A place at the table – A report from TischPDX: Unaffiliated Jewish Leadership Incubator

A place at the table –
A report from TischPDX: Unaffiliated Jewish Leadership Incubator

EJewish Philanthropy | By Eleyna Fugman

The What and the Why:

In May of 2018, Rabbi Ariel Stone, Kalyn Culler Cohen and I met to discuss a local phenomenon in our hometown of Portland, Ore.: the abundance of young Jewish organizers, activists and individuals creating Jewish programming and hubs of community outside of our Jewish institutions. The problem was that while these were thoughtful efforts and well-tuned to the organizers’ peer groups, they would spark and then quickly fade.

Many of these Jewish event planners, hosts and organizers, including myself, were younger — 20s and 30s, mainly queer-identified, and a significant number raised outside of organized Jewish community. What we had in common was that we were actively seeking places where we could be Jewish in ways that felt authentic to our experiences. For many of us, traditional Jewish environments such as synagogues and Jewish Community Centers did not offer spaces where we felt invited to show ourselves fully — even in programs and organizations that were targeted to younger adults. When we tried to enter these spaces, we had the sense of feeling unseen as young Jews, queer and trans Jews, multiracial Jews — or we would struggle with feeling like we did not know enough, having grown up in interfaith families or raised outside of Jewish homes or communities. We sought places where we could bring our whole selves, and the solution seemed to be that we needed to build those spaces for ourselves.

Read the full article here.

Why Jewish Innovation Matters Now More Than Ever

Recently published article by Hey, Alma. View the full article here.

Article segment:

“These organizations from Slingshot’s “10 to Watch” list are responding to critical needs in the Jewish world and beyond.

This article was sponsored by Slingshot.

When I started college in 2007, I decided I wasn’t going to be Jewish anymore. Burnt out from my youth group and captivated by new interests, Jewish activities no longer mattered to me. That quickly changed when I saw a poster in the college dining hall about a chance to travel to Honduras to learn about justice with a Jewish lens. Suddenly, students like me who thought they were “over” being Jewish had found something new, something different.

It wasn’t long before exploring new expressions of Jewish life led me to ask big questions: What would it look like to create new avenues for Jewish engagement, especially for people seeking to find their place in a community that no longer met their needs? How could Jewish life be more inclusive of young people on the margins, including women, Jews of ColorLGBTQ Jews, and Jews in low-income communities?

Fast forward 14 years, and I’m now the Chief Program Officer of Slingshot, an organization that engages young Jewish philanthropists to make a lasting impact on the Jewish world and beyond. It’s clear that the Jewish world in North America is changing. Over the next five to seven years, 75% of senior leaders in American Jewish nonprofits will likely retire or leave their positions. And new, young philanthropists are beginning to think differently about their investments.”

Read more here.

Slingshot Announces Its Second Annual “10 to Watch” List, TischPDX Included

Slingshot, an organization that engages young Jewish philanthropists to make lasting impact, has announced its 2021 “10 to Watch” list that highlights young organizations and projects in North America that are responding to current and timely needs in the Jewish community and beyond. TischPDX is proud to be included, along with nine other up-and-coming initiatives. 

Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action

An inter-generational Jewish movement to confront the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold action.


Developing environmental education and gardening programs for Orthodox communities.

JCC Harlem

Creating unique and diverse access points to Jewish and communal life for members of the Harlem community.

Jewish Youth Climate Movement

Empowering Jewish teens to organize for climate justice.

JQY Drop-In Center for LGBTQ Jewish Teens

A safe and free weekly space for LGBTQ teens and youth from Orthodox homes.

Lost Tribe Esports

Engaging teens in Jewish life and identity through digital media and the community of gaming.

The Elaine Breslow Institute at Beit T’Shuvah

Helping Jews overcome addiction and begin their healing journey.

Ta’amod: Stand Up! 

Putting a stop to sexual harassment by developing cultures of safety, respect, and equity in Jewish institutions.

TischPDX: Unaffiliated Jewish Leadership Incubator 

Bolstering the leadership of diverse Jewish leaders in Portland, Oregon.

Work At It
Helping at-risk Jewish youth live meaningful, productive lives. 

“10 to Watch” builds on Slingshot’s history of showcasing innovative ideas and investing in positive change. Applicants must represent an organization or a project of an organization that: serves a North American audience, has been actively in the field for a minimum of one year and a maximum of five years and offers a new, fresh idea to address a unique and relevant problem.

Slingshot received nearly 50 ‘10 to Watch’ applications, which were reviewed by a committee of young, Jewish philanthropists and foundation professionals with a diversity of backgrounds, life experiences, and areas of expertise. Applicants for the 2021 ‘10 to Watch’ list represented a diverse range of identities and hailed from across the country. Tisch PDX is featured for their work in raising up the voices and leadership of young, unaffiliated and marginalized Jews in Portland, OR.

“This year’s ‘10 to Watch’ list highlights projects that are responding to unmet needs that have only intensified during the pandemic,” said Stefanie Rhodes, CEO of Slingshot. “We are featuring initiatives that are mobilizing Jewish leaders and community members to address a wide range of issues—including the climate crisis, at-risk Jewish youth, addiction and substance abuse, and sexual harassment and gender discrimination in Jewish workplaces.”

Over the next several months, Slingshot will feature content on the ‘10 to Watch’ organizations to offer a deeper look into their work. Additionally, Slingshot will be facilitating educational opportunities for young philanthropists to learn about how to fund these initiatives.

“The COVID crisis has made clear that innovation is essential for helping communities survive and thrive,” said Dena Verhoff, Co-Chair of Slingshot’s Board of Directors. “I’m thrilled that Slingshot is shining a spotlight on new organizations and projects that are meeting our current moment with purpose, clarity, and creative approaches to change.” 

Learn about TischPDX and the other featured organizations and projects featured in the 2021 ‘10 to Watch’ list here.

New York Jewish Week Feature: Don’t Call them ‘Fringe’: Innovative Jewish Groups Seek Respect from the Mainstream

Check out the full article here.

Segment about TischPDX: “In Portland, Oregon, Eleyna Fugman, who grew up in an interfaith family in a rural area of Northern California, found her path to Judaism through racial justice more than two decades ago.

“My phrase is ‘you almost lost me,’” she said of her past, before she was drawn to the spirituality of the Jewish Renewal movement led by the late Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. 

In 2016, she co-founded TischPDX, which describes itself as “an emerging Jewish leadership incubator.” A member of the Kenissa network, it offers cohort members a stipend to participate in a 16-month program of monthly Shabbat sessions that include “Torah study, leadership training and relationship building,” according to its website. Currently there are 11 members.

“Alienation brings them together,” Fugman said of those in the East Portland program.

Some were raised in the Jewish community but felt they didn’t belong because of their sexual orientation or political views. Others came from interfaith families.

“We want to help estranged Jews and serve as a bridge,” Fugman told me. “We seek out young people doing interesting things and try to help them find their way in.”

One member runs a “queer Aleph Bet” program for adults on Zoom, teaching reading skills in Hebrew and Yiddish. Another woman leads a Shabbat book club on Friday nights.

Marc Blattner, CEO of the Jewish federation in Portland, a famously liberal city, said his organization is committed to “supporting Jewish opportunity” — projects and groups that have the potential “to grow and be meaningful,” including ones with “crunchy ideas.”

There have been discussions between Tisch (Yiddish for table) and the federation, each side exploring whether it can accommodate the interests of the other.”

Eleyna Fugman Featured in Upstart’s Annual Report

We are thrilled to share that in only our second year, our Director, Eleyna Fugman was featured in their Annual Report by Upstart, a national organization that mentors outstanding developing Jewish leaders.

Read the full article here.

Excerpt from the article:

In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, UpStart is highlighting inspirational stories of impact from our network.

Raised in a rural California community and in an interfaith home, Eleyna Fugman grew up with a strong sense of social justice, but a weaker sense of what it means to be Jewish.

Her family would celebrate Hanukkah, but only when the holiday appeared on whatever calendar they were using that year.

A key turning point in Eleyna’s Jewish journey was as a young adult in San Francisco in the 1990s. Right around the time she was coming out, she discovered Shabbat through small home-based gatherings, hosted by members of the local queer Jewish community.

“As someone raised without Jewish community or knowledge, my welcome to Judaism was done by other queer Jews,” Eleyna told UpStart in a recent interview. “Over the past 25 years, I’ve seen consistently that our queer Jewish community understands marginalization – and because of that we excel at welcoming everybody. We know that there’s nobody who shouldn’t be welcomed into the Jewish sphere, that all of our voices are important and should be central.”

In 2016, Eleyna co-founded TischPDX, an initiative to identify and train young adult leaders from marginalized identities – including queer, interfaith, and BIPOC – who have demonstrated a commitment to leading their Jewish peers. Through a 16-month leadership incubator, these emerging leaders are offered 50 hours of Jewish education and skill building, combined with peer support, mentorship and stipends.

“Our model is building leadership from the outside in,” Eleyna explains. “Instead of providing programming that marginalized Jews might come to, we are going to marginalized Jews and saying, ‘What are you doing? How can we help you?.’”

2020 Annual Report

Check out the Annual Report here.

On behalf of the staff and board at TischPDX, we hope that you and your families are safe and healthy in these times. We are delighted to share with you the Annual Report of TischPDX: Unaffiliated Jewish Leadership Incubator, documenting the successes and challenges of this past year.

5780 has been a remarkable, brutal, enlightening and invigorating year. We are proud to say that TischPDX has been able to adapt gracefully to each new situation.

At the heart of our program are our fellows, or, in Hebrew, our “amitim.” In September, 2019, the beginning of the Jewish year 5780, TischPDX welcomed a new cohort: six young, enthusiastic Jews who live and work with other young Jews on Portland’s east side. Each one has brought their passions, insights and knowledge to bear in our time together. One of our new cohort members is teaching the Alef-Bet to her/their peers through a weekly session that includes snacks, Kabbalistic stories, midrash and art. Another is leading a monthly Shabbat book club with a racial justice focus. During the high holidays we held a weekend long retreat on Reed’s campus for our first and second cohorts to meet one another and learn together. Another innovation from our first year was the decision to extend the length of the program from 10 months to 16 months. This meant that our 1st and 2nd year cohort members overlapped from September through December.

This allowed for greater networking possibilities,robust conversations and for the 1st cohort to takemore leadership with their peers in the 2nd cohort.

In December, we graduated our first group of amitim. In their exit interviews, our amitim told us that after their 16 months in TischPDX they: 1) felt more comfortable in traditional or mainstreamJewish environments, 2) have learned more aboutJewish life in Portland and 3) feel more connected to the Jewish yearly cycle and Jewish holidays. Wewere delighted with this feedback and are now working on building an alumni engagement program to keep these first cohort members engaged with TischPDX.

In the past year, we have been working to raise the profile of TischPDX on the national stage. In March, we received word that TischPDX had been accepted into a highly competitive national “EntrepreneurSprints Program,” hosted by the national Jewish creativity incubator Upstart, which is providing coaching, networking and financial support to TischPDX through November 2020. We are delighted to have received this honor and are looking forward to their support in our next stage of growth. With their support, we are actively working on messaging, staffing, board development and looking at ways we can replicate the TischPDX model nationally. Thank you in advance for your interest in TischPDX and for reading this report.


Read full article here.

Article segment:

“TischPDX launched in May of 2018 to create an accessible environment for young people on the eastside of Portland who are excited about their Judaism but may not have grown up in a traditional Jewish home and are hungry for Jewish learning, Jewish culture and for new ways of being Jewish.

“It took me until I was in my late 30s to find the education that I needed, and I want other young people to be able to access that much younger,” says Eleyna Fugman, co-founder and incoming executive director of TischPDX.

“One thing Rabbi Ariel Stone, Kalyn Culler Cohen and I discussed in forming TischPDX was that we needed to be creating pathways for young adult Jewish life to flourish,” says Eleyna. “What we have to do is follow the leadership of these young people, who already are doing things, and to tell them that they are leaders, sometimes they don’t know.”


Read full article here.

With the support of our national and local contacts, we have been working to bring in new funding for and highlight TischPDX on the national stage.  This March, we received word that TischPDX had been accepted into a highly competitive national “Entrepreneur Sprints Program,” hosted by the national Jewish creativity incubator Upstart. The Sprints program brings coaching, networking and financial support to TischPDX. We are delighted to have received this honor and are looking forward to being supported in our next stage of growth.