation in the Jewish community?

The short answer is that innovation is good for Judaism, whether you participate in mainstream institutions or are seeking new, alternative paths to Jewish life; bringing these two streams together is an important part of UpStart's work. Some people hear the wordinnovation and assume it's about replacing older institutions with trendy new organizations. Wrong! UpStart's mission is to inspire and advance innovative IDEAS that contribute to the continued growth and vitality of every part of Jewish life.These ideas can come in a variety of forms, from new organizations, to new programs at seasoned organizations, or even new ways of working to ensure continued success. 

UpStart's goal is to keep Judaism relevant and in-touch for Jews in the 21st century.  

Just two months ago, I stood on the bima with my son as he became a Bar Mitzvah. My husband, my parents and I read from the Torah alongside him. And even my 90-year-old aunt took part, handing down the Torah to the next generation. A Bar Mitzvah is a venerated "tradition" of our community... yet, not one part of it felt "old" or "irrelevant". That's my favorite part about Judaism-its ability to constantly reinvent itself and remain exciting.

My family connects to Judaism through our synagogue, but I'm also in a Kevah group - a grassroots UpStarter organization that facilitates Jewish text study through informalWTshavuotlearning groups. By fueling new Jewish ideas, UpStart is simply expanding opportunities for more people to connect Jewishly. For a 13-year old kid who identifies most with nature, UpStarter Wilderness Torah, has an outdoor Bar/Bat Mitzvah program called B'Naiture. The Kitchen, another UpStarter, is holding Bar Mitzvah trainings for families who might have never set foot in a synagogue. 

My point is: there's nothing wrong with passing our traditions down from generation to generation. And there's also nothing wrong with changing up the way we do this. 

In order to keep Jews excited about Judaism, we have to ensure we're staying in touch with their needs. UpStart has its finger on the pulse of innovation in the Jewish community, and transmits this knowledge and these resources to start-ups and established organizations alike. 

I have made a commitment to supporting innovation in the Jewish community through my support of UpStart. Today, I'd like to ask you to join me. As you think about your year-end philanthropy, think about making an increased gift to UpStart.

Thank you in advance for your gift to this transformational organization,

Wendy Verba
UpStart Board Member

P.S. Make your tax-deductible gift to UpStart before December 31st!



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