Chicago Federation Announces Inaugural Mini-Grant Recipients

Ten new initiatives, each focusing on different aspects of engaging unaffiliated individuals, families and/or members of the LGBTQ community, are recipients of the first round of Breakthrough Fund mini-grants from the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

The $5,000 grants fund new, innovative local programs, projects and initiatives in Chicago’s Jewish community that meet local human needs and engage community members Jewishly throughout their lifespans. Through the Breakthrough Fund, JUF is investing in Jewish social entrepreneurship and innovation to:

  • Inspire community youth; strengthen Jewish congregational life; increase adult participation in Chicago Jewish communal life; engage groups that are underrepresented in Jewish communal life; and influence Jewish journeys.
  • Address needs emerging from the new health care paradigm; meet ongoing needs of people who are chronically poor or among the “new poor;” develop programs that reach diverse populations; and reduce barriers to inclusion for underserved populations.

This initial round of mini-grants is intended to kickstart a range of efforts quickly. The next Breakthrough Fund grant cycle, beginning with requests for proposals in February, will include additional categories of grant-making, including larger and multi-year grants that support innovation.

The ultimate goal is to award $1 million in Breakthrough Fund grants annually for new programs, capacity-building efforts and novel approaches that address local human needs or engage members of the Jewish community.

Three of the initial initiatives receiving funding reach out to unaffiliated individuals, families and members of the LGBTQ community.

  • Mishkan Chicago: Experiments in Family Education, seeks to increase the number of families identifying with the Jewish community through educational programs for young, unaffiliated, interfaith and LGBTQ families.
  • Congregation Or Chadash: Hidur Keshet, will create a space for LGBTQ Jewish individuals to connect with the extended Jewish community through program content that links gay history, gender identity, and Judaism.
  • Upstart Bay Area/Bayit Evanston: Afterschool Jewish Learning Community, a Jewish afterschool enrichment program, uses experiential, Hebrew-infused learning to connect with children of families that are not actively engaged in Jewish education, including children from interfaith, LBGTQ and Russian-speaking families.

The other first-round grantees include:

  • Emanuel Congregation: Stepping Stones, a program for students in eighth through 12th grade that offers confirmation credits in Torah, Avodah, Gemilut Chasadim and Kehillah.
  • Chicago Filmmakers/Luminescence Media Group, for supplementary filming of the Chicago-based Holocaust documentary, “Rumbula’s Echo.” The film will be used for education and to inspire Jewish youth to explore family ties.
  • Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, for the first two in a series of family education initiatives designed to bring Jewish life into homes: “Seder in a Sack” and “Mi Ohev Et HaShabbat?” (Who Loves Shabbat?)
  • North Shore Congregation Israel, for development of Jewish Holiday Connections, new holiday programs for Tu B’Shevat, Purim, Passover and Shabbat, to be offered outside the synagogue. The goal is to build relationships among young families that are exploring raising their children Jewish.
  • Keshet, for development of an Ability Awareness Curriculum Guide for schools and camps. The guide will provide information for creating a more inclusive, accepting community for children and young adults with developmental disabilities.
  • Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, for its Project Mishpacha Shabbat meals program, creating “mishpacha” (family) units for monthly meals at individual family homes, in order to develop meaningful social connections within the project’s diverse membership.
  • Shorashim, to support development of a Chicago-wide Hebrew National Honor Society in seven public high schools and the day schools offering Modern Hebrew.