If you took the Shark Tank model, removed the TV cameras and overly-dramatic presentations and criticisms, and replaced them with diverse, creative and passionate applicants and judges—you would get #MakeItHappen. Ignited by the Schusterman Philanthropic Network, #MakeItHappen is an initiative created to stimulate innovation in the Jewish community by offering micro-grants of up to $2,000 to enable individuals {NOT organizations} to kick-start new and exciting Jewish experiences.

As Schusterman’s Minnesota community partner, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation signed on to provide up to 10 micro-grants to individuals for projects in the Greater Minneapolis area.

“#MakeItHappen is a means of promoting and supporting a new generation of Jewish ideas,” said Debbie Stillman, Director of Community Partnerships and Engagement at the Federation. “Selected projects will use creative methods to engage and serve our local Jewish community.”

Federation received nearly two dozen Minnesota-based applications, which were reviewed, vetted and considered for awards by the Minnesota Make It Happen Decision Team. This group of engaged, insightful volunteers took their task seriously, providing thoughtful feedback to applicants and requesting additional information where needed.

“I think it is this kind of process that brings out ideas and individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be engaged,” said Decision Team member Leo Zabezhinsky. “Any one of the selected projects could grow into a full and sustainable program—or even the next great organization.”
Along with Schusterman’s prioritization of projects that valued service, innovation, inclusivity and connection to Israel and Jewish life, Minneapolis gave special consideration to those projects that connected to the Minneapolis Jewish community strategic priorities:




Creating a community of shared responsibility


Engaging the next generation in Jewish life


Strengthening our connection to Israel and Jewish peoplehood


Broadening leadership excellence


Enhancing and deepening the commitment to Jewish philanthropy


The creator: Jenna Mitelman
The idea: Plan and execute a series of Passover Seders specifically for young adults and young families in the Russian Jewish community.“Our community is home to thousands of Jews from former Soviet Republics, as well as their children. Yet most of these Jews have not been able to find a home for themselves within the local Jewish community,” says Jenna. “The hope of this project is to create a positive Jewish holiday experience.”

From the Decision Team: “This is a fantastic way to connect a younger subset of the local Russian Jewish population!”


The creator: Josh Awend
The idea: Create an exhibition featuring local Jewish family-owned businesses spanning three generations. 5-8 family businesses will be documented through photography and written interviews to capture their unique stories and explore the process of transition from one generation to the next. In a time when people change careers regularly, this is an opportunity to be inspired by those who have left a legacy that permeates the community. The exhibition will showcase why a family business continues into a third generation, its impact on the community and all the elements that come along with it.

From the Decision Team: “The potential is truly fantastic to engage people in a number of dialogues about business and the Jewish community.”


The creators: Sidney Usem and Sam Blustin
The idea: Bring together students from the University of Minnesota campus for student-hosted Shabbat meals—some formal and discussion-based, others more casual. Students will host up to 10 peers in their homes.

“Shabbat should be special, and we would like to provide the opportunity for students to host a nice meal and engage other students that may not normally attend Jewish events or be engaged in Jewish life.”
From the Decision Team: “This initiative provides a grassroots opportunity for individuals to engage their peers. There are some students that would simply not have their first Jewish ‘act’ or ‘engagment’ be with an organization; but if a friend asks them, they are more likely to participate.”


The creator: Jeffrey Lifson
The idea: Host a basketball game every Friday evening, creating a fun community atmosphere prior to coming together to celebrate Shabbat. This program would give students who normally are not involved in Jewish activities on campus an opportunity to get involved.

From the Decision Team: “Jewball is a non-threatening gateway for young adults to connect to other Jewish young adults on campus an from there, hopefully, become more engaged.”


The creator: Evan Stern
The idea: Invite single Jews ages 18-35 to attend Shabbat dinner at a local synagogue or the home of a local community leader. A shadchan (matchmaker) will attend the Shabbat and distribute his or her contact information. Following the event, attendees will contact the shadchan expressing their interest in one or more people. The shadchan will award $50 “first date subsidies” to young single Jews who are mutually interested.From the Decision Team: “So much of the programming for people in this age group is aimed at putting them in the right place to meet someone—but not necessarily facilitating that outcome.”


The creator: Andrea Gordon
The idea: Engage with the Duluth Jewish community on a regular basis—working with kids and educators, as well as parents in the community—to enhance their Jewish identity through music. “Because the experience of being Jewish ‘up North’ is very unique, it really requires—from a young age—the ability to define and identify ourselves as Jews,” says Andrea.

The universal language of Jewish music is one way to help solidify Jewish identity. A trained youth rabbi, Jewish music educator,
and college student or rabbinical student will engage with the community on a regular basis working with kids and educators, as well as parents in the community.

From the Decision Team: Not only did the Decision Team fund this project, they stipulated that outreach also include Superior Wisconsin as well as smaller nearby communities.


The creator: Sharon Jaffe
The idea: This journey is for a mix of Jewish people—welcome from any persuasion, from humanist to cultural and from political to spiritual—who will meet to delve into Jewish takes on death, mourning, & mindful compassion. The group will study text, visit funeral homes, cemeteries, and people in various Jewish Burial Societies. This program can function as a potential gateway for Jews on the outskirts to seriously consider Judaism and the Jewish community.

From the Decision Team: “Given the number of individuals in our community who are aging and whose children may also be interested in the options available, this program appeals to a wide cohort.”


The creator: Shana Cohen
The idea: Create a Jewish-themed parade float for Twin Cities Pride to represent LGBTQ Jews and also provide accessibility to our LGBTQ friends/families/allies who would otherwise not be able to participate in the parade due to disabilities. The reach and visibility of this project will collectively influence over 300,000 visitors that attend the Twin Cities Pride festival every year including unaffiliated Jews whose interest in the organized Jewish community may be ignited.

From the Decision Team: The Decision Team gravitated toward this program from the start, because it serves both the LGBTQ community and individuals with disabilities.


The creator: Elaine Sadoff
The idea: This initiative will create an inclusive Shabbat dinner for young adults with disabilities and young adults in our community who would be interested in participating in a communal Shabbat dinner.

This project was funded nationally by the Ruderman Family Foundation!

They pitched it. We funded it. Check out how we’re #MakingItHappen

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