Please note: This RFP is evolving as new funders join the effort. We’ll be sending out updates, important information about the application process, and links to any informational webinars to those who subscribe below. 
 

Chronicling COVID-19 and the American Jewish Community

Request for Proposals

BACKGROUND / CONTEXT

A Jewish Funder Collaborative — including Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and others — seeks proposals to support chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the American Jewish community and the community’s response.

 

Historically, crises have been crucibles in which much of Judaism’s greatest wisdom has been forged. Hanukkah, Purim, and Pesach are powerful encapsulations of the Jewish community’s response to historical calamities. The flourishing of Reform and Orthodox Judaism were both reactions to the upending experiences of the Enlightenment and Emancipation. The Shoah led to theological and philosophical crises with which we are still coming to terms. Even the Talmud can be conceived of as a colossal, centuries-in-the-making reckoning with the destruction of the Temple.

 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, American Jewish communities have been affected in profound ways: illness and death striking many; the closures of schools, camps, and JCCs; radical disruptions in the fundraising, programming, and staffing of Jewish nonprofit organizations; and more. And Jewish communities are responding with compassion and creativity across a range of arenas, including liturgy, halachic responsa, technology use, philanthropy, ethical guidance, and social services.

 

Even as we are engaged in these urgent and critical adaptations, we must have an eye on the future. Ensuring that the particularly Jewish impacts of the pandemic, and our particularly Jewish responses to it, are thoughtfully and intentionally chronicled will enable our descendants to learn from and make meaning of Jewish experience in these extraordinary times. And how we chronicle and tell the story of the Jewish community’s experience will shape the very nature of Judaism that will emerge from it. Myriad efforts have already begun to tell our stories, many of them captured in this landscape map.

 

Between May-July 2020, members of the Funder Collaborative convened an Advisory Committee composed of Jewish archivists, librarians, museum professionals, and social scientists (Advisory Committee members are listed in the Appendix below) to advise on critical needs and opportunities confronting Jewish chronicling fields and to propose solutions that might begin to address them. The Advisory Committee ultimately identified two major needs and proposed four projects in response.

 

The first need is that current chronicling efforts are highly decentralized and uncoordinated, leading both to duplication of effort and missed opportunities. The second need is that current chronicling efforts do not adequately represent the full breadth of the American Jewish community, reflecting historic trends that continue to exclude and marginalize many American Jews.

 

To begin to address these challenges, the Advisory Committee recommended four initiatives, explained in detail below:

  1. A web portal to feature a centralized and searchable listing of — and links to — all institutions and projects chronicling COVID-19 and the American Jewish community.
  2. A grassroots Jewish community collecting campaign.
  3. A diagnostic report on exclusion and underrepresentation in American Jewish history and implications for the present moment.
  4. A convening to center communities traditionally underrepresented in American Jewish history in efforts to chronicle the Jewish experience of COVID-19.

While these initiatives are discrete and call on distinct capacities and competencies — and responses to the RFP can focus on any or all of them — both the Funder Collaborative and the Advisory Committee see them as interrelated and mutually reinforcing.

INITIATIVE 1: WEB PORTAL

Summary

The Funder Collaborative seeks an institution or consortium of institutions to create and maintain an online portal for coordinating, cataloging, and disseminating information about institutions gathering and preserving documentation (physical and digital materials as well as data) of the current “COVID moment” in American Jewish communities (see the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure for an analogue of what we’re seeking to develop). The website will cater to:

  • Collecting institutions (archives, libraries, etc.)
  • Producers/contributors (those with materials to submit)
  • Researchers/educators seeking primary and secondary sources

Funds from the Funder Collaborative will be available to support the online portal during its initial three-year period. Support beyond the three years will be determined based on use and value.

Deliverables

  1. A functional, well-designed, and appealing website that serves the following goals:
    • Enables users to identify Jewish COVID-related chronicling projects through a public-facing, multi-dimensional search function.
    • Enables content producers (i.e., those who have materials — both primary and secondary — that may merit preservation) to easily identify the best repository.
    • Enables collecting institutions to easily share their criteria and method(s) of collection.
    • Enables researchers/educators to find relevant collections.
    • Supports the sharing of content related to the collections and collecting institutions.
  2. Supports the sharing of content related to the collections and collecting institutions.
  3. A robust marketing, communications, and engagement strategy to effectively inform and secure the partnership of the portal’s primary audiences: collectors, producers/contributors, and researchers/educators.

Timeline: Please propose a timeline that is both realistic and timely.

Budget:  Up to $90,000

INITIATIVE 2: GRASSROOTS JEWISH COMMUNITY COLLECTING CAMPAIGN

Summary

The Funder Collaborative seeks an institution or consortium of institutions to design and implement a broad-based collecting initiative for Jewish families, small social groups, and individuals to share their experiences of COVID-19 through stories, objects, and images. The intent of the project is to provide an online tool and meaningful framework for members of the Jewish community to dialogue around their experiences during the pandemic and help them understand their place in history through chronicling and collecting. For this project, the notion of “families” is broadly conceived — inclusive of friend groups, quarantine pods, online communities, student classes, and other configurations. The project will create connections to institutions preserving and collecting such materials and build relationships among institutions and communities. It will also create a foundation for ongoing learning around significant historical moments — before and beyond the pandemic.

Deliverables

  1. Campaign as outlined in summary above, to launch as soon as feasible and to continue throughout the pandemic.
  2. Design and implementation of a broad-based marketing, communications, engagement, and institutional-partnership strategy to secure participation in the campaign of a broad and representative swath of the American Jewish community. As part of this strategy, proactive efforts to engage historically underrepresented communities by convening an advisory group that includes representatives of those communities to:
    • Help craft the set of core questions to which participants will respond.
    • Help define categories of object types and images that participants will be encouraged to submit.
    • Provide input on aligning potential donations with collecting repositories.
    • Engage populations not usually involved in resulting research and interpretation. *Note: Given the history of asking marginalized communities to do the unpaid labor of explaining their perspective to dominant groups, proposals should build in compensation for these advisors.*
  3.  Strategy to preserve and make broadly accessible — directly or through appropriate institutional partnerships — the material collected through the campaign.

Timeline: Please propose a timeline that is both realistic and timely, launching no later than the end of Q1 of 2021.

Budget:  Up to $75,000

INITIATIVE 3: DIAGNOSTIC LITERATURE REVIEW: HOW HAS JEWISH HISTORY BEEN WRITTEN?

Summary

The Funder Collaborative seeks a researcher to compile a report reflecting on the ways in which Jewish history has been written that results in the inclusion of some Jewish communities/populations and the exclusion of others in the historical narrative. This report is intended (1) to use the “COVID moment” as a lens through which to examine trends in the production of American Jewish history and (2) to enable current chronicling efforts around COVID-19 to have more awareness of how these can perpetuate or disrupt historic trends in the production of American Jewish history. In particular, the researcher will investigate the nature and reasons for the underrepresentation of certain Jewish American communities/populations in American Jewish history. This report will compile, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate scholarship that:

  • Describes broad trends in historical scholarship of American Jews with particular attention paid to the subjects of popular Jewish historical inquiry;
  • Identifies populations and demographics that have remained marginalized and underrepresented in the production of American Jewish history;
  • Describes and interprets why and how different populations have remained marginalized and underrepresented in the production of American Jewish history; and
  • Identifies alternative forms of storytelling and memory production characteristics of marginalized and underrepresented populations.

Deliverables

  1. Research responding to the summary outlined above. The Funder Collaborative welcomes creative approaches to sharing the insights from this research (e.g., podcast, microsite, series of blog posts).
  2. Written executive summary summarizing the key insights of the research.
  3. Draft of two articles ready for submission to relevant publications.

Timeline: ASAP

Budget: Up to $15,000

*Please note: There is no 501c3 eligibility requirement for this project

INITIATIVE 4: CONVENING ON INCLUSION OF COMMUNITIES TRADITIONALLY UNDERREPRESENTED IN AMERICAN JEWISH HISTORY

Summary

The members of the Funder Collaborative are keenly aware that some Jewish communities have been underrepresented in the American Jewish historical record and in archiving efforts. Informed by that awareness, the Funder Collaborative seeks to convene leaders of underrepresented Jewish communities and archivists/historians to help democratize the collection and archiving process. In concert with the research outlined in Initiative 3, this convening seeks to use the COVID-19 crisis to examine and destabilize modes of historical and narrative production in the American Jewish community to be more inclusive of American Jewish populations that have been traditionally marginalized and underrepresented, including — but not limited to — Black Jews; Latinx Jews; Asian Jews; adopted Jews; bi-racial, mixed-race, and multi-ethnic Jews; post-1965 Jewish immigrants; Sephardic Jews; Israeli Jews; Middle Eastern Jews; Russian-speaking Jews; LGBTQ Jews; Jews by choice; and Jews with disabilities. 

 

The broad aims of this convening are to democratize the process of data collection and to steward relationship-building among leaders of marginalized and/or underrepresented communities and historians and archivists of American Jews. Through the convening:

  1. Leaders of marginalized and/or underrepresented communities will receive training in best practices for expanding culturally responsive methodologies of narrative and history production. As a result they will emerge with a better understanding of how to increase their own communities’ representation in the American Jewish historical narrative.
  2. Archivists and historians of American Jews will emerge with better understanding of and insight into how and why marginalized communities have been underrepresented in the production of American Jewish history and will receive training in best practices for community-responsive archiving methodologies.
  3. Members of both constituencies will begin to build meaningful relationships to further the democratization of data collection and collective memory-making within the American Jewish community.

 

Deliverables/Timeline

  1. Stage one: Winter 2020 

    Convene and facilitate an advisory group that will create the guiding framework and design the structure for the convening.

    • The group will include leaders of nonprofit organizations that are serving marginalized and underrepresented communities, alongside Jewish archivists, librarians, museum professionals, historians, and social scientists. Special emphasis will be placed on how to include maximally diverse participation, including people not typically represented in traditional Jewish organizational settings. 
    • The group will consult with professionals in these fields outside of the Jewish space that specialize in documenting and engaging marginalized communities in data collection and narrative creation and will seek the wisdom of the Jewish communities mentioned above on how to proceed

  2. Stage two: Winter / Spring 2021
    • Develop trainings for leaders of marginalized/underrepresented populations in how to engage their communities in data collection for optimal engagement in broader Jewish archiving and history production efforts.
    • Develop trainings for Jewish archivists, librarians, museum professionals, etc., on best practices for engaging traditionally marginalized/underrepresented populations in archiving and history production efforts.

  3. Stage three: Spring 2021

    Design and lead a convening that jump-starts the democratization of data collection and Jewish archiving. (NOTE:The Funder Collaborative is open to creative solutions for how to design and lead this convening in ways that will maximize its intended impact, including hosting it as an pre- or post-conference tied to a gathering of a related field, etc.)

  4. Stage four: Spring / Summer 2021
    • Produce a public report on learnings from this convening including recommendations for further efforts.
    • Offer continuing education on Jewish history production for convening participants for 12-18 months after the convening.

Budget: Up to $60,000

ELIGIBILITY
  • 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations (with the exception of Initiative 3) or collaboratives thereof.
TO APPLY
  1. Please send notice of intent to submit a proposal to Daniel Spiro at daniel@lippmankanfer.org by 12pm ET on Friday, September 18, 2020.
  2. Please click here to submit. Proposal due dates have been extended to 5:00pm ET on Monday, October 12, 2020. Proposals should include:
    • A brief description of the institution(s) submitting the proposal, including names and CVs of the individuals who will play lead roles on each initiative. If a collaborative is applying, please include a brief description of the nature and history of its partnership. (Max 2 pages plus CVs.)
    • Detailed descriptions of approach and methodology for each initiative the proposal is addressing, including the relevant qualifications of the organization(s) and individual(s) that will play lead roles on each initiative. (Max 3 pages/initiative.)
    • Detailed budgets and budget narratives for each initiative the proposal is addressing.

The Funder Collaborative intends to make decisions on or shortly after November 2, 2020.

EVALUATION CRITERIA 

As evidenced by this RFP, the Advisory Committee and Funder Collaborative have given tremendous thought to each element of this initiative. Nonetheless, we encourage applicants to demonstrate creativity in their proposal and invite alternative approaches as long as they serve the same goals. Proposals will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. Vision and Excellence
    • An excellent plan to address the gaps and needs that have been identified.
    • A proactive learning posture that favors ongoing learning, sharing learnings with the field, and making the findings accessible over the long term.
    • A holistic approach that takes account of the opportunities for mutual reinforcement across all four initiatives outlined in the RFP, whether the proposal encompasses all four or not.
  2. Capacity
    • Relevant expertise and sufficient resources to carry out the project.
    • The ability to implement the project in a timely way and to continue to support the project throughout its natural lifespan.
  3. Diversity/Equity/Inclusion
    • Demonstrable commitment to — and concrete action steps for — addressing historical underrepresentation and lack of accessibility for all members of the American Jewish community.

Consideration will be given to proposals for any one — or any combination — of the initiatives. Preference will be given (a) to proposals that address multiple initiatives in interrelated ways and (b) to proposals submitted by multiple nonprofit organizations working together in partnership. The Funder Collaborative reserves the right to accept proposals in whole or in part and to negotiate partnerships among multiple organizations responding to this RFP. 

QUESTIONS?

Please contact Daniel Spiro at daniel@lippmankanfer.org.

APPENDIX: MEMBERS OF THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE
  • Mijal Bitton, Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, and Downtown Minyan in New York City
  • Michelle Chesner, Columbia University
  • Yoel Finkelman, National Library of Israel
  • Stefanie Halpern, YIVO Archives
  • Dana Herman, American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Shaul Kelner, Vanderbilt University
  • Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz, Berman Jewish DataBank at The Jewish Federations of North America
  • Analucía Lopezrevoredo, Jewtina y Co.
  • Annie Polland, American Jewish Historical Society
  • Judith Rosenbaum, Jewish Women’s Archive
  • Melissa Yaverbaum, Council of American Jewish Museums