First Natan Grants for ROI Entrepreneurs Announced

The Natan Fund and ROI Community have announced the recipients of the inaugural “Natan Grants for ROI Entrepreneurs,” a new grantmaking partnership dedicated to supporting ROI Community members with innovative ideas for diversifying Jewish life in communities around the world. The grants will be distributed to four recipients hailing from the U.S., Mexico and Uruguay. The new partnership between Natan and ROI Community, a member of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network, was initiated as a way of integrating Natan’s growing group of young philanthropists with ROI’s global network of emerging entrepreneurs and innovators.

ROI Community members from 10 countries submitted a total of 45 proposals to Natan. Through a highly competitive vetting process, Natan members made their selections based on how innovative the projects are at addressing challenges within their respective regions, the strength of the project’s leadership team and how deeply the projects resonated with Natan’s grantmaking agenda. Seven projects advanced to the final interview stage, from which the Natan grant committee ultimately selected four grantees.

The recipients of the first “Natan Grants for ROI Entrepreneurs” are:

  • Amy Beth Oppenheimer (United States): Oppenheimer is the Director of Faces of Israel, an educational film that explores Israel as a Jewish state today focusing on questions of Jewish identity, religious pluralism and civil liberties. She received the grant to bring the highly interactive Faces of Israelprogram, which includes presentation, discussion and film-viewing, into remote communities across the U.S.
  • Fabian Schamis (Uruguay): Schamis is the Executive Director of Punta del Este Jewish Community. He received a grant for Nefesh, a new local school that is the only source of Jewish education and strives to develop new leadership committed to Judaism and the State of Israel. Nefesh is the first program in the region to address the youth and their needs and is already strengthening ties within the local community as well as with other communities in the broader region.
  • Isidoro Hamui (Mexico): Hamui received a grant for Merkaba Fest, the first annual Jewish music festival in Mexico. Merkaba Fest aims to create, promote and explore both local and foreign artists and share Jewish culture and music with the greater Mexican society.
  • Robert Saferstein (United States): Saferstein received a grant to expand Friday Night Lights, a series of sophisticated Shabbat dinners for gay Jewish professionals, each highlighting a different charitable organization helping the LGBTQ Community. Friday Night Lights offers new access points into the Jewish community and fosters a genuine interest in long-term Jewish involvement.

The Natan Fund generally provides early-stage funding for creative approaches to some of the key challenges facing the Jewish people and the State of Israel today. Its portfolios includes creating new access points to Jewish life, especially for younger Jews who are less engaged with existing communal organizations; strengthening the bonds that connect Jews to one another, particularly across geographic borders; and strengthening Israel’s economy. Its partnership with ROI emerged out of a desire to expand Natan’s grantmaking to very early-stage ideas around the world and a belief that ROI’s rigorously vetted pool of innovators with diverse approaches to strengthening Jewish life would prove to be an excellent network of applicants from which to draw.