Office of High School Programs honored

Brandeis office cited for innovative Jewish programming

Summer program participant praticing yoga in the Shapiro Campus center multipurpose room

The Office of High School Programs at Brandeis has been named one of the nation’s 50 most innovative Jewish organizations in Slingshot ’10 - '11, a resource guide for Jewish innovation.

The Office of High School Programs brings together high school students and professional educators to explore Jewish identity and, through experiential learning, engage in a process of clarifying and solidifying the students’ commitments to the Jewish community and broader society. Jews from all over the world and with vastly different styles of Jewish engagement are brought together under the programs.

The Office of High School Programs was selected for the honor by a panel of 36 foundation professionals from across North America. Hundreds of organizations nationwide competed to be included among the 50 finalists selected for the ‘Slingshot’ list. The top 50 were chosen based on their strength in four areas: innovation, impact, leadership and organizational efficiency.

Since 2005, Slingshot has identified trailblazing organizations grappling with concerns in Jewish life such as identity, community and tradition. This was the Office of High School Program’s first time being featured in Slingshot since it was established in 2009; BIMA and Genesis, the Office’s two hallmark programs, have previously been featured.

The creation of the Office of High School Programs last year puts Brandeis in a position to connect with a wide variety of high school students from around the world. The Office is continuing to build on its established programs: BIMA, Genesis and Impact Boston -- a program Brandeis runs in partnership with the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) -- while exploring new ways of engaging high school students and connecting them to Jewish learning, living and community.

“Brandeis established the Office of High School Programs only one year ago,” said Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, the Office’s director. “This early recognition from Slingshot provides a vital endorsement of our work.”

“2010 was the most competitive year that Slingshot has experienced,” according to Will Schneider, the Director of Slingshot. “Not only are there a greater number of applicants each year, but the extent and complexity of each applicant’s impact has increased. The feedback from the evaluators told us that the guide could easily have been filled with twice as many inspirational projects, so these 50 had to really shine to rise to the top.”

Inspired four years ago by Slingshot, a group of next-generation philanthropists launched the Slingshot Fund, a collective giving mechanism to support innovative Jewish life. In four cycles, the Slingshot Fund has contributed nearly $1.5 million to innovative Jewish not-for-profits.

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