The Jewish United Fund (JUF) has allocated $300,000 to programs supporting a diverse approach to religious practice in Israel through the religious streams and Jewish Renewal programs. The grants fund projects of the Progressive (Reform) and Masorti (Conservative) movements, as well as Modern Orthodox and non-denominational programs.
Most of the funded programs focus on reaching Israeli youth and do not typically qualify for Israeli government support. Grants were awarded to innovative programs that help participants learn about Judaism, explore different spiritual expressions through the religious movements, and connect with Israelis from diverse backgrounds.
Of particular note this year, JUF approved a new request from the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) for support of its Israel Religious Expression Platform (iRep) – a new initiative aimed at impacting a range of issues related to increasing religious pluralism and marriage equality in Israel.
JUF’s Streams Subcommittee of the Israel and Overseas Commission allocated this year’s funds to 15 programs offered by eight different organizations in Israel. Allocations were made to eight continuing programs and seven new requests.
Funded programs for 2017 include:
$102,000 to programs run by the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism:
- Programs for Russian speakers: Leadership development, conversion process assistance, and Jewish holiday programming for Russian speakers in Israel.
- U’faratztah – New communities Initiative: Program to support new Reform movement congregations in emerging communities.
- L’Chaim – One-Stop Center: Lifecycle programs and services, including downloadable materials for use in homes and congregations.
$102,000 to Conservative movement programs, split between the Masorti movement and the Schechter Institute:
- NOAM National Activities, Gap Year, and Army Programs: Support for NOAM, the Masorti youth movement, including continuing programs for alumni.
- Torah L’Shma: Intensive, non-academic study opportunity in a Beit Midrash atmosphere. Designed for men and women of all religious backgrounds and levels of observance.
- Neve Schechter 70 Voices: Arts program bringing together diverse professional Jewish musicians for study and performance.
- Center for Pluralistic Leadership: Masters programs for young adults working in Jewish renewal programs, as well as those working in community centers and community activists.
- TALI Gan in Kiryat Gat: Program for more than 100 kindergarten students in Kiryat Gat, including educational activities for parents and families.
$67,000 to Modern Orthodox programs:
- Tzohar’s Tikun Leil Shavuot Learning Program: Traditional all-night study program on Shavuot for Israelis of varied observance level, which engaged 8,500 participants in 21 locations last year. The goal is to add an additional 4 locations in 2017.
- Ohr Torah Stone’s Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership: A five-year full-time rabbinate ordination program for women. The students who are ordained serve in a variety of leadership roles.
- Yaacov Herzog Center’s Study Halls for Students in the South: Currently running seven groups in existing study halls in the south of Israel, including at Ben Gurion University, Sapir College, and two community groups around Beer Sheva.
- Yaacov Herzog Center’s Judaism and Humanistic Values program: A program for 16-18 year old students exploring Jewish teachings about welcoming the “other” and fostering diverse communities.
$29,000 to nondenominational programs:
- JFNA: iRep: The Israel Religious Expression Platform (iRep), is working to affect positive change on issues that relate to marriage and divorce in Israel, issues about which the Israeli Rabbinate has primary authority. JUF joined 17 other Federations and additional foundations which are investing in this initiative.
- BINA: Yeshivat BINA in Beer Sheva: A program in Beer Sheva providing an opportunity for secular Israelis to study Jewish texts in an open environment.
Over the last decade, JUF has allocated more than $5 million to diverse religious movements in Israel, supporting their important work to promote pluralism and inclusion.