Mini Me is telling the world about a new “mini” grant fund for young Jewish
In an online video filmed at Mini Israel, actor Verne Troyer,
best known for playing Dr. Evil’s diminutive protégé Mini Me in the
Austin Powers film series, explained how the ROI Community of Young Jewish
Innovators’ $100,000 microgrants fund can make a difference in Jewish
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Within 12 hours of posting the video on its
website Wednesday, ROI received five applications for grants from the new fund –
two from Israel, two from the US, and one from Latin America. The microgrants
fund will give recipients chosen from ROI’s network of young people up to $1,000
to travel to conferences, participate in special courses or training exercises,
sponsor events, or pay for corporate services such as graphic design and media
relations that are needed for initiatives. ROI is open to suggestions from
program participants about other types of grants, said No’a Gorlin, the group’s
The video featuring Troyer and co-starring ROI member
Vera Wisterova, who works for MTV in Slovakia, was the winning entrant in the
Jewish group’s video contest to promote the fund and application process.
Wisterova collaborated on the video – filmed when Troyer visited Israel last
month to take part in an advertising campaign for the TNT clothing line – with
ROI members William Levin, who created the Shabot 6000 online comic strip, and
Traci Szymanski, a talent agent at Hollywood Knights International in Encino,
California, who brought Troyer on board.
“Giving small amounts of money
to young people at a critical point in their professional development can have a
huge impact,” said Gorlin. “We want this to be known outside of our online
network as a philanthropic model that people should consider for funding young
For the next six months, potential micro-grant
recipients will have to answer questions for a study commissioned by ROI.
Awardees will be contacted to provide more information for the study when they
make use of the funds.
ROI will publish a report, aimed at other Jewish
philanthropic organizations, with its findings about the applicants and funded
initiatives next year.
“We’d like other foundations and federations to
consider opening up these types of funding pools to young people in their
areas,” said Gorlin.
ROI – which currently includes 550 people in their
20s and 30s from 38 countries – was established in 2005 by the Israel Democracy
Institute and Taglit-Birthright Israel with funding from the Bernie Marcus
Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.
following year, it became a partnership between Taglit-Birthright and a
Schusterman foundation affiliate, the Center for Leadership
The idea of providing funding to members of the network
emerged as ROI grew.
“It was something we thought about when the program
was created, but as it’s evolved and matured, we’ve come to the realization that
there is very positive strategic leverage in these kinds of grants,” said
Sanford Cardin, president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family
The micro-grants fund is a follow-up effort to ROI’s
speakers’ bureau, a microgrant initiative established in 2008 to pay travel
expenses for young Jewish adults interested in attending conferences. The
speakers’ bureau is now under the micro-grants fund umbrella.
micro-grants fund, ROI has provided seed funding for various projects since
2008. Last year, almost $500,000 was given to 35 initiatives in 11 countries.
The next round of seed funding begins in July. Unlike the seed funding, money
from the micro-grants fund will be available year-round and there is no set
deadline for applications.
Past projects that received ROI funding
include Jewcology.com, an Internet portal for Jewish environmentalists
to share resources, and El Toratrón, a Buenos Aires-based theater ensemble that
presents Jewish- and biblical-themed shows.
ROI, which became an
independent operating foundation in Israel and the US earlier this year, holds
an annual international conference, the ROI Global Summit, for 120 new members –
40 from Israel, 40 from North America and 40 from other parts of the
The next ROI Global Summit will be held at the Dan Jerusalem in
the capital’s French Hill neighborhood from June 12-16.
ROI received over
550 applications for this year’s ROI Global Summit. Selections of applicants,
who come from a variety of countries and all of whom had to be referred by a
Jewish organization, are expected to be completed by April.