In Hungary,Catalyzing Jewish Non-Profits at Innovative Incubator

October 3, 2017

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For the Centropa Foundation—a non-profit Jewish historical institute dedicated to preserving 20th-century Jewish family stories and photos from Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans—JDC’s Mozaik Hub in Budapest was a game-changer.

“With their partnership, we were able to take a step back and look at our organization from a broader, more strategic point of view. The process helped us identify many problems and challenges we face—things we hadn’t seriously considered before,” said Marcel Kenesei, who heads up Centropa’s Hungary office. “In Budapest, the Mozaik Hub is becoming the professional backbone of the
NGO sector.”

Opened in May 2015, the Hub—part co-working space, part non-profit incubator—offers support to emerging Jewish professionals in the form of weekly lessons on best practices in arenas like project management, financial planning, marketing, and more. Mozaik also houses five non-profits full-time, among them Centropa.

“In Budapest, the Mozaik Hub
is becoming the professional
backbone of the NGO sector.”

The Hub is a powerful symbol of JDC’s belief and investment in the revival and resilience of Hungary’s Jewish community.

Increasingly, community organizations are able to improve their capacity to execute powerful initiatives, said Zoya Shvartzman of JDC’s Europe team— launching everything from a Talmud learning program targeting women to a “charity taxi” helping volunteers deliver donations of clothing and household items to the needy.

“We are proud and excited that the Hub is even an option, considering both the history of Hungarian Jewry, with the Holocaust and Communism, and the current context—a community of 100,000 Jews with only 15 percent who are affiliated,” she said. “By creating an incubator for Jewish organizations and projects, we’re able to build local capacity, give space for new and innovative community efforts, and diversify the number of entry points into Jewish community life.”

In 2016, the Hub touched some 150 organizational, professional, and lay leaders—providing a total of 500 hours of consultancy and mentoring to five resident organizations, nine affiliated organizations, five “Hub-Up” start-up initiatives, and three partner institutions and programs.

These organizations, in turn, reach thousands of other participants—a powerful ripple effect.

For Centropa, the sessions on finances and communication proved to be the most helpful, Kenesei said.

“Before the Hub, we basically didn’t go to any trainings. We now see how important these workshops are,” he said. “The Mozaik Hub is the very first initiative in Hungary to not only provide funding for promising Jewish projects and organizations, but also nurture and train them in how to be more sustainable, how to enhance their impact, how to think and plan strategically—in other words, how to grow up and improve as a Jewish
non-profit.”

Mozaik also coordinates five community forums on pressing topics for Budapest’s Jewish community, bringing together some 60 people from 18 organizations on a regular basis to discuss youth in the Jewish community, LGBTQ inclusion, social responsibility, community journalism, and community networks and representation.

Shvartzman said the Hub is a key component of JDC’s broader strategy in Europe: “to foster communities that are vibrant, resilient, inclusive, responsible, self-sustainable, creative, and strong.”

“Alongside supporting our core community programming—welfare programs, Jewish camps, JCCs, Limmuds, gatherings, leadership development, and more—we nurture communities with strong and vibrant Jewish ecosystems,” she said. “The Hub plays a role by encouraging, supporting, and incubating NGOs and grassroots initiatives working to advance Jewish life, community, and values.”

Two years in, the Hub is the Hungarian Jewish community’s “innovation pipeline,” said Mircea Cernov, Mozaik’s director.

He said that more than any particular seminar or training, he’s perhaps most proud of helping to change the NGO sector’s culture.

“The Jewish community in Hungary is now more open, just, and responsive to the needs of all its members,” Cernov said. “Dialogue, strategic thinking and planning, impact measurement, innovation and sustainability, cooperation … they’re truly part of the community’s language today.”

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