After years of dedication, Jackie Rotman, founder of Everybody Dance Now! (EDN!), an organization dedicated to keeping kids out of gangs, off the streets, and in the company of inspirational peers through dance, will be receiving a $36,000 award in recognition of her dedication to the Santa Barbara community on August 31 in San Francisco. Over 135 people were considered for the Hellen Diller Family Foundation Teen Tikkun Olam Award, which has been created to bring attention to exceptional Jewish teens who have started social action projects throughout California. The foundation has already allotted over $200 million to charitable projects throughout the state that support education, the arts, and leadership programs for youth and teens. It also directly supports the Jewish Community Federation, which “works to protect and enhance Jewish life in [the] community through fundraising, strategic planning, and providing funding for programs that care for those in need; that strengthen and secure the safety of the Jewish people and that foster Jewish renaissance at home, in Israel, and other Jewish communities.”
The foundation recognized Rotman’s exceptional leadership and motivational achievements in the success of Everybody Dance Now!, which she founded in 2005 at the age of 14. Not only does the organization promote diversity, it gives back to the community by keeping at-risk youths off the streets and out of gangs. EDN! also performs shows for the elderly, terminally ill, and disabled throughout the year. Since 2005, EDN! has helped over 600 kids and teens. In May of 2008 the organization even brought in krump dance founder Tommy the Clown, who taught two master classes which reached an additional 200 youngsters.
The Diller Teen Foundation reviewed over 135 teen applicants for the Tikkin Olam Award (Hebrew for “repair the world”), eventually choosing five winners to receive a $36,000 grant. The grant is intended to be used towards college, and/or furthering winners’ goals and social action projects. While nominees as a requirement have to be Jewish, their community-oriented projects are nondenominational and are praised for their ability to better their entire community. Prior to being nominated for the award, Rotman had raised $50,000 to fund EDN! “I have written 14 grant applications. Grants from foundations have been the main source of our funds. We have also received individual donations and brought in earned income from some of the organizations that we teach for, she explained.
Along with her long list of accomplishments, Jackie hopes that the award and grants will allow her to eventually pursue a career in international development and develop and direct her own NGO. Currently she is establishing a branch of EDN! in Palo Alto, where she now resides, and plans to also expand the organization to Chicago and Idaho. In 2007 Jackie was honored for PANIM’s Young Jewish Activist, and admits that, “Judaism and its values continue to play an important role in my life and my identity.”
Brittany Kyles is an Independent intern.