Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Slingshot San Diego Inspires Discussion of Personal, Community Values and Innovation

Federation President and CEO Michael Sonduck
How quickly do you think you could identify the top value that underscores your work, life, philanthropy, and volunteerism? How long would it take to collaborate with 5-6 other people from various backgrounds and experiences to come up with a collective list of three values?

Last night at the Slingshot San Diego “90-Minute Slingshot Fund” event, 50 people from across the community, including local rabbis, Jewish professionals, funders, and lay-leaders, had to do just that, but in a matter of minutes. Slingshot, a national organization that serves as a catalyst for innovation in the Jewish community, facilitated a 90-minute version of the process they hold each year with a group of young Jewish philanthropists to help identify values that are important, relevant, and which Jewish organizations exist that promote those values.

During the evening, attendees learned about local recipients of Federation’s Innovation Grants as well as projects and organizations that have been nationally recognized by Slingshot as some of the most innovative in the country in the annual publication of the Slingshot Resource Guide to Jewish Innovation. The evening became highly hands-on and interactive, as tables of mixed demographics, professions, and backgrounds chose values from a deck of values cards and attempted to identify which local and national projects promoted those values. Tables then delivered brief pitches of one local project and one national project before the entire room voted where to grant a total of $10,000 in combined funding provided by the San Diego Federation and the Slingshot Fund.

Julie Finkelstein from Slingshot
Julie Finkelstein, the Program Director at Slingshot who traveled to San Diego to lead this workshop, promised that every person there would leave the evening having learned something new. This proved successful, as those in attendance spoke up about organizations they had never heard of or values they did not realize were important to them. “We’re excited to help raise the profile of innovation in San Diego,” commented Finkelstein, “this is a new community for us to be working with. This is an incredible opportunity to expose people to what is working in Jewish life both here and on the national scene. We hope that the professionals here tonight continue to be inspired to further innovation and collaboration.” Finkelstein is happy to welcome San Diegans into the Slingshot network, and hopes to see more San Diego organizations make it into the national Slingshot Guide in the future. 

Dovi and others discuss Jewish values and innovation
Dovi Kacev, active in the local Moishe House (an organization that is categorized as a Slingshot Standard Bearer), led the discussion as his table. “San Diego has been so innovative in the last 10 years,” he said, “it is great to get a better understanding of where we are and where we’re going. For Moishe House, we want to hear what people here think is important and continue catering to the needs of our San Diego community.”

Federation CEO Michael Sonduck emphasized the wonderful mix of people in the room, from native San Diegans to newcomers, young adults to seniors, professionals and lay-leaders. Commenting on the Innovation Grants, Sonduck reminded everyone that “Federation has been part of the Jewish life in San Diego for 77 years, and we morph as the community changes.” Sonduck continued to call attention to the fact that innovation is the life blood of a community. “Not for its own sake, but for furthering the work that speaks to our values.”

Director of Federation’s Community Planning & Innovation Department Lisa Haney spoke to the crowd, saying she hoped people concluded the evening “with optimism for the future of the Jewish community nationally and in San Diego.”

Lisa Haney and Lee Wollach
Surveying the room, the result of the evening far exceeded Haney’s expectations. Tables were engaged in conversation, at times heated debate, and deep questioning of personal and communal values. One table chose “community, pleasure, tradition” as their collective three values, while another picked “family, community, integrity.” Still one more opted for “community, passion, responsibility.”
After a round of rapid fire project pitches, individuals were able to vote which local organization would receive $5,000 and which national organization would receive the same. The room burst into applause as they announced that Chesed Home: A Project of Hope Village San Diego would be awarded the funds. Challah for Hunger, an organization run out of Texas with chapters across the country on college campuses, was the winner of the national funds.

At the end of the evening, Stuart Starr, who is involved in Tarbuton, the San Diego grantee which was recognized in the Slingshot Guide in 2012-2013, was impressed at the diversity in the room. “It was wonderful sitting with people from different backgrounds and age groups to discuss Jewish life.”

The evening was a huge success, and as people filed out of the host venue Temple Beth Israel, there was still an audible buzz of conversation on the exciting work happening in San Diego and throughout the country.

To learn more about Slingshot, visit or click here to see issues of the Slingshot Guide. To learn more about Federation’s work with local Innovation Grantees, contact Lisa Haney at 619.737.7140 or


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