Slingshot Guide zeroes in on JUFJ, Pearlstone


Two area organizations — Jews United for Justice and The Pearlstone Center in Reisterstown — were named in the 2018 Slingshot Guide, a resource showcasing innovative Jewish organizations for potential donors.

Both groups have been featured in the guide before, JUFJ in the 2013-14 edition and Pearlstone in the 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 editions.

“If an organization is featured in the guide and they continue to show up, it shows they continue to innovate,” said Stefanie Rhodes, executive director for Slingshot.

JUFJ, a progressive grassroots advocacy organization, works in Washington, Montgomery County and Baltimore City. Pearlstone is a retreat focused on outdoor education, organic farming and sustainability in Baltimore County.

Rebecca Ennen, JUFJ deputy director, said being in the guide is a validation of the work the group does. Innovative isn’t one of the words she uses to describe JUFJ, she said, but she believes Slingshot was recognizing the impact and approach of the work they do.

“I think of innovative as something very new, and what we do is, in many ways, old school, classic community organizing,” she said. “But I think what they’re seeing in our work is the combination of tikkun olam — which all Jewish people care about — and very local, practical action on the ground.”

Or as the guide put it, JUFJ uses the Jewish community’s “collective memory” as outcasts “to mobilize the Jewish community to come to the front line of fighting inequality.”

Ennen said being named a Slingshot organization is a kind of credential, a stamp of approval for what the organization is doing that can be useful for people deciding where to donate their money.

Organizations aren’t chosen based on a theme, Rhodes said, but of the 50 groups chosen for the guide, a number tackle advocacy and social justice. JUFJ fits that mold.

Pearlstone, the guide says, is “the Swiss Army knife of the Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming & Environmental Education movement,” which is also called JOFEE.

“Pearlstone is proud to be selected in this year’s guide,” said Executive Director Jakir Manela, “and thrilled to be part of the amazing community of the hundreds of innovative Jewish organizations included in the guide over the past 11 years who continue to create positive change in the Jewish community.”

Rhodes said Pearlstone has been
featured so many times because it continues to be a vanguard of the JOFEE movement with evolving programming and scope.

According to a recent demographic survey, the Washington area is home to the third-largest U.S. Jewish community. The large Jewish communities in New York, California and Illinois have a larger representation than Washington in this year’s Slingshot Guide.

Asked about the disparity, Rhodes said many national organizations featured in the guide have headquarters in New York, which has long been the center of American Jewish life. One reason California organizations are featured numerous times is that the state is a hub of technological innovation, and cultural innovation goes hand-in-hand with that. And Chicago has been working in recent years to be innovative, Rhodes said, and is home to a lot of young people.

The groups represented in the guide cater largely to people in their 20s and 30s, Rhodes said, and focus on social justice, community-building and “making Judaism accessible.”

Shoshana Goloskov contributed to this article.

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