New LA Grants Expand Five Innovative Programs

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (The Foundation) has awarded a total of slightly more than $1 million in Cutting Edge Grants to five nonprofit organizations whose programs seek to address social issues, strengthen Jewish identity and add vibrancy to local Jewish life.

Programs receiving funding span arts and culture festivals for young, unaffiliated Jews; free children’s books with Jewish themes for families with youngsters; an independent living program for young adults with special needs; and a community-wide effort to address the issue of hunger in Los Angeles.

Recipients include the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’s Fed Up with Hunger/Netiya program, $250,000; Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, which provides funding for artists to create their work and engage community through visual and performing arts, $250,000; Etta Israel Center’s JCHAI: Jewish Community Housing for Adult Independence, for developmentally disabled Jewish young adults, $200,000; Jewlicious Journeys Project of JConnect, Inc., for a series of community festivals, $200,000; and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’s PJ Library, which brings Jewish children’s books into homes, $150,000.

“The 2010 class of Cutting Edge Grants represents some of the most innovative and transformational thinking taking place in our community,” said Foundation President and CEO Marvin Schotland. “From addressing hunger in Los Angeles to the housing needs of developmentally disabled young adults, and other programs as well, these dynamic initiatives have the potential to engage our community, make a significant impact today, and resonate for years to come.”

Schotland said the Cutting Edge Grants encourage creative thinkers, social entrepreneurs and innovative organizations to develop and implement transformative programs of high visibility and impact in the Los Angeles community. Grantees can receive a maximum of $250,000 over three years.

Since establishing the Cutting Edge Grants in 2006, The Foundation has seeded 39 programs with a total of more than $6 million.

Satisfying the Hunger To Help

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’s Fed Up with Hunger/Netiya program, introduced last Thanksgiving, aims to ensure that everyone in Los Angeles County has sufficient food. This grant will support the planting of gardens, food drives and organizing the community’s collective voice to inform anti-hunger legislation.

Netiya, founded by Rabbi Noah Farkas at Valley Beth Shalom synagogue, is a coalition of Jewish houses of worship, groups, social-action organizations and community members devoted to hunger and environmental issues.

Empowering Emerging Artists

Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, based on a highly successful program in New York, is a partnership of Avoda Arts, JDub and the Foundation for Jewish Culture. It provides fellowships for emerging artists to create projects in film, video, animation, visual and performance-based arts that investigate Jewish values and ideas. Artists will present their projects to Jewish audiences at mainstream venues.

Six Points Fellowship will target artists in underserved communities, such as Israeli, Russian and Persian Jews, as well as certain East Side creative neighborhoods, including Echo Park, Silver Lake and Highland Park.

Fostering Greater Inclusiveness

Etta Israel Center’s JCHAI: Jewish Community Housing for Adult Independence is a new program to help developmentally disabled Jewish young adults find and share apartments on the Westside’s Pico-Robertson neighborhood. The program aims to empower 32 residents and integrate them into communal activities and organizations over the three-year grant period.

The Foundation grant will enable J-CHAI to hire two professionals, a case manager and a coordinator for Jewish life.

Adding Vibrancy To Jewish Life

The grant to JConnect, Inc. for Jewlicious Journeys Project will enable it to take to scale the popular Jewlicious Festival, held every winter in Long Beach for the past six years, that reaches thousands of young, unaffiliated Jews.

The grant will fund a cycle of community-wide multifaceted festivals, including Camp Jewlicious, TikkunFest, Jewlicious Festival and LA Sephardic Music Festival to attract young Jews “across the spectrum of ethnicities, levels of observance, backgrounds and political persuasions,” according to Executive Director Rabbi Yonah Bookstein. “The Foundation grant is instrumental in establishing this type of immersion experience, which is critical to the development of a promising Jewish future in Los Angeles.”

Each festival will have a different characteristic. Camp Jewlicious, for example, combines a summer music festival, summer camp and grass roots community organizing. “It’s the first opportunity here in Los Angeles where young Jews of any affiliation or organization can receive training and assistance on how to effect change in an issue area that they are passionate about,” Bookstein added.

“Festivals help build community by providing easy access to participation and creating a celebratory medium for young people to explore Jewish life and culture,” he explained. “This unique combination of culture, food and Judaism is a powerful connecting experience for participants.”

Connecting with Young Families

PJ Library, another program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, strives to introduce unengaged families to Jewish values and traditions by bringing Jewish-content children’s books into the home. The program also offers information and activities to help parents connect with Jewish life.

Created by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, PJ Library® is a national effort implemented by local communities. Each month, participating children ages 6 months to 5-1/2 years old receive a book or music CD, along with a parents’ guide that helps connect the theme of the book or songs to a Jewish value.

The initiative currently reaches 2,100 children living in underserved communities north of Mulholland Drive. Foundation funding will allow for adaptation of this model and city-wide implementation to all of Greater Los Angeles to include an additional 1,800 children. The grant will support the program coordinator position, materials, and outreach for the L.A.-based program.

About: Established in 1954, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles is the largest manager of charitable assets and the leader in planned giving solutions for Greater Los Angeles Jewish philanthropists. The Foundation currently manages assets of $706 million (as of Dec. 31, 2009) and ranks among the 12 largest Los Angeles foundations. In 2009, The Foundation and its more than 1,000 donors distributed $62 million in grants to hundreds of organizations with programs that span the range of philanthropic giving. For more information, visit