From Our Blog

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

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

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.