From Our Blog

Hiddur: Deepening Jewish Experiences at Summer Camp

By Joel Einleger, Aaron Saxe, and Aimee Weiss on May 16th, 2016

This blog on Hiddur ran originally in eJewishPhilanthropy Think for a moment of nearly any activity you associate with Jewish camp. Whatever comes to mind, chances are that the experience is communal, engaging, and fun. Now, more camps increasingly recognize that any camp experience can also be a quality Jewish experience for their campers and staff – if designed in a thoughtful, intentional way. Over the last decade, multiple investments by different funders have focused on developing the Jewish experience at camp, and camps now have a wide range of professional development and training opportunities with this focus available to their seasonal and year-round staff. The field’s enthusiastic reception of these offerings has shown a steady appetite for learning ...More

The Performance Imperative and the Evolution of Relational Philanthropy

By Chip Edelsberg on May 3rd, 2016

As I move through my eleventh and final year as executive director at the Jim Joseph Foundation, I find it helpful to reflect on key grantmaking principles that inform how I work with Foundation Board members and professionals to help to shape the Foundation’s philanthropy. From the Foundation’s inception, Directors asked the professional team to collaborate with grantees and evaluation experts to carefully assess grants awarded. The Board believes the Foundation’s major grants (generally, awards of one million dollars or more over multiple years) should incorporate “right-sized” evaluation that produces valuable learning for the grantee, the Foundation, and the field of Jewish education. Many developments and changes have occurred in Jewish education, the Jewish community at-large, and in the social profit sector ...More

Turning a Visit into an Immersive Experience

By Steven Green on May 2nd, 2016

The Jim Joseph Foundation invests in curated, immersive, learning experiences and the training of talented educators who facilitate them. From a pedagogical view, this learning experience stands in contrast to a simpler “trip to the museum,” which by itself typically lacks the educational component that catalyzes learning. Rather, an immersive learning experience provides an opportunity for a participant’s growth of knowledge, character, and identity. One example of the value of such an opportunity is found in a 1970 study of Sesame Street,[1] (which had premiered in 1969). The study sought to determine whether socioeconomic status (SeS) was a determining factor for whether children aged 3-5 benefited from watching the program. In this study, for this demographic, there was a ...More

Welcoming in the Stranger, Along with Our Own

By Chip Edelsberg on April 15th, 2016

As Jews around the world soon sit down for Seders, we are reminded again of our tradition’s powerful message to welcome the stranger. Some heed this call year-round; others do it once a year; still others maybe never have, but commit to do so now. While we rightfully focus on this message, we also should remember to welcome in those in our community in meaningful, sustained ways. At the Jim Joseph Foundation, welcoming in others in our community is a core principle of our relational approach to grantmaking. Often this philanthropic approach is interpreted as grantmaking implemented with a funder and grantee coming together for a deep and meaningful relationship. While this relationship is a critical component of this strategy, it ...More

Reflections on the Jewish Funders Network 2016 Conference

By Professional Team on April 14th, 2016

Editor’s Note: The Jim Joseph Foundation was represented at the Jewish Funders Network conference by eight members of its professional team, four members of its board, and its incoming President and CEO. Below, three members of the Foundation’s professional team share their reflections on the conference—what they learned; what they enjoyed; what surprised them; and how the entire experience will inform their work moving forward. We share these insights with the belief that understanding what individuals take away from conferences and convenings helps all in our field plan and design meaningful, impactful face-to-face opportunities to learn and to share knowledge. If there was ever an event that combined the simcha of a wedding and the camaraderie of camp, I’d say it ...More

Measuring Outcomes Across Grantees and Over Time

By Stacie Cherner on March 10th, 2016

When the Jim Joseph Foundation’s evaluators’ consortium met last November, the overall focus was on the long road ahead towards developing a common set of measures—survey items, interview schedules, frameworks for documenting distinctive features of programs—to be used as outcomes and indicators of Jewish learning and growth for teens and young adults. Consortium members and the Foundation were especially excited to learn about the work led by George Washington University to develop a common set of long-term outcomes and shared metrics to improve the Foundation’s ability to look at programs and outcomes across grantees and over time. A key part of this endeavor will be an online menu—developed in consultation with evaluation experts and practitioners—from which grantees can ...More

A Special Spirit at the Summit

By Chip Edelsberg on March 2nd, 2016

As readers of this blog, you are likely aware that the Jim Joseph Foundation Board has selected Barry Finestone to be the Foundation’s President and CEO. I am excited for Barry; for the Foundation Board of Directors and staff; and for stakeholders in the excellence of Jewish education. In preparation for the transition, I took a number of steps to bolster the organizational structure of the Foundation. Most important among these moves is expanded management responsibilities for various professional personnel: in supervising and talent management for Assistant Director Dawne Bear Novicoff; in Foundation strategizing for Josh Miller, promoted to Program Director; in grantmaking responsibilities for Stacie Cherner, promoted to Senior Program Director; and Steven Green, whose relations with grantees in a ...More

Exploring a Leadership Investment Strategy

By Seth Linden on February 22nd, 2016

“The children are the curriculum.” I read this quote on the wall of Ezra’s parent-teacher conference room, nodding in agreement and feeling grateful that my personal and professional lives have become so seamlessly intertwined.  In just over four months as a Program Officer for the Jim Joseph Foundation, I’ve become increasingly excited about how this new role combines my passions for education, philanthropy, and Judaism. I was raised by a family of educators; my brother, both parents, and several aunts and uncles teach (or used to teach) at the early childhood through graduate levels. I arrived at the Foundation after nearly 20 years in education myself—first as a high school math and science teacher, then as a social entrepreneur co-founding and ...More

Stand and Deliver: Knowledge Sharing as a New Normal

By Chip Edelsberg on February 9th, 2016

As the Jim Joseph Foundation has evolved and matured in its first decade of existence, the professional team has gained invaluable experience. Within the past ten years, both as a means for individual staff to develop professionally and to help meet the Foundation’s strategic goal of contributing tangibly to building the field of Jewish education, Foundation professionals have actively sought opportunities to share insights and lessons learned both at conferences and gatherings. I am pleased to offer a snapshot of this activity below. At the Jewish Funders Network Conference in April, several members of the Foundation professional team will take part in panel sessions. Senior Program Officer Stacie Cherner will moderate a panel on how to “push evaluation to ...More

Why a Strong Beginning is Pivotal to a Grantmaker’s Success

By Jeff Tiell on January 19th, 2016

As a Jew, I have always had a somewhat confused relationship with New Year’s Day. It is the secular new year, where champagne flutes abound, and the year begins anew. Where folks make proclamations and resolutions about how they plan to change in the coming year. Indeed, there is a brief societal moment of reflection – where we’ve been, what has happened, who has passed on – that then quickly leads into the flurry of January. As a Jew, however, I find myself saying, didn’t I just do this a few months ago? Of course, the answer is yes, and yet given that we live in a secular, pluralistic society, there is a place in my head and heart to go ...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.