From Our Blog

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

Elevating Teen Engagement through Community Collaboration

By Melanie Gruenwald and Ellen Erie on January 5th, 2016

For many Jewish families, the bar or bat mitzvah is a child’s transition to Jewish “adulthood” and, unfortunately, the end of their active involvement in Jewish life. The jarring statistic is that less than 20 percent of Jewish teens remain involved in Jewish life post-bar or bat mitzvah. In response, many in the Jewish organizational world are re-focusing efforts on those critical, formative teen years.  What more can we do to create connection and meaning for Jewish teens, both now and as they move into adulthood? The answers to this question should reflect the major engagement opportunity that the teen years actually present. During these years, as identities are forming, young people want to explore, to question, and to learn. Organizations such ...More

A Year Unlike Any Other

By Chip Edelsberg on January 5th, 2016

2016 is unlike any other year at the Jim Joseph Foundation since I began working with Board Chair Al Levitt and the entire Board of Directors to build the organization that Jim Joseph, z”l, bestowed and envisioned. A schedule that calls for four of the Foundation’s Directors who were at the Board table a decade ago to rotate off the Board is now in effect. Dr. Susan Folkman concludes her dedicated service this first week of 2016. Dr. Folkman will be followed this year by Jerry Somers and Phyllis Cook, respectively (following the Foundation’s second and fourth 2016 Board meetings), each completing multiple terms as a founding Director. In addition to Directors’ departures, this is my final year as the Foundation’s ...More

Experimentation with a Purpose: The Evaluators’ Consortium

By Chip Edelsberg on December 21st, 2015

As we approach the end of any year, I customarily take time to reflect on the Foundation’s efforts over the previous twelve months. In 2015, with dedicated grantee partners, the Foundation continued to pursue its vision of “increasing numbers of Jews engaging in Jewish life and learning.” There were landmark new grants; grants that concluded with goals exceeded; and evaluations that both offered key lessons and demonstrated outcomes achieved. 2015 also marked our tenth year of grantmaking, which the Foundation celebrated by honoring our founder and highlighting the important work of grantees and evaluators over the decade. In this, my final blog of the year, I want to share some exciting developments ...More

The Give and Take of Philanthropy: Investing in Planning              

By Steven Green on December 15th, 2015

There is a great disparity between the nonprofit organizations that provide services ranging from hunger relief to the arts, and the traditionally slower-to-act philanthropic foundations that fund them. During my time in the nonprofit world, I have grown to appreciate that both sectors have valid reasons for operating at the pace at which they are comfortable. As a ubiquitous example, disease and famine plague populations indigenous to third world countries. The longer we delay sending resources, the more suffering will occur. While on its surface this example seems to be an argument for the “hare” approach—the fastest acting organizations deliver resources immediately to those in need—it also makes a case for the “tortoise” approach, which includes more diligent planning towards ...More

Building a Network for Experiential Jewish Education

By Rachel Meytin on November 17th, 2015

Throughout the Gathering, I was aware of what a privilege it is, as an educator, to immerse myself in a focused space of ideas and learning, removed from the day-to-day elements of my professional role. I am very grateful for this gift. —Erica Frankel, Director of Strategy for the Jewish Learning Fellowship at Hillel International, graduate of Yeshiva University Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education
In late October 2015, 45 experiential Jewish educators came to the Kaplan Mitchell Retreat and Conference Center at Ramah Darom, in Clayton, Georgia, to learn, to reflect, and to form a network for experiential Jewish educators. This inaugural retreat launched a new collaborative initiative funded through the Jim Joseph Foundation’s Education Initiative—the combined $45 million grant to three ...More

At the Heart of Jewish Education

By Chip Edelsberg on November 16th, 2015

One of the genuine privileges of working at the Jim Joseph Foundation is the opportunity to see the evolution of Jewish education—from changes that start as ideas and theories, to eventual on-the-ground learning experiences shaping Jewish journeys of our youngest community members. I routinely comment that nothing substitutes for leaving the Foundation’s office, watching talented grantees carry out this important work, and seeing contemporary Jewish education in action. Particularly special moments are when Foundation team members ourselves engage in these learning experiences. Certainly over the last few years an exciting development in our field has been the growth and increased sophistication of the Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Education (JOFEE) movement. Along with other funding partners, the Jim Joseph Foundation has ...More

The Enjoyably Unexpected “Ah-Ha” Moments of Site Visits

By Aaron Saxe on November 2nd, 2015

Leaving the confines of the Jim Joseph Foundation offices for an on-the-ground visit with grantees is both an important and genuinely enjoyable part of the job as a program officer. I credit these “site visits” for playing a significant part in my continued growth at the Foundation over the last six months. They have strengthened my relationship with grantees and greatly improved my understanding of a grant program or organization in which the Foundation invested. Yet, the lessons learned from a site visit are not always immediately obvious or what one might expect. Sometimes this learning occurs in surprising ways and at surprising times. Moreover, what has crystalized for me is the idea that both the formal and informal parts of site ...More

What “Ask a Funder” Says About the Foundation’s Grantmaking Strategy

By Jeff Tiell on October 23rd, 2015

Towards the end of the summer, I had the privilege to attend Moishe House’s National Conference and Alumni Leadership Summit at Camp Chi in the Wisconsin Dells. The National Conference brings together more than 200 current Moishe House residents for three days of engaging and interactive learning and social activities. As the name suggests, the Alumni Leadership Summit is a gathering of about 20 former residents of houses looking to continue their involvement in Moishe House and connect with their peers. Truly, the alumni there represented the geographic diversity of Moishe House. Residents hailed from Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Jerusalem, Melbourne, Baltimore, Shanghai, Palo Alto, and Hoboken, among elsewhere. An interesting and challenging element of Moishe House’s alumni engagement ...More

An Initial Ten Years of Grantmaking: The Life and Legacy of Jim Joseph

By Chip Edelsberg on October 22nd, 2015

As we head into the final months of 2015, the Jim Joseph Foundation prepares to complete its tenth year of grantmaking. During this decade, the Foundation has been fortunate to partner with grantees, an array of talented technical assistance professionals, and like-minded funders. The relationships we have developed made it possible to translate strategic planning in the Board room to on-the-ground initiatives and programs that create and support robust Jewish learning experiences. We regard ten years of the Foundation’s strategic grantmaking to be a milestone. While the Foundation has drawn little attention to this, earlier this year the Foundation approved preparation of a special package of ten-year anniversary materials to develop and share with the field. I’m honored to unveil those ...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.