From Our Blog

A Brand New Website

By on July 23rd, 2012

This month is the launch of a totally redesigned site. One of its features is the following personal reflection by Adene Sacks. Most readers of this column know that Adene just recently departed the Foundation. Given the Foundation’s strategic goal to build the field of Jewish education, it seemed natural for us to invite Adene to offer her observations – both retrospectively and prospectively – on the Foundation’s learning and its field-building efforts. During the next several months, my colleagues at the Jim Joseph Foundation will follow up on key points in Adene’s reflection, with a series of blog posts. These short commentaries will give interested readers a better sense of the ongoing conversation we have internally at the ...More

Positive Results Seen from Major Grants to Education Institutions – June 2012

By on June 25th, 2012

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) has just completed the initial evaluation report on Jim Joseph Foundation’s grants of up to $15 million each to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshiva University (YU).  While the facts of these major grants will take several more years to fully assess, early findings are exceptionally promising. Obviously, a Foundation does not make major investments of this scale without committing to carefully following grantee progress and achieving benchmarks and desired outcomes.   In addition to an investment in capacity building at the three institutions, the Foundation has funded 14 new degree and certificate programs with a goal of attracting and preparing high quality Jewish educators.  In academic year 2011-12 ...More

BBYO, Nadiv, and Hillel Announce New Staff; Stanford Accepts Students for Doctoral Jewish Studies Concentration – May 2012

By on May 3rd, 2012

We often hear it said in the foundation world that investing in great people is the most direct way to make a difference in what we do. Identifying exceptional leaders and educators, as we all know, is an art. We at the Jim Joseph Foundation make a concerted effort to examine the professional (and volunteer) leadership of prospective grantee organizations to try to determine if excellence exists. If we are considering inviting a grant application from an institution or organization that seeks to secure Foundation funding to train or develop educators, we look carefully at who has previously graduated from, or participated in, the prospective grantee’s program. So we devote concentrated time in the Foundation to assessing talent in the field while ...More

Integrating Israel into Jewish Identity – March 2012

By on March 10th, 2012

The Jim Joseph Foundation views teens, youth and young adults who are beneficiaries of the Foundation’s grantees as sovereign, intentional, meaning-making individuals who instinctively desire to belong to supportive communities.  While the Foundation hopes that all these young people connect Israel to their Judaism in some purposeful way, we suspect this does not happen automatically. The Jim Joseph Foundation has a fairly straightforward approach to providing grant support that leads to opportunities for youth and young adults to integrate a relationship with Israel into their Jewish identity.  The Foundation believes that learning about Israel’s history and culture, its politics and people helps individuals to develop informed opinions about Israel.  The Foundation also thinks that an individual who has multiple immersive Israel ...More

Mythbusting Around Scale

By on January 18th, 2012

Taproot CEO Aaron Hurst made clear (virtually) that his session entitled “Proven Levers to Scale Impact” would be a ‘SCALING SMACKDOWN’. The session did not disappoint. For me, this ‘how to’ approach put some practical meat on the bones of the conversation around scaling impact that resonated through halls the at the GEO conference this week. In the last year, Taproot has attempted to answer the following questions: What are the discrete paths for nonprofits looking to scale impact and how can funders support this quest? This of particular obsession in my world — the world of Jewish philanthropy.  The self-identified ‘innovation ecosystem’ in the Jewish world has been in engaged in a two year conversation about mezzanine level support for ...More

Education Initiative Results in More Students in Jewish Educator Programs – January 2012

By on January 13th, 2012

The Jim Joseph Foundation is now two and one-half years into the implementation of its Education Initiative: major grants awarded to Hebrew Union College (HUC), Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and Yeshiva University (YU). The Foundation has engaged for this Education Initiative the American Institutes for Research (A.I.R.) to conduct both formative and summative evaluation. A.I.R. will submit its first report in June of this year. In the interim there are some exciting developments to report. First of all, it is important to remind the field that funding pre-service credentialing and training of professional Jewish educators is core to Jim Joseph Foundation’s philanthropic strategy. Thus, the fact that HUC now offers a new Executive Master’s program and has enrolled 16 students in ...More

December 2011

By on December 13th, 2011

The Jim Joseph Foundation just completed its 28th board meeting since its inception in 2006. Directors’ action on grant proposals at this meeting will ultimately result – once grant agreements are formalized – in the Foundation’s having awarded grants now totaling more than $250 million. The Foundation has paid more than $150 million from these awards to worthy grantees whose righteous work educates Jewish youth and young adults. There is a refrain echoing from this column: that $250 million in grant awards benefitting an estimated 237,000 young Jews are certainly “big” numbers. But in and of themselves, these numbers cannot give the Foundation assurance that its carefully considered grants represent investments which demonstrably help the Foundation achieve its strategic priorities. I have ...More

November 2011

By on November 13th, 2011

Jim Joseph Foundation grantees currently report that in total, more than 235,000 individuals benefit from a variety of Jewish educational experiences made possible by the Foundation’s funding. We work very closely with grantees in their monitoring of these numbers. Moreover, we strive continuously - with the help of qualified evaluators and talented organizational personnel - to make sense out of what these myriad Jewish experiences mean. As I have repeatedly mentioned in this column, Jim Joseph Foundation relies in part on independent, third party evaluators to promote grantee/Foundation learning. We also use evaluations to assess progress grantees make toward targeted outcomes of Foundation-funded initiatives. Attached for your perusal are recent evaluations that we find to be instructive Moishe House, ...More

October 2011

By on October 14th, 2011

In Memory of Jack Slomovic, z”l A special message from Board President Al Levitt and Executive Director Chip Edelsberg For whatever success the Jim Joseph Foundation has enjoyed in its brief history, the Board of Directors has been integral to this good work. Over the six years Foundation Directors and professionals have worked together, we have developed deep and caring relationships with one another. It is thus with a profound sense of loss that we share with you the death of Foundation Director Jack Slomovic, z”l. Our purpose here is not to write an encomium to a great man. (Several extraordinary tributes have already been created - one of which, written by Ben Shapiro, is attached.) We do want you to ...More

September 2011

By on September 14th, 2011

One of the areas of foundation work that I find rarely discussed is how various foundations use site visits their professionals conduct to advance philanthropic effectiveness. At the Jim Joseph Foundation, we budget for each of the foundation’s program officers and senior executives to make one trip per quarter for grantee visitations. I am confident little in these dozens of annual site visits diverges from common practice. Nevertheless, I think it is helpful to describe how we at the Jim Joseph Foundation go about this piece of our business. It is obvious that being in the field is the best way to see grants “in action.” Observing key personnel actually doing the specific work that an individual grant requires is an ...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.