From Our Blog

Reflections on a Big Bet: The Education Initiative with HUC-JIR, JTS, and YU  

By Yael Kidron and Dawne Bear Novicoff on November 9th, 2016

When the Jim Joseph Foundation was founded in 2006, board members and other leaders in Jewish education held a series of meetings to determine a set of “strategic funding priorities.” While the foundation’s generous benefactor, Jim Joseph, z”l, ensured that Jewish education would be the sole focus of grant awards, he did not specify how the Foundation should pursue his vision. Ultimately, the Board identified three funding priorities, one of which is to increase the number and quality of Jewish educators and education leaders. This priority paved the way for the largest bet the Foundation has made to date—the recently completed $45 million, six year investment in Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), The Jewish Theological Seminary ...More

A Reform Camper in Hevruta Study

By Aaron Saxe on October 24th, 2016

I bet my parents are not surprised that I work for a Jewish organization. How could they be? After all, I have been an active member of the Jewish community from my earliest days. Attending Congregational School, spending summer after summer at Jewish day and overnight camp, starring as Joseph in my synagogue’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (I couldn’t resist throwing this one in here), participating in youth group, spending time in Israel, and most recently, working at the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation. Being Jewish has always been an important part of who I am. Yet, reflecting back on these experiences, I note that my participation in Jewish life has never come in the way ...More

Series of Final Reflections as Executive Director: Why Effective Philanthropy Requires Trust

By Chip Edelsberg on October 7th, 2016

In this, my penultimate blog as Executive Director for the Jim Joseph Foundation (read the first blog in this series here), I revisit a theme I have discussed numerous times in the past decade. For years, I have asserted that foundation personnel who conduct their business as transactions of authority and power—as opposed to a series of ongoing interactions in pursuit of partnerships to make enduring changes in the world—fail to optimize the potential of contemporary Jewish philanthropy. From both a professional grantmaking and Jewish values perspective, relational philanthropy that cultivates funder-grantee trust is an asset tangibly benefiting both participants.  The ultimate good, of course, redounds to beneficiaries of high performing Jewish 501c3 organizations and the righteous work they ...More

Collaboration and Commitment on Display at Repair the World’s Service Matters

By Dawne Bear Novicoff and Jeff Tiell on October 7th, 2016

In mid-September, we attended Service Matters: A Summit on Jewish Service hosted by Repair the World. We were there with more than 200 participants and 35 organizational partners committed to elevating the place of volunteer service in American Jewish life. What an opportunity to see first-hand the evolution and growth of a field. Numerous observations from that day offer insights about educating and engaging young Jewish adults, how a field develops, and why Jewish service continues to offer such potential. Jewish Service Unleashes Energy and Excitement One of the high level observations and takeaways from the day was the particularly large number of people in their early to mid-20s who participated. Certainly at the Jim Joseph Foundation, we know ...More

Series of Final Reflections as Executive Director: A Concentrated Set of Priority Grants

By Chip Edelsberg on September 7th, 2016

One of the many privileges of having served as Executive Director of the Jim Joseph Foundation has been ample opportunity to contribute to the field of Jewish education. In personal conversations; at convenings, forums and conferences; through the Foundation’s website and on this blog; and in various publications, I have shared information on lessons learned by the Foundation through its $436 million of philanthropic investments. I have also opined on trends in the broader fields of education and philanthropy, all in an effort to advance the field about which the Foundation and readers of this blog care so deeply. Over the next two months, as I step down from the position in which I have been privileged to serve, I want ...More

Seeing is Believing: Moishe House Ignite Retreat

By Rachel Halevi on September 1st, 2016

Growing up in a Jewish home, engaging with various Jewish organizations, living in Israel, and working at a Jewish foundation have allowed me to feel connected to Judaism and the Jewish Community. Participating in the Moishe House Ignite Retreat, a retreat designed to gather, connect, and develop Jewish young adult leaders, challenged this sense of connection and reignited my passion for Judaism and the work I do every day as a staff member of the Jim Joseph Foundation. Some of my fondest memories as a young Jew were Shabbat services at URJ Camp Newman, so I was excited to participate in a Shabbat celebration as one of the first activities of the retreat.  To my surprise, I did not ...More

The Benefits of Making Field Building a Team Sport

By Steven Green on August 25th, 2016

I realize that one of the first rules in communications is, “Don’t bury the lead!”  And yet, I feel compelled to begin with a bit of context before actualizing my metaphor.  As a five-year transplant to the Bay Area, to say that I entered Warriors fandom in the good years would be a drastic understatement.  Stephen Curry, ½ of the Splash Brothers, completed his 2nd MVP season; the Warriors took home the Championship in 2015 for the first time in 40 years following that with the first ever 73-win NBA season; and the ‘Dubs’ claim three All-Stars for the first time since 1976.  The fact that the team is owned by a distant cousin who I have never met is ...More

Filling a Void: Kevah’s Evolution into Educator Training

By Jeff Tiell on August 11th, 2016

Earlier this summer I spent a half-day with this year’s cohort of Kevah Teaching Fellows. Kevah is a nonprofit that empowers individuals and organizations to build Jewish learning communities by creating Kevah Groups matched to an outstanding Kevah educator. The Kevah Teaching Fellowship is a two-week cohort-based immersive learning experience for which 20 pluralistic Jewish educators from across the country come together to learn from experts in Adult Jewish Education, practice techniques in teaching workshops, and develop their teaching and facilitation skills in relationship with one another. Sitting in the sun-drenched Kevah offices in Berkeley, listening and learning with the Fellows and their program leader, Kevah’s Senior Rabbinic Educator Rabbi David Kasher, I was struck by how ...More

Jewish Learning: Between Passion and Career

By Erin Dreyfuss on August 8th, 2016

Editor's Note: The Jim Joseph Foundation supports Jewish educator training programs at institutions of higher education around the country. These programs help develop educators and education leaders with the skills to succeed in a variety of settings. This blog--the fourth in a series of reflections from participants in these training programs (read the firstsecond, and third blogs)--is from Erin Dreyfuss, a graduate of the Program in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts at The George Washington University. She is the Development Associate at the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center. Almost all of my Jewish education has been experiential. As a convert to Judaism, I have learned Judaism and created a Jewish identity by doing, celebrating, schmoozing, ...More

Jewish Learning Anchored in Culture, History and Preservation

By Michael A. Morris on July 29th, 2016

Editor's Note: The Jim Joseph Foundation supports Jewish educator training programs at institutions of higher education around the country. These programs help develop educators and education leaders with the skills to succeed in a variety of settings. This blog--the third in a series of reflections from participants in these training programs (read the first and second blogs)--is from Michael A. Morris, who will receive his Master's Degree from George Washington University's program in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts.  He works as a Museum Tour Guide with the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. My journey in the George Washington University’s Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts (EE/JCA) program began in August 2015.  Now, in summer 2016, I’m completing ...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.