tenpartners has launched its beta version, and if you’re reading this, you probably have a few questions about what tenpartners is all about, how it works, whether you should get involved, and what’s in it for us. The www.tenpartners.org website has much of the information you’re looking for but I’ll use this first post to explain a bit more about what we do and why you might want to join the party.

We came up with tenpartners based on a few obesrevations: We think there are too many Jewish people who are not affiliated or don’t feel like contributing members of their Jewish communities. Jewish communities are growing increasingly fragmented as members of similar affiliations cluster around each other. Jewish communal service is very institutionalized, and while these institutions provide all sorts of important local services, the “average” person doesn’t have a lot of say in what these programs provide or accomplish. Many people, particularly young people, aren’t involved in community service because the only way to have “say” is either to give gazillions of dollars or spend gazillions of hours at endless board or committee meetings, which we don’t have. Communal service is often donor-sponsored and rarely has a business model or recurring revenue stream, so when donations drop, programs suffer. And finally, there are all sorts of Jewish values and programs that appeal and apply to everyone, regardless of their affiliation. If you agree with these points, read on.

Tenpartners is a grass-roots, nonprofit effort created by businesspeople and lay leaders who care about Jewish values and continuity, to address all of the issues I described above with a unique, simple, and engaging innovation. TEN partnerships are nondenominational, local nonprofit partnerships, made up of ten people from a local Jewish community, preferably of various affiliations or not even affiliated at all, who organize and run programs for their local Jewish communities that promote positive Jewish values and experiences. These ten partners fund the local TEN partnership with relatively small, equal, one-time “investments.” These funds are used to run the programs selected by the partners. And the programs are designed not to bleed cash, but instead to actually recoup their costs; not so that anyone profits, because the partnership is not-for-profit, but simply to make sure that the TEN partnership can keep running programs without having to raise more money. One of our premises is that communal service and enrichment doesn’t have to be charity; there are plenty of valuable, fun, entertaining, and enriching programs that people in the community would pay to participate in. It can be much more than just lectures, bus trips to Jewish points of interest, and pre-Passover car washes, though those are some easy examples – there is limitless room for creativity.

And being a tenpartner doesn’t require the type of investment of time you’d expect from a Jewish communal service venture. We’ve solved that by building our own, streamlined collaboration website where partners evaluate, discuss, vote on and take operational responsibility for potential programs – no meetings required, ever. Of course, we’d love for tenpartners to get together every once in a while, but you don’t have to. An individual tenpartner could spend an entire year just checking email and clicking or voting on potential programs on the collaboration site, and maybe taking responsibility to manage one or two of those programs he or she really likes or feels connected to. We believe you can be a lay leader and have dinner with your kids too.

What’s in it for us? As of now, nothing more than seeing what we think is a good idea through to fruition, and doing what we can to promote positive Jewish experiences, new Jewish lay leadership, and cross-denominational interaction and experiences. TEN Partners International, which runs tenpartners, is a grass-roots non-profit with no full-time staff at this time. Most importantly, the funding put up by the local partners stays in that TEN partnership’s local bank account, to be used and re-used for local programs; it’s not handed over to us.

Whoosh – I don’t expect future posts to be this long. Thanks for hanging in all the way to the end! Take a look around the tenpartners site, watch the videos, and think about the issues we’re raising and whether they appeal to you. We’re looking for diverse, special, creative people to set up and join local TEN partnerships all over the world. Apply to start or join a TEN partnership today, and if you have any questions, drop us a line. To paraphrase Hillel, If not now, ten other people might beat you to it.

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