The Case for Tzedakah in Jewish Education

by Saul Kaiserman Jewish education is an intrinsically optimistic endeavor. Our work as educators is predicated on the faith that we can inspire our students to personal growth. Further, we believe that by studying the past we can successfully prepare for an unknown future. We believe that compelling questions of value and meaning have shaped our communities since the days of the Bible. Our role as educators is not to pass along definitive answers to these questions, but rather to enable our learners to form reflective communities, guided by the decisions of previous generations while empowered to take responsibility for arriving at their own conclusions. I believe our classrooms and other places of learning must be the “laboratory” for the Jewish future, providing vital and distinctive … [Read more...]

Why I am Funding Big Data in the Jewish Community

by Simone Friedman Rones One of my biggest challenges in managing our family’s philanthropy is knowing whether our grants - especially those we give to organizations serving Jewish young adults - are really making a difference. Are the programs we fund truly having an impact on the individual Jews who are participating in them? Are the young adults attending these programs deepening their involvement in the community by participating in other programs as well? And most importantly, are the programs we fund empowering young adults to move from being passive consumers of Jewish programming to becoming active participants in creating their own Jewish experiences? Unfortunately, the Jewish community suffers from a leaky pipeline problem as individuals move between organizations or disappear from an … [Read more...]

Jewish Social Change Organizations Awarded $1,000,000 in Grants Through Jewish Funders Network Matching Grant Initiative

Jewish organizations working on lasting systemic and cultural change, that engage people across lines of difference, and that have a proven track record of collaborations in and outside of the Jewish social change sector, received more than $500,000 in grants in the second round of a matching fund supported by seven foundations in partnership with the Jewish Funders Network. The $1 million Jewish Social Change Matching Fund was designed to grow philanthropic investment in the U.S. Jewish social change field. The first round of $500,000 in matching grants was awarded at the end of last year. Our partnership with seven leading foundations in this field is a prime example of how our network of funders is uniquely positioned to collaborate, maximize their individual impact, and collectively … [Read more...]

Can the Pew Findings Guide Philanthropic Investment in the Jewish Community

Philanthropic efforts need to walk a line between supporting the existing institutional structure and disruptive efforts that foster development of new forms of engagement. [This essay is from "Philanthropic Priorities in Light of Pew," reprinted with permission from Contact, a publication of The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life.] by Leonard Saxe The 2013 Pew Research Center’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans” was like manna from heaven for pundits across the Jewish world. The study unleashed a virtual tsunami of commentary. Most commentators lamented the state of American Jewish life described by Pew and saw the findings as evidence of fuzzy identification with Judaism, growing secularization and lessened Jewish engagement. Pundits typically saw the findings as confirming their … [Read more...]

Sam Goldman Awarded The 2014 Charles Bronfman Prize

Bronfman Prize 2014

Marking its 10th anniversary, The Charles Bronfman Prize announced that Canadian Sam Goldman, Founder & Chief Customer Officer of d.light design, an international social enterprise, is the 2014 award recipient. Each year, The Charles Bronfman Prize - and an accompanying $100,000 award - is presented to a visionary and dynamic humanitarian under the age of 50 whose work is informed by Jewish values, has global impact that changes lives and inspires future generations. “Sam has created a truly distinctive social entrepreneurial model to design, manufacture, distribute and finance an affordable product that is already improving the lives of more than 33 million people in 62 countries - a substantial number of those in 2013 alone. Replacing expensive and dangerous kerosene, which produces low … [Read more...]

The 94 Percent


Now that the initial hysteria from Pew's Portrait of Jewish Americans has subsided, it’s time to catch our breath and reflect on the insights and nuances of this comprehensive assessment of American Jewish life. Beyond the headlines, the Pew survey is replete with data on all aspects of Jewish identity, affiliation and experience. It provides a portrait of a community in transition as individuals chart new ways of connecting to Judaism that are consistent with life in a society that fully accepts and often even celebrates Jewish culture. In particular, as the philanthropic world regroups to consider the most effective areas of resource allotment in light of the study’s findings, it behooves the community to approach the survey with sobriety. With that in mind, Contact, a publication of The … [Read more...]

Natan Announces 2014-2015 Grants

New York, NY, June 24: The Natan Fund, a giving circle based in New York City, today announced $953,000 in 54 grants to cutting-edge emerging Jewish and Israeli nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurs. Natan is a community of young philanthropists dedicated to funding Jewish and Israeli social innovation. Since 2002, Natan has awarded $9.6 million in grants to 168 emerging Jewish organizations and social entrepreneurs around the world. The 2014-2015 grants mark the organization’s 11th annual round of grantmaking. Through a three-stage vetting process, 57 of Natan’s members, sitting on eight different grant committees, reviewed 298 applications. Members selected grant recipients based on their innovative methodologies, the strength of their leadership, and their potential for making a … [Read more...]

Looking at Impact Investing Through a Jewish Lens

by Julie Hammerman Impact investing has become quite popular lately, but it’s simply a new approach based on a very old concept - investing with one’s values to positively impact the world and minimize harm. Faith communities were the earliest proponents of impact investing and there are many Jewish teachings on ethical investment and business practices. Dr. Meir Tamari of Jerusalem’s Business Ethics Center has estimated that more than 100 of the 613 commandments in the Torah relate to keeping money “kosher,” more than all the commandments concerning kosher food. Impact investors seek measurable social or environmental benefits in addition to financial return. Examples include clean energy to combat climate change and microfinance to alleviate poverty. The growing popularity of impact … [Read more...]