With all the uncertainty in today’s world—whether it’s with our economy or the crisis in the Middle East—it’s good to know that one thing is for sure. Here in L.A., we are blessed with a plethora of very committed, creative and talented non-profit professionals who are brimming with innovative ideas and a passion for strengthening our Jewish community.
Having just concluded our Cutting Edge Grants application and approval process, which runs nearly 10 months, and after meeting with representatives from a wide variety of causes seeking funding, I can tell you that we are not at a loss for great ideas and compelling projects in L.A. spearheaded by some outstanding nonprofit professionals.
Take, for example, the Vista Inspire Community Inclusion Program led by Elaine Hall, the program’s director. It’s hard to be in a room with Elaine and not be inspired by her passion and commitment to improving the lives of children with special needs. She has experienced firsthand the challenges of raising a child with special needs. Elaine then applied that experience to pioneer the Vista Inspire Community Inclusion Program which will now reach out to children with special needs and their families at five area synagogues.
Samara Hutman, executive director of The Righteous Conversations Project, is another person whose spirit and singleminded focus is helping to change the lives of young people. She initially became connected with The Righteous Conversations Project as a parent of a student who participated in the pilot program. She was so moved by her daughter’s involvement that Samara ended up accepting the leadership role for this cause and is now taking the organization to a new dimension.
When it comes to tapping into members of the artistic community who are not conventionally affiliated Jews and connecting them to our tradition in a meaningful fashion, Ayana Morse, associate director of the Silverlake JCC, is at the forefront of creativity and innovation. She leads the Silverlake JCC’s Culture Lab program that aims to engage 3,000 unaffiliated East Side Jews in more Jewish-themed creative and cultural activities. Ayana is most inspiring in her commitment and her bold vision.
These are just several of the non-profit visionaries who are part of this year’s new Cutting Edge Grants recipients. We congratulate all of them, and gratefully acknowledge everyone who applied for a 2012 Cutting Edge Grant and left us with so much hope and inspiration for the future.