OU’s Impact Accelerator Program is like “Shark Tank” – with a Jewish Communal Spin

A company that fuses Torah values with environmental stewardship. A prayer-enhancement curriculum that imbues spiritual meaning into tefilla for school-age children. An organization that supports families who have suffered miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss.

These are just some of the mission-driven Jewish nonprofits funded by the Orthodox Union’s Impact Accelerator program, which identifies and invests in ventures created by nonprofit entrepreneurs that address pressing and timely issues facing the Jewish community.

The OU’s Impact Accelerator department has officially launched the application process for the fourth cohort of this program. Jewish nonprofits and social entrepreneurs who reside in the United States or Canada may apply now through January 6, 2022.

Applicants will preferably have one to four years of experience operating their ventures. The application process entails completing an online form, an interview with a selection committee, and a pitch to the program’s boards of directors.

Think “Shark Tank,” but with a Jewish communal spin and the only profit in mind is that which benefits our collective Jewish future.

Winners will be announced in the spring. In addition to grants of $10,000-$15,000 apiece, those who are selected will be paired with successful professionals who act as mentors over a 12-month period and get to partner with the OU, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.

That’s a big boon to socially conscious founders and directors of innovative programs, who will be able to harness the OU’s significant resources to launch and strengthen meaningful projects that strengthen Jewish life and solve challenges that accompany living an Orthodox life in a modern and rapidly changing world.

Yosef Gillers grew up in an environmentally conscious family and founded Grow Torah in 2016 to cultivate a more compassionate and sustainable future driven by Torah values. In 2018, he was one of six winners in the program’s first cohort.

“The OU Impact Accelerator program gave my organization the tools and knowledge we needed to triple in size,” Gillers said. “I received excellent training in fundraising and pitching. In addition, the chance to practice and receive feedback from veterans, mentors, and peers in how to talk about the work and my goals for the future was an unparalleled opportunity.”

Grow Torah now operates programs in 20 Jewish day schools across the United States.

Miriam Leah Gamliel runs ATARA, a platform for Torah-observant women in the arts. She compared her participation in the OU’s Impact Accelerator program to having a “personal trainer” for a marathon.

“The program’s workshops gave us the business knowledge we’ve never had in a focused, relevant and scheduled way with clear goals and checkpoints,” Gamliel said. “Accelerator staff, mentors, and OU leaders also gave us the encouragement and support so we could say: ‘We can do this’.”

Said Jenna Beltser, Impact Accelerator’s founding director, “Those who have founded and are at the helm of mission-driven organizations have an extraordinary opportunity here. Especially now, in an environment of uncertainty and tough realities, people are seeking strong leadership. I know that applicants for this year’s cohort will instill a lot of hope with their vision and plans to help transform the Jewish future.”

Applications are available at https://www.ou.org/accelerator/apply.

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