J’Burgh, Pittsburgh’s social and professional network for Jewish graduate students and young professionals, has received national recognition for its best practices in Jewish communal innovation.
The 4-year-old organization — an initiative of the Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh with support from Shalom Pittsburgh and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation — has been named one of the 50 most innovative nonprofit organizations in Jewish life by Slingshot, an annual guide to the most innovative Jewish organizations in North America.
J’Burgh was selected from among 180 applications, according to Julie Finkelstein, Slingshot’s program director.
“The reasons we selected J’Burgh are two-fold,” Finkelstein said. “First, because of their best practices, the way they engage
young people where they are and involve them in the planning process.
Second, because of the way they successfully partner with other organizations. I think it’s something that can be successfully replicated in other cities around the country.”
Cleveland has already emulated J’Burgh with the founding of J’Cle, and Finkelstein suspects other communities will soon follow.
“This model seems like a no-brainer to us,” she said. “It’s working. We are hoping to raise their [J’Burgh’s] profile, and get them some attention.”
The numbers prove that J’Burgh is working.
“We are now in our fifth year,” said David Katz, director of J’Burgh. “We went from engaging 300 unique individuals in our first year, to 900 this year. People are now deciding to stay in Pittsburgh because of the [Jewish]
community. I know from our participants that people are choosing to make Pittsburgh their home because of J’Burgh.”
J’Burgh organizes social events, speakers, Israel programming, Shabbat services and dinners, and networking opportunities. Through J’Burgh, leadership skills are developed so that J’Burgh participants can then be passed on as leaders to other Jewish communal organizations, according to Katz.
First published in 2005, Slingshot continues to highlight those organizations in Jewish life with particular resonance among the next generation. The Slingshot resource guide is distributed to 7,500 funders, foundation professionals, federation executives, and not-for-profit leaders annually, in addition to tens of thousands of online downloads. Readers use Slingshot to identify the most inspiring organizations, projects and programs in the North American Jewish community today.
The majority of the 173 organizations that have been recognized by Slingshot since its inception have received funding from various donors and foundations as a result, Finkelstein said.
Recognition by Slingshot will help to grow J’Burgh’s profile as well, and can help draw the attention of funders, said Katz.
“As an organization, we’re continuing to grow nationally,” he said. “More people now know what’s going on in Pittsburgh. Slingshot is validating the work we’ve done.”
This is the first time Slingshot has included a Pittsburgh-based organization in its guide, according to Finkelstein.
“I am always really excited to see different communities doing different things,” she said. “We hope to see more applications from Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh-like cities.”
J’Burgh’s inclusion in the Slingshot guide was announced at a happy hour celebration at the Porch at Schenley Thursday, Oct. 25, celebrating the first annual J’Burgh Day in Pittsburgh, as proclaimed by Mayor Ravenstahl in 2011.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)