JCRIF-Aligned Grant Fund announces Reset grant recipients

In Short

The grants tell a story about some of the core elements that the JCRIF grant funders believe are necessary to reset Jewish communal life

The Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund Aligned Grant Fund is pleased to announce the recipients of JCRIF’s Reset grants. The partners — Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Supporting Foundation, Jim Joseph Foundation, Maimonides Fund and The Paul E. Singer Foundation — have approved over $24 million in grants to eight organizations.

The grant recipients are: Community Security Service, Custom & Craft (d/b/a Haggadot.com), Gather, Inc., JIMENA, M2, Moishe House (for the Jewish Learning Collaborative), Repair the World/Jewish Service Alliance and UJA-Federation of New York.

The recipients were selected through a rigorous process that began with a public Request for Proposals in February 2021, calling for projects that could “seize this unique moment to reimagine, renew and reset Jewish communities for the future” and offer “new thinking that can move beyond current organizational boundaries, structures, missions and program delivery mechanisms.”

Nearly 350 applicants submitted initial Letters of Inquiry from across all sectors of Jewish communal life. A subset of those applicants were invited to submit Full Proposals, and from those, the funders selected eight finalists, who participated in a unique, shared due diligence process with representatives from the foundations.

The grants tell a story about some of the core elements that the JCRIF grant funders believe are necessary to reset Jewish communal life: Jewish education, engagement and empowerment; service that is deeply infused with Jewish wisdom; the integration of social services with Jewish engagement; diversity and inclusion; and physical safety. All of the grants also represent meaningful collaborations, in some cases across multiple institutions and sectors, which the funders believe will be a key factor in Jewish communal thriving in the decades to come.

Lisa Eisen, co-president of Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies and chair of the Aligned Grant Program, said: “We are grateful to everyone who devoted their time, energy and vision to applying for the Reset grants. There is extraordinary work happening across our communities, which gives us all a great deal of hope as we emerge from the pandemic. That inspirational work is the reason the funders significantly increased our initial anticipated commitments to the Reset grants.”       

As with all of JCRIF’s activities, the Reset grants are also the product of new philanthropic processes. Each grant is a partnership of between two and five funding partners, and the shared review, due diligence and reporting processes are an effort to reduce the amount of time applicants spend applying for and reporting on grants. Each funder is supporting at least one organization that is entirely new to their portfolio, and several are supporting multiple organizations that are new to them.

The grant recipients are:   

Community Security Service, Inc.
Project: Jewish Volunteer Security: A New Culture of Empowerment and Pride.
With antisemitism and violence against Jews and Jewish organizations on the rise, Jewish institutions face increasing challenges to create safe and secure in-person events and programs for their participants. Community Security Service (CSS) activates and trains volunteers from within local Jewish communities to provide security for themselves — CSS volunteers are in and of the communities they serve. This approach has been utilized and refined over decades in Europe, South Africa, Australia and Latin America, where it creates a “culture of security awareness” where every community member sees themself as playing a role in community safety. The grant will enable CSS to expand to new settings and geographic regions, and to scale up the number of volunteers.                   

Custom and Craft Jewish Rituals, Inc., d/b/a Haggadot.com
Project: DIY Jewish Network
DIY Jewish Network is a new initiative crafted by the designers behind Haggadot.com, which began as a make-your-own Haggadah website, and the team at OneTable. Its goal is to empower individuals to design and implement their own self-guided Jewish rituals, capitalizing on increased interest in creative, at-home Jewish practice, which accelerated significantly during the pandemic. In addition to making a comprehensive set of toolkits and curated resources readily accessible online, the DIY Jewish Network team will partner with a range of gateway organizations—JCCs, synagogues, camps, Hillels and others—to customize these resources for the distinct interests of their participants.

Gather, Inc.
Project: Advancing the Relational Movement from National Demand to National Impact

GatherDC is a regional platform in the Washington, DC area that helps Jews in their 20s and 30s connect to Jewish life and each other. At the core of its approach is a user-centric, relationship-focused model of Jewish engagement that began within Hillel and has now spread to campuses across the country. The core tenets of Gather’s work, Relationship-Based Engagement (RBE) and Relevant, Active and Meaningful (RAM) Jewish wisdom, center building relationships over driving attendance to programs. This grant will enable the founders of GatherDC to respond to growing demand from communal leaders across the country to help spread their nationally-recognized, research-informed model to new places and populations.

JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa)
Project: Sephardic Jewish American Research and Leadership Initiative
JIMENA has evolved to become a central voice for Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish communities across North America. To respond to increased interest in explorations of ethnic identity within and beyond the Jewish community, JIMENA will be undertaking two important next steps to strengthen communal diversity: conducting a first-ever demographic study of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews in the United States, and dramatically expanding leadership programs to empower Sephardic and Mizrahi professionals, thought leaders, emerging lay leaders and allies with traditional Sephardic knowledge and opportunities for community-building, study, networking and leadership development.

M2: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education
Project: The Center for Values in Action
M2, the leading national provider of professional development for experiential Jewish educators, will partner with several major national organizations, starting with BBYO, to significantly increase opportunities for Jewish educators to engage with Jewish values-based curricula and training through the new Center for Values in Action. Dedicated to creating content, resources and pedagogies around pressing issues, the Center will ensure that educators are equipped to help learners recognize how Jewish values can help them find meaning in today’s challenges and live a more fulfilled life. The Center will provide thousands of educators with training, content and resources to ensure that Jewish values can mediate and illuminate some of today’s most pressing challenges, making room for diversity of opinion and active commitments toward both universal and Jewish values.

Moishe House
Project: Jewish Learning Collaborative
In 2018, Moishe House launched an experiment to offer regular, customized, one-on-one Jewish learning with an experienced Jewish educator to every interested professional and lay leader on the Moishe House team. The purpose was to explore how engaging in ongoing Jewish exploration and learning while building a relationship with a teacher could be foundational to building Jewish life today and into the future. After an external evaluation documented profound positive effects of the program, both personal and professional, for the Jewish and non-Jewish staff and board members who participated, Moishe House began to offer the program to other organizations, in collaboration with the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and 929 English. This grant will enable Moishe House to scale this initiative to dozens of partner organizations, giving thousands of Jewish professionals and board members access to customized Jewish learning through hundreds of educators across the country.

Repair the World & Jewish Service Alliance
Project: Bolstering the Jewish Service Alliance to Embed Jewish Service as a Cornerstone of American Jewish Life
In the early weeks of the pandemic, Repair the World built the Jewish Service Alliance (JSA) in partnership with 40+ Jewish communal organizations to match the urgent increase in need for volunteers with the well-documented desire among many Jewish young people to engage in meaningful community service. Collectively, JSA members mobilized tens of thousands of Jewish volunteers to engage in over 100,000 acts of service and learning. With funding from Reset, the Jewish Service Alliance (JSA), powered by Repair the World and including Hillel International, Honeymoon Israel, JCC Association, JDC Entwine, Jewish Federations of North America, Moishe House and OLAM will catalyze their current momentum through three core strategies: deepening the Jewish learning component of Jewish service learning through investing in robust pedagogy and training, strengthening the role of service within each JSA member organization’s core offerings, and expanding the work to more cities.

UJA-Federation of New York
Project: A New Way to Engage Jewish Students on Commuter Campuses

UJA-Federation of New York and Hillel International are reimagining the ways that Jewish engagement and social service programs can work together to engage and support low-income and non-traditional Jewish college students on commuter campuses. Unlike their peers learning in residential settings, commuter students in New York (and elsewhere) tend to come from working-class and/or immigrant families, and many are the first in their family to attend college. This experiment will utilize five commuter campus Hillels in NYC to offer holistic, comprehensive, integrated Jewish education and social services (food insecurity, mental health and employment)—needs that have become even more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. If successful, the approach will be considered for adaptation to new locations around the country.