The Big Mitzvah: A celebration to remember

By Adam Swig

Over the past year, I have had the privilege of participating in a unique new JCF fundraising approach: The Impact Grants Initiative (IGI).  I, along with eighteen of my peers took part in the Young Funders IGI Committee, spending seven months evaluating proposals from numerous Jewish organizations and selected 6 programs (from an initial pool of 37 exceptional applicants) to fund. The programs awarded funding represent emerging organizations with strong social entrepreneur leaders at the forefront of engaging Jewish young adults through new and innovative efforts.

The Celebration

The Big Mitzvah was a celebration of 21st century philanthropy and our grant giving endeavor at the Fillmore Auditorium January 26th, 2013. The bar mitzvah themed night was full of nostalgia and musical surprises, including the Extra Action Marching Band playing their interpretation of the Horah.

The ceremony was designed to showcase the work of the IGI committee and the grantees, while empowering the attendees by showcasing first-hand, how they can become active grantmakers. The ceremony also featured a tribute to retiring Rabbi Stephen Pearce (also father to IGI committee member Michael Pearce), who later said of the event "I came away from the Big Mitzvah with a deep sense of hope because it is clear that the next generation of Jewish leaders gets it.  They believe in giving back and supporting efforts to make Jewish involvement a key part of their busy lives.  Indeed, their belief in doing mitzvot is really BIG!"

Comedian Nathan Habib offered a stand-up routine based on his personal Bar Mitzvah memories. Matthew and Jason Goldman, who chair the committee of talented bay area young professionals, spoke on the Big Mitzvah, and its purpose -- to engage more Jewish young adults into Jewish life.  They also introduced "Speed Philanthropy" to the mixed crowd of mainly Jewish professionals.   Speed Philanthropy involved IGI grantees chosen by the committee, who set up stations at the back of the room where attendees could learn more about their programs.  Upon entry, each attendee received a poker chip (worth the price of admission - $36) which they in turn, could ‘grant’ to one of the non-profits.

The activity was a success, encouraging 500 participants to choose their organization of choice for their ticket donation.  This event created an opportunity for IGI committee members, grantees and the young Jewish professionals to learn, mingle and come together to do some good.

Jeremy Galen, a product manager at Facebook said, "I recently moved to SF from New York City and I was delighted to attend The Big Mitzvah. It was such a warm welcome to this charming city and I was thrilled to have first-hand experience of the vibrancy of the Jewish community here."


Following the grantmaking activity, guests were entertained by an assortment of musical acts to a stunning backdrop of digitally created visuals by Coachella Festival and Skrillex tour alum, VJ CPU.  First up was world renowned band Dub Vision Band, who brought their smooth reggae flavor performing songs like Rivers of Babylon, The Israelites, and Bob Marley's Exodus, as well as some of their own hits to a grooving audience. Before hurrying off for a flight to their sold-out show the next day in Paris, France, Eric Rachmany, lead singer of Rebelution, surprised the audience by coming up on stage to sing the hit Don Carlos dancehall song, Music Crave, and closing out the set.

Dub Vision Band


With energy levels already high, the show was just getting started. Jewish legendary underground funk hip-hop performer Lyrics Born got the crowd bouncing to his funky Berkeley California beats, playing a best of set with his band and wife Joyo Velarde, who sang with him on vocals.

To top off the night, crowd pleaser and popular Brooklyn underground Jewish DJ duo The Jane Doze mixed their top 40 and cutting edge mash-ups.  Attendees danced the night away in their giveaway multi colored neon Big Mitzvah sunglasses, and as they exited they were greeted with a classic Fillmore designed poster commemorating an inaugural night to remember for the San Francisco Jewish community.

"I hope this becomes a more frequent type of event, or at least an annual celebration," says Max Sachar, Animation Manager at Pixar, "Between the entertainment, the remarkable venue, and the overall objective, the 'Big Mitzvah' definitely belongs in 2013's highlight reel for the Bay Area Jewish community."

Thank You

A special thank you to the Goldman family, the JCF staff, Jennifer Gorovitz, Nancy Grand,  David Katznelson, Debbie Berkowitz, Suzy Drell, Judd Finkelstein, Snap Fiesta, Michael Bailey, Amy Bailey, Arlene Owseichik, Laura Greenberg and the Fillmore staff, the IGI committee members, Roselyne Swig, and all of the artists who contributed to the success of the event. Photos courtesy of Drew Altizer.

You can view more of Drew Altizer's photos from the Big Mitzvah on our Facebook page. Be sure to check out pictures from the SnapFiesta photobooth as well!



February 04, 2013