Camille Menke (left) and Suzanne Amor at theBay Area Change Accelerator orientation. (Jaime Rapaport Barry)
Camille Menke (left) and Suzanne Amor at theBay Area Change Accelerator orientation. (Jaime Rapaport Barry)

Program helps local Jewish organizations build their tech know-how

Over the next few months, a group of professionals from seven local Jewish organizations will be learning about some of the business concepts that spur growth in Silicon Valley tech companies — such as “design thinking” and “adaptive leadership” — and using them to solve problems their own institutions face.

Run by UpStart, the Oakland-based organization that supports nascent nonprofits, the “Change Accelerator” program is a stepped-up initiative that was launched in Chicago in 2017 and recently expanded to Los Angeles and Denver. This will be its first run in the Bay Area.

“We knew it was time to bring Change Accelerator here,” said UpStart’s Bay Area director, Samantha Zellman. “The institutions are still the foundations of our community.”

Nine participants, including a rabbi, a philanthropic adviser, and a sexual assault and domestic violence counselor, recently began the five-month program of coaching, workshops and seminars. They represent the JCC of San Francisco, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, JDC Entwine, JCC of the East Bay, Shalom Bayit, Temple Isaiah in Lafayette and Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills.

“We [were] really looking for a balanced cohort, folks from across the Bay Area,” Zellman said.

Founded in 2006, UpStart began as an early-stage support system for new Bay Area Jewish startups, such as A Wider Bridge, Moishe House, Wilderness Torah, Kevah and Urban Adamah. In 2017, UpStart merged with three other nonprofits in the same wheelhouse.

Other UpStart programs in the Bay Area include one focused on entrepreneurs just getting their ideas off the ground and, coming in the spring, another for startup companies that are already in their growth phase.

The Bay Area Change Accelerator participants, who started their work earlier this month, will come up with a project specific to their organization, then work on creative problem-solving through June, when they will present their final projects.

Participants are Suzanne Amor of Shalom Bayit; Rachel Barton and Camille Menke of the Federation, Brandon Battaglia and Megan Edelman of the JCCSF; Deb Kirsch of Temple Isaiah; Molly Paul of JDC Entwine; Rabbi Jonathan Prosnit of Beth Am; and Sarah Wolfman-Robichaud of JCC East Bay.

“We’re eager to see how the projects unfold and support them through that process,” Zellman said.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.