As part of a continued concentrated effort to increase the number of credentialed future Jewish educators and to improve the quality of professional preparation and Jewish education they receive, the Jim Joseph Foundation (JJF) has announced that $33 million in grants have been awarded to the three leading training institutions for Jewish educators. With these grants, JJF has now gifted a total of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to Jewish education and Jewish youth causes since it was established in 2006 as a private foundation.

The $33 million in grants JJF awarded will support The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC), and Yeshiva University (YU). JJF gave the three institutions an initial $12 million of this funding in September 2009, at a time when the institutions had been hard hit by the economic recession. These initial grants marked the beginning of what the Foundation envisioned would be multi-year investments and a partnership between the Foundation and the three institutions. The funding provides financial aid for students pursuing education degrees or certification in programs that prepare them to work with Jewish youth and young adults. The grants will also assist each institution in planning, staffing and implementing new and enhanced programs designed to attract more educators to the field.

It is projected that more than 1,000 new educators will graduate from the institutions during the grant period in a variety of doctoral, master’s, and certificate programs. Many of the educators will graduate from programs designed to prepare them to work with teens and young adults. Particular emphasis at the institutions is being placed on early childhood education and informal or “experiential” education, which focuses on such areas as camping, Israel trips and immersive learning.

The grants also present a unique opportunity for collaboration and partnership among the three institutions. Two areas of shared interest the institutions have identified are the advancement of new technologies for distance learning and the marketing of Jewish education as a desirable professional career. The three institutions will work to foster best practices, and they have committed to collaborate on projects when possible to ensure creative new directions to the education of future Jewish educators.

Of note for JTS is the launch of an ambitious program that will allow all students in its William Davidson Graduate School of Education to spend a full academic semester in Israel. Currently at JTS, only rabbinical and cantorial students have had the opportunity to spend extensive time in Israel.

About: The Shimon Ben Joseph Foundation, commonly known as the Jim Joseph Foundation, is committed to the legacy of its founder, Jim Joseph, z”l, devoted exclusively to supporting education of Jewish youth in the United States. Jim Joseph was a dedicated Jewish philanthropist who cared passionately about the education of Jewish children, youth, and young adults. He believed that focusing on young people was the best way to preserve a strong Jewish faith and proud heritage, thereby ensuring success of the Jewish people for the future.

The quarter of a billion dollars gifted since 2006 has gone to an array of institutions and organizations that cover a multitude of settings, including Jewish day school and religious schools, camps, youth groups, and Israel programs – including Birthright Israel and its follow-up program Birthright NEXT. The Foundation has also generously funded teacher training, education and recruitment, service learning, and incubator programs such as the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Specialty Camps Incubator, which was designed to provide expertise and support to a cohort of entrepreneurs as they plan and implement their vision for new models of non-profit, Jewish specialty camps in non-traditional settings.

Among the largest and highest profile gifts the Jim Joseph Foundation has awarded over the past four years was to B’nai Brith Youth Organization for their professional development institute; Birthright Israel Foundation to establish Birthright NEXT; to Hillel for its Campus Entrepreneur/Senior Educator initiative; and to the Israel Education Resource Center to develop their pre-college education center. The Foundation has also supported considerable research in the field.

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