Danielle Minson — How You Help
Giving Circle Backs Projects to Combat Hate, Help Refugees
The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati has announced the winners of its 2018 Jewish Innovation Funds competition. This year, the giving circle of donors sought One Big Idea (or maybe two) that is collaborative in nature and has the potential to transform some aspect of Cincinnati’s Jewish community. Two proposals met their criteria and will be awarded a total of $85,000. In addition to significant funding, the Jewish Innovation Funds will back the selected projects with increased support and a cohort of mentors.
One of the grant recipients is the Cincinnati Regional Coalition Against Hate, which launched this April as a nonpartisan alliance of organizations committed to being vigilant against hate activity by supporting impacted communities and fostering acceptance, compassion, and justice for all in the Cincinnati region.
In the wake of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), the public affairs arm of the Jewish Federation, began conversations with leaders in other faith and ethnic communities about the need for a broad-based, nonpartisan coalition of organizations to serve as a mainstream voice of conscience that represents and articulates the Jewish community’s commitment to inclusion, equity, and justice for everyone.
“From a Jewish perspective, the need for such a coalition is pressing,” said JCRC Director Jackie Congedo. “The Anti-Defamation League reported the highest rise in antisemitic activity in 2017 since they started keeping record in 1979. Locally, acts of antisemitism include a large swastika painted on a campus sign of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, a bomb threat to the JCC, and an attack outside a local restaurant that was motivated by hatred for Jews, just to name a few.”
The coalition includes 19 organizing partners and has already garnered the endorsements of the Hamilton County Police Chief’s Association, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, Cincinnati Police Chief Elliot Isaac, and the FBI.
The YWCA Greater Cincinnati was asked by the founding group of organizations to serve as the convener and fiscal agent of the coalition, and therefore was granted the startup funding for the coalition’s first full year of operations from the Jewish Innovation Funds.
The other recipient is RefugeeConnect and its Tikkun Olam Navigators program, a peer empowerment model for Jewish Cincinnati cohorts where volunteers empower Cincinnati refugees to thrive.
Within the United States, Ohio is one of the top resettlement states, hosting 5 percent of refugees. RefugeeConnect identified a lack of coordinated education, employment, housing, healthcare, and other essential services. After receiving federal assistance for their first 45 to 90 days, refugees are left to navigate unfamiliar systems, new cultural norms, and language barriers.
Navigators will volunteer through local synagogues and help refugees find the resources that are already in place so they can reach their full potential as families and civic and community leaders.
After receiving training and background checks, navigators will be connected with refugees in one of the following ways:
Family Coaches: Jewish families will serve as guides, advocates, and friends to refugee families to help them get engaged in the community and become self-sufficient.
Teen-to-Teen Connection: Jewish teenagers will be paired up with teens who are refugees to create friendships, build community across faiths, and participate in community service together.
Retired Adult and Young Professional Mentors: These groups of Jewish adults will serve as career and college mentors to refugees with the goal of reducing underemployment and inspiring newcomers to reach their full potential in their career field.
“Many Jewish American families came to the US fleeing an oppressive homeland,” said RefugeeConnect Executive Director Robyn Lamont. “By definition, refugees are forcibly uprooted from their homes due to war, violence, or persecution. Refugees are invited to the United States legally on a pathway to citizenship at five years. They may not be accustomed to American culture, customs, language, or transportation, and need the support of Cincinnatians as they learn how to navigate this new culture while transitioning from frightening circumstances to become self-sustaining citizens in their newly adopted country.”
The Jewish Innovation Funds grant will allow RefugeeConnect to hire a Navigator Program Coordinator, who will oversee the startup and development of the program.
“We are so proud to facilitate these projects that support initiatives core to our identity as Jews,” said Danielle V. Minson, Chief Development Officer for the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. “From fighting antisemitism and hate in all forms to welcoming the stranger in our midst, these programs are transforming the way we engage with the broader Cincinnati community in a way that strengthens us all.”
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