From Our Blog

Shared Measurement Tools for Jewish Education: Could It Happen?

By Josh Miller on October 14th, 2014

Within Jewish tradition, an appreciation for the importance of shared measurement tools dates back to biblical times. In Deuteronomy 25:15 the Torah teaches: “a perfect and honest measure shall you have, so that your days shall be lengthened on the land…” There are many reasons why it is valuable to have and to honor our universal systems for measurement. These fundamental tools enable us to describe what we observe, compare like items, and draw conclusions from these comparisons. And yet, despite the implicit value of shared measures, the process of developing such tools is not always simple. The Challenge of Establishing Shared Measurement in Jewish Education In the field of Jewish education, establishing universal measures to assess learning outcomes is particularly challenging. Within ...More

What Does Shmita Mean for a Jewish Foundation?

By Chip Edelsberg on October 14th, 2014

In Jewish life, 5775 is a “Sabbath of Sabbaths” – a shmita year. Guided by passages in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, we are enjoined to act in ways that manifest generosity (sharing the bounty of the food we may grow) and forgiveness (of debt). Shmita is arguably about equity. Its practice provides those who are economically disenfranchised access to life sustenance (literally, food). It is a reprieve from debt for those who have been pushed to the margins of society. Fundamentally, shmita asks us as Jews to guard against depersonalizing our communal connection. We are encouraged to reflect on any ways in which we might have segregated ourselves from meaningful relationships, both to earthly sources of bounty and to the wide scope ...More

In Our Backyard: Israel Education Flourishing in the Bay Area

By Dawne Bear Novicoff on September 19th, 2014

As a mother of two school-aged children, a Jewish foundation professional working in the area of Israel Education, and lover of Israel, this summer’s situation in Israel created many reasons to worry. I worried for friends and family, soldiers and citizens, and victims on all sides. I worried for college students and Hillel professionals preparing to re-populate college campuses across the country. I also worried for my kids—born and raised in San Francisco—who have not yet visited Israel and clearly found the events confusing and scary. Judaic Studies Principal Dan Finkel’s guest blog earlier this month shared how his Bay Area day school—a member of the Jewish LearningWorks BASIS Israel Education Day School Project—is supporting educators to ...More

Reflections on Israel Education as 5775 Approaches

By Chip Edelsberg on September 2nd, 2014

With Rosh Chodesh Elul upon us and the High Holidays approaching, the Jim Joseph Foundation is preparing for the 40th meeting of its Board of Directors. The Foundation will devote the very first part of its two days of deliberations to discussing how the Foundation might respond, philanthropically, in the aftermath of the war in the Middle East – amid concerns about surging expressions of conspicuous anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment. In anticipation of this upcoming Board discussion, the Foundation’s professional team took stock of the Foundation’s current funding of Israel education and Israel education-related programs and projects. The Birthright Israel Foundation is the beneficiary of $31M of Jim Joseph Foundation funding. Brandeis University’s Summer Institute for Israel Studies has received $1.8M ...More

Continuing to Contemplate the Future

By Chip Edelsberg on August 4th, 2014

At a time such as this, it is difficult for me to write about a topic other than the current matsav in Israel. A highly respected colleague of mine noted recently in a conference call with some 15 participants that while Jewish professionals in this moment feel self-conscious about diverting any attention from what is happening in the Middle East, we are collectively committed—and obligated—to help build a safe, secure, vibrant Jewish future. So I avert my eyes here to affirm that commitment and to focus on the future. A 2014 report by the Institute for the Future points to research identifying five critical disruptive forces shaping the future of philanthropy. A couple of these—crowdpower and radical transparency—are already fairly ...More

Better Teacher Training and Support Creates Better Teachers

By Renee Rubin Ross on July 21st, 2014

Through the Jim Joseph Foundation’s investments in Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC), The Jewish Theological Seminary, Yeshiva University, the Day School Leadership for Teaching (DeLeT) program, and the Jewish New Teacher Project, the Foundation has invested millions of dollars in educator training and support. The rationale behind this is straight forward: more well-trained and supported teachers and educators will lead to more effective and compelling learning experiences for young Jews, the central goal of the Foundation. Strengthening teacher training and support has a number of elements, as two presentations at last month’s annual conference of the Network for Research in Jewish Education (NJRE) suggest. One element is continually evaluating the quality and effectiveness of the programs designed to ...More

A world of expanding knowledge and know-how

By Chip Edelsberg on July 10th, 2014

This month’s reflection is different than most. It is more indicative of my personal beliefs and less a description of any specific Jim Joseph Foundation Board-sanctioned grantmaking strategy. My thoughts derive from observations and insights I want to share following two weeks of travel. During this time, I had the opportunity to step back from the day-to-day world of Jewish philanthropy and Jewish communal life. While away from the all-consuming flow of information that typifies the typical work day at the Foundation, it struck me how essential it is for the Jim Joseph Foundation to continue to endeavor to bring multiple perspectives of expertise to bear on all the Foundation’s philanthropy. I begin with the obvious by noting that new areas ...More

Doubling Down: Why a foundation decides to renew or expand a grant

By Sandy Edwards on July 6th, 2014

As a new foundation in 2006, the Jim Joseph Foundation outlined a strategy of awarding large multi-year grants.  Through a careful planning process, we determined that multi-year grants would give grantees the needed time to successfully implement and evaluate bold initiatives. The Foundation hypothesized that longer-term investments would likely be needed if benchmarks of the Foundation grants were to achieve substantive goals.  As of June 2014, 82 percent of the Foundation’s grants had at least a three-year term, and a full 67 percent of grants awarded were for four years or more. As a result, only in the last few years have we begun to consider renewal or expansion of key grantees. Many factors are a part of this consideration ...More

Building a Network: Insights and Strategies for Effective Alumni Engagement

By Jon Marker on June 26th, 2014

Over a five-month period, practitioners and funders in Jewish education and engagement came together through webinars focused on alumni engagement to answer an overarching question: What are the best strategies to build, mobilize, and engage effective alumni networks?  Sponsored by the Jim Joseph Foundation and Schusterman Family Foundation, “#NetTalks: Alumni Engagement Webinar Series” gave participants the opportunity to learn from—and ask questions to—experts from both within and outside the Jewish world. Each webinar tackled a new area in alumni engagement, and focused both on the theories behind the strategies, as well as the nuts-and-bolts tools needed to put those strategies into practice. Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, began the series discussing ways to motivate ...More

The Jim Joseph Foundation invests in promising Jewish education grant initiatives. We partner with effective organizations that seek to inspire young people to discover the joy of living vibrant Jewish lives.