Groups pledge $2 million toward strengthening young adults’ Jewish identity


(JTA) — Two international Jewish groups each pledged $1 million toward, respectively, helping Russian-speakers visit Israel in Taglit-Birthright trips, and supporting innovative projects that strengthen Jewish identity.

The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, or EAJC, announced its donation toward the Taglit-related goal Thursday. The Olami Foundation announced its fund, called the “The Innovation Incubator,” last week.

The EAJC donation will facilitate an increase of several hundred participants from Russian-speaking countries to attend the ten-day experiential and educational trip for Jewish young adults, the group said in a statement.

Since Taglit-Birthright was started 17 years ago, more than 45,000 Russian speakers participated in trips to Israel. EAJC President Mikhael‏ Mirilashvili wrote in the statement that sending more Russian-speakers on Taglit will strengthen their Jewish identity, and that “strong Jewish communities are important to the State of Israel exactly as much as a strong independent Jewish state is important to Jews of the diaspora.”

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Separately, the Olami Foundation, the charitable body that funds Olami worldwide – a global Jewish outreach network operating in 19 countries – said its new $1 million fund, “The Innovation Incubator,” will “stimulate Jewish growth, learning and awareness around the world.”

So far, Olami has financed 60 projects with an investment of  up to $50,000 per project, including the J-TV Jewish television channel in the United Kingdom, the Jewish Experience Center, founded by students in Israel and the JET Chicago Positive Speech Project — a student-led discussion group about positive speech based on a book by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin.

Olami is holding its 2017 Global Summit in Spain and the United Kingdom this month with 1,100 students participating from 19 countries. Participants will pitch during the conference 60 projects, for the fund’s board to choose from.

“The caliber of the students’ project ideas is exceptionally high and we are extremely excited to see which projects will receive the latest round of funding,” Olami CEO Rabbi Menachem Deutsche said. ”We hope that the winning teams will have a significant impact on the global Jewish community.”

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