(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem /The Jerusalem Post)
Ever since student Daphni Leef pitched her tent on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild
Boulevard last summer to protest social injustice, the young woman has become a
Following her bold step and throughout last summer,
Leef’s image was a permanent fixture in our newspapers, on our TV screens and of
course on Facebook, as she and her friends utilized the social networking
platform to garner vast support.
As the summer ended, she vowed to keep
the protest alive and bring the multitude of social problems highlighted by the
protests to the forefront of the national agenda.
Keeping good on her
promises, less than a year later Leef has established a social justice movement;
but the problem now is how to sustain it financially.
Ever creative, the
young woman – who drew hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets last
year – has turned to another online networking platform in a bid to “crowdfund”
her ongoing quest for social justice.
Posting her call for funds on the
Leef raised nearly NIS 50,000 in less than three weeks –
and most of the 250 donors gave less than NIS 200 each. A fund-raising model
perfect for the people’s protest.
While Leef’s fund-raising campaign is
focused on Israel, the overall concept of crowdfunding looks set to kick off big
time in the near future in the Jewish world too.
Since the onset of the
global economic crisis nearly four years ago, Jewish philanthropy has been
struggling. Those hit hardest by the economic downturn were the key givers or
“sugar daddies” of the Jewish community, and the tightening of their purse
strings has meant hard times for almost the entire third sector in Israel and
the Jewish world in general.
“The crowdfunding model came about around
the same time the global economic crisis hit in 2008,” comments Naomi Leight,
co-founder of Jewcer.com
, an online platform specifically for Jewish and
Israel-focused projects that was launched earlier this year.
continues: “It was originally seen as a way for artists, musicians and small
indie filmmakers to raise money for their projects from their loyal fans and
now, in 2012, it is being translating into the Jewish space.”
this concept places less emphasis on the traditional big Jewish donors and is
“more about reaching the young people who want to contribute a little and
participate a lot with their time and their ideas.”
“It’s a model that
speaks to people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who want a new space to engage
Jewishly,” she says with enthusiasm.
Leight also points out that funding
projects like this can be a way to test new ideas that in the past might have
been overlooked by bigger organizations or larger donors.
“It can draw a
group of people into an idea before it’s off the ground; it can provide feedback
about whether they are heading in the right direction and really providing
something that the community wants,” she says, adding too that this fund-raising
method is useful in providing the seed funding for a project before it seeks out
larger financial support.
One project that hopes to raise funds and a
buzz using crowdfunding is “Once in a Lifetime HD.”
Seeking to raise Israel’s
profile on social media, the project hopes to find funding to bring eight major
users of photo-sharing app Instagram to snap photos in Israel.
an ambitious project and we needed all the help we could get,” says Uri Vardi,
one of 25 Tel Aviv University students behind the project, which is part of
another program run by Israel outreach organization StandWithUs
raise some money the traditional way and then decided to use Jewcer for the
final amount that we needed in order to make this project come to life,” he
explains, adding that crowdfunding should not only be seen as a way to raise
funds but also as a way to reach many people even before a project gets off the
Los Angeles-based filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler, whose film project
Dude, Where’s My Chutzpah?
is also featured on Jewcer
out the middleman, allowing fans to directly connect with the artists that
inspire them,” observes Kahnweiler, adding, “Crowdfunding inspires people to
support each others’ visions virtually with the end goal focusing on production
in the tangible world.”
Regarding her project, which is a comedic web
series that follows Kahnweiler on a quest to discover what it means to be
Jewish, she says: “My project is incredibly personal, so it has been amazing to
have direct interaction/support with people. It’s not just about the money, it’s
knowing that there are people on the other side of that glowing screen cheering