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Change Through Dialogue: Social Venture Fund Members Meet and Collaborate 

Members and grantees of the Social Venture Fund for Jewish-Arab Equality and Shared Society gathered on May 2 at Sheatufim headquarters to meet with each other and discuss potential opportunities for collaboration ahead of the weeklong Intra-Agency Task Force visit.

Attendees included representatives of both educational and economic development projects supported by the fund. The theme of collaboration was introduced by incoming chair Stuart Brown in his opening remarks and echoed throughout the day as members reconnected informally, with some grantees meeting each other for the first time.

Smadar Nehab of the Tsofen High Technology Centers, a group that helps place Arab Israeli academics in jobs in the hi-tech industry, said that the day represented an opportunity to create a better connection with venture fund donors. “I see them as partners and want to get as much feedback as possible from them,” she said.

Mike Prashker, founder and director of Merchavim, whose SVF funded program integrates Arab Israeli teachers into Jewish schools, looked forward to sharing ideas with other grantees as well. Prashker noted that the educational and economic development projects often “dovetailed extremely elegantly,” and could provide helpful perspective for one another.

The group had the opportunity to blend seamlessly at breakout sessions and a joint discussion.

Funding foundations, such as the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Foundation and the Alan B. Slifka Foundation, were represented alongside private donors and federations.

“We want to see in what way we, as a foundation, can link into the task force and venture fund,” said Ronit Segelman of the Rashi Foundation.

For long-term grantees, who have been with the fund since its inception, the meeting also provided an opportunity to review past accomplishments. Rulla Elatuna and KerenOr Regev of Alnuhud: The Association for the promotion of Bedouin Women’s Education in the Negev, recalled a new program that the group had inaugurated this year in which the female grant recipients sit down for group discussions together with husbands and facilitators. During her time with the project, Elatuna has come to understand that the women need more than financial resources to succeed – they need to learn skills for empowerment in a male-dominated society.

“It’s a slow process but we are taking it on both an individual and a social level,” she said.

Prashker counseled against becoming discouraged by the difficulties involved in society building. “The venture fund is taking on what I regard as the Jewish Zionist challenge of this century as we move from statehood to societyhood, so I commend everyone’s courage and willingness to engage in this,” he said.

Gail Zucker, JFNA Director of Consulting who organized the day, was satisfied that participants had accomplished much over the course of the event. “This gathering was an ideal opportunity to brainstorm ideas for collaborative impact. It is critically important that we meet together, learn from each other and engage in a strategic conversation on the intersection between education and economic development,” she said.

For more information on the Social Venture Fund, contact Gail Zucker and Suzanne Patt.