Enhancing Jewish Learning & Engagement in Preschool Life

Preschool is an extraordinary time of connectedness and openness for children as well as parents. At no other time will parents be so involved—so literally present—in their children’s schooling. During the early childhood years, parents reshape the way they spend their time, who they spend it with, and who they turn to as advisors. Children are also eager to learn and are developing socio-emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually.

To take advantage of this time in families’ lives, in 2011 the Early Childhood Family Engagement Initiative (ECFEI) of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, with significant support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, launched the Jewish Resource Specialist (JRS) Initiative. The JRS Initiative is intended to make the early childhood years a true gateway into Jewish life for children and their families. With ongoing coaching, mentoring, and supports from the JRS faculty at ECFEI, a teacher or other staff member is designated to spend 10 hours per week as a preschool’s JRS educator. In this role they are tasked with deepening Jewish learning at the preschool and increasing family engagement in Jewish life more generally. The JRS Initiative is designed to help Jewish early childhood education (ECE) programs realize their commitment to build a Jewish experience and environment for children and families.

The JRS Initiative also addresses the dearth of leaders working to build the field of Jewish ECE. Those who want to focus on Jewish ECE and build communities of engaged Jewish families with preschool-aged children are challenged to find the support, mentors, and professional development opportunities they need to craft a career path. The JRS Initiative seeks to meet these field-wide demands by developing the skills and Jewish knowledge of small cohorts of JRS educators who then bring ideas and guidance to their schools.

The JRS model has demonstrated, over two cohorts of ECE programs, that it can effectively address these needs during a three-year cycle of grant funding, educational curricula, and corollary supports. Evidence from an evaluation of the JRS pilot and subsequent data collected in 2017 provide evidence of lasting change.

Enhancing Jewish Learning & Engagement in Preschool Life (Executive Summary)January 2018

Enhancing Jewish Learning & Engagement in Preschool Life (Executive Summary and Full Report)January 2018

Learnings from the JOFEE Fellowship

The Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming, and Environmental Education (JOFEE) Fellowship began in 2015 with the goal of placing three cohorts of Fellows at host institutions nationwide. To date, the Fellowship is halfway to this goal—the 17 Fellows of the first cohort have fully completed their Fellowship, and the 18 Fellows of the second cohort are well under way with theirs. Through the JOFEE Fellowship, Hazon, which designed and is implementing the Fellowship, and the Jim Joseph Foundation, which is funding the Fellowship, aim to:

1. Develop a training program that integrates Jewish and JOFEE learning and develops the Fellows as JOFEE educators;
2. Implement JOFEE programs across host institutions to help them sustain and invest in JOFEE programming; and
3. Create partnerships and resources for the JOFEE world.

The main focus of the Fellows’ work is to design and implement JOFEE programming at their placements. To support them, Fellows also receive training throughout the Fellowship, along with mentorship from a seasoned JOFEE professional.

JOFEE as a field is a relatively new concept for those involved in Jewish education. However, as revealed in research conducted in 2014 for the Seeds of Opportunity report—which evaluated the state of JOFEE overall—it is a powerful tool for targeting and engaging members of the Jewish community, particularly younger members. The Fellowship is a direct offshoot of the 2014 report, created with the primary goal to build the capacity of JOFEE educators, leading to a broader, more robust field.

The Jim Joseph Foundation and Hazon engaged Informing Change to conduct a four-year evaluation of the Fellowship. Rooted in the expected outcomes for the JOFEE Fellowship, this evaluation is designed to examine the components of the Fellowship within the framework of five evaluation questions.

Learnings from the JOFEE Fellowship, Year 2 Evaluation Report, September 2017

Prioritizing Jewish Teens: Findings & Lessons from the Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative Year 2 Evaluation

The Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative (LAJTI or the Initiative), through a funding partnership between the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (the Federation) and the Jim Joseph Foundation (the funders), launched in 2015 and just completed its second year of implementation. To achieve the ultimate goal of engaging Jewish teens in Los Angeles in activities that promote a healthy, personally meaningful, and fulfilled Jewish life, LAJTI has three main strategies:

1. Expand and create teen engagement programs of excellence.
2. Nurture the teen ecosystem and build community commitment to teen engagement.
3. Support the professional development of educators of Jewish teens.

LAJTI seeks to create ripple effects throughout the community—including the teens who attend programs, their parents, program staff and leaders who design and deliver teen-focused programming, and community leaders and funders who champion and support the work.

The funders have partnered with Informing Change to evaluate LAJTI over its first three years. After completing the Year 1 evaluation report, which provided a baseline assessment of LAJTI, Informing Change collaborated with LAJTI staff and funders to develop seven evaluation questions to explore specifically in Year 2. LAJTI leaders wanted to understand certain phenomena in this second year of implementation that would inform the Initiative’s further development, while also retaining some of the original evaluation questions. This change also necessitated a shift in some of the data collection methods.

Prioritizing Jewish Teens: Findings & Lessons from the LAJTI Year 2 Evaluation, October 2017

Expanding the Circle of Teen Education & Engagement: Evaluation of Year 1 of the Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative, December 2016

Learn more: A Taste of the Real World: Lessons Learned from a Community Internship Program for Teens

The Hard Work Behind the Magic of Camp: Results & Learnings from the FJC Specialty Camps Incubator II

With a $10.2 million combined investment from the AVI CHAI Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation (the funders), the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) incubated four new Jewish specialty camps from October 2012 through November 2016, turning ideas into actual, functioning camps.

The funders engaged Informing Change in October 2012 to design and implement a five-year evaluation of this second cohort of FJC’s Specialty Camps Incubator (the Incubator). Informing Change evaluated the extent to which the new camps developed the capacities needed to run strong summer programs, deliver intended camper outcomes, become sustainable nonprofit entities, and expand the number of Jewish youth attending camp. The evaluation findings are based on surveys from campers and parents, as well as interviews, site visits, observations, and materials reviews.

 

The Hard Work Behind the Magic of Camp: Results & Learnings from the FJC Specialty Camps Incubator II, Informing Change, August 2017

Executive Summary

Full Report

Moishe House Peer-Led Retreats – Interview Highlights and Insights

The purpose of this qualitative research project was to understand the Moishe House Peer-Led Retreat Program and to gain insight intofurther improvements to be made to the existing model.  The Peer-Led Retreat Program currently recruits and equips Jewish young adults with the skills to lead a weekend Jewish retreat for a group of their peers. Data for this research were gathered during the 2016 calendar year through review of nine responses to a written feedback survey designed and administered by Moishe House, and through phone interviews conducted by the Jim Joseph Foundation with five retreat facilitators and two retreat participants.  The common themes that emerged were used to organize and frame the insights, recommendations, and questions below.

Moishe House Peer-Led Retreats – Interview Highlights and Insights, August 2017

New York Jewish Teen Initiative

The four-year, nine million dollar New York Teen Initiative is a jointly funded investment of the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jim Joseph Foundation. With The Jewish Education Project serving as lead operator, the Initiative seeks to redesign and redefine the area’s Jewish teen engagement through the creation of compelling summer experiences. The Initiative builds on UJA-Federation of New York’s historic and current efforts to support programs that attract teenagers to Jewish life and experiences. The Initiative is part of a national effort —spearheaded by the Jim Joseph Foundation — in which 14 foundations and federations are working together as a “Funder Collaborative” to expand and deepen Jewish teen education and engagement in 10 communities across the United States.

In Year 2 of the Initiative, the evaluation was focused on four sets of concerns and associated questions: Program Implementation; Expanded Reach to Teens; Participant Outcomes; and Tracking Year 1 Participants.

New York Teen Initiative and New York Incubator of Intensive Summer Experiences for Jewish Teens: “That was the most myself I have ever been,” Year 2 Evaluation Findings, February 2017

PREPARING TO DEEPEN ACTION: A Funder Collaborative Finds its Way

The formation of the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative was the result of a process begun by the Jim Joseph Foundation in 2013. At that time, in an effort to spawn innovative, locally sustainable teen engagement programs, the Jim Joseph Foundation brought together an array of funders to explore various approaches. The first 24 months of this deliberate process in which ten local and five national funders undertook to educate themselves, build relationships and co-invest in community-based Jewish teen education and engagement initiatives was thoughtfully documented in a case study issued in January 2015 by Informing Change, entitled, Finding New Paths for Teen Engagement and Learning: A Funder Collaborative Leads the Way.

This case study documents the next stage of the Funder Collaborative’s development, roughly the 21-month period from January 2015 through October 2016 and reflects the Collaborative’s commitment to share its process with others who may choose to embark on their own co-funding endeavor. The case study explores the Collaborative’s experience as it deepens its work in the realm of Action and slowly considers how to move toward Impact.

PREPARING TO DEEPEN ACTION: A Funder Collaborative Finds its Way, June 2017

INITIAL OUTCOMES ACROSS COMMUNITIES: First Fruits from the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative

The formation of the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative began in 2013, when more than a dozen local and national funders of Jewish teen programming were brought together by the Jim Joseph Foundation for an ongoing series of discussions about expanding teen involvement in Jewish life. Over the next two years, this group developed into a more formal Funder Collaborative, with the expressed aim of making grants to support comprehensive, innovative, and sustainable new community-based initiatives in ten communities across the United States: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, and San Francisco.

In order to understand the process and outcomes of teen programs, both in individual communities and across multiple regions, two concurrent evaluation efforts were undertaken alongside the community initiatives. In each community, local evaluators were contracted to study regional initiatives; and, on a national level, a Cross-Community Evaluation (CCE) was initiated in 2015.

The CCE is designed to answer a set of primary evaluation questions centered on the learning and growth of Jewish teens in different communities, as well as to facilitate and encourage continual communication and sharing of lessons across communities. At its heart is an exploration into how, and to what extent, local initiatives are successfully engaging teens in Jewish learning and growth.

INITIAL OUTCOMES ACROSS COMMUNITIES: First Fruits from the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative, June 2017

Expanding the Circle of Teen Education & Engagement: Evaluation of Year 1 of the Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative

The Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative (LAJTI or Initiative) is a collective effort among organizations across the greater Los Angeles Jewish community to enhance the opportunities for teens to engage positively in Jewish life. The LAJTI launched in 2015 after several years of planning with a broad base of community stakeholders. Cofunded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (the Federation) and the Jim Joseph Foundation (the funders), the LAJTI includes three main strategies, each with multiple components working toward shared goals: Expand and create teen engagement programs of excellence; Nurture the teen ecosystem and build community commitment to teen engagement; Support the professional development of educators of Jewish teens.

Informing Change has been engaged to evaluate the first three years of the LAJTI. The evaluation is both process and outcome oriented, with an intention to provide ongoing feedback on the LAJTI’s various components to inform strategic pivots, while also assessing the Initiative’s results.The data collected during the LAJTI’s first year largely serve as a baseline for assessing change over time. The baseline described in this report provides a promising outlook for the years ahead. The LAJTI launched many of its moving parts in Year 1, most notably the Accelerator and efforts to enhance the professional development for Jewish teen educators. These early starts are accomplishments in and of themselves; yet, as with any new endeavor, there have been bumps and requisite tweaks along the way. This report documents the LAJTI’s development and accomplishments in its first year of implementation, along with early lessons learned and recommendations for Year 2.

Expanding the Circle of Teen Education & Engagement: Evaluation of Year 1 of the Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative, December 2016

Learn more: A Taste of the Real World: Lessons Learned from a Community Internship Program for Teens

Vision in Action: Evaluating JDC Entwine’s Continuum of Service and Engagement

In 2014, Entwine received a grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation to support the continued expansion of select programs, to track and evaluate Jewish identity and service learning outcomes produced by the programs, and ultimately to develop Entwine’s internal capacity for ongoing self-assessment and learning.

In April 2015, Rosov Consulting was commissioned to carry this evaluation and capacity building efforts. The study included three separate, but closely related, components:

• An alumni study of Entwine trip and fellowship participants who were involved in the program between 2008 and January 2015.
• A real time study of trip and fellowship participants between June 2015 and February 2016.
• An assessment of Entwine Learning Networks across the country, encompassing leaders, participants, and trip-alumni nonparticipants in various communities.

Both the alumni and real time studies employed a combination of quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (focus groups and interviews) methods. The Learning Network assessment used qualitative methods (focus groups), with supplemental quantitative data that was obtained though the Alumni survey.

Vision in Action: Evaluating JDC Entwine’s Continuum of Service and Engagement, January 2017

Evaluation of the B’Yadenu Demonstration Project: Executive Summary of Final Report of Phase 1

The B’Yadenu (“In our Hands”) Demonstration Project was created because, historically, students with special learning needs (SLNs) have had difficulty succeeding in Jewish day schools (JDSs). Under-enrollment has been due to a variety of school conditions such as lack of skills, strategies, and resources to serve these students, resistance to change, insufficient professional development (PD), and limited experience addressing SLNs. The five-year model demonstration project (Phase 1), funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Ruderman Family Foundation, was designed and implemented by a team from Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), Gateways Access to Jewish Education, and Yeshiva University. Five Boston area JDSs participated in two cohorts: two schools in Cohort 1 (a third dropped out) and three schools in Cohort 2.

The two primary goals articulated in the B’Yadenu Logic Model were to: 1) Create and deliver an effective, sustainable, and adaptable model for JDS education to serve an increased number and range of students with SLNs in the Boston area and 2) Document and disseminate the model for adaptation in other communities. To address those goals, the primary “intervention” of B’Yadenu was professional development (PD) at each school, tailored to each school’s plans and overseen by the school leadership team.

From 2012 through 2016, Goodman Research Group, Inc. (GRG) conducted an external evaluation of the project, funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation.

Evaluation of the B’Yadenu Demonstration Project: Executive Summary of Final Report of Phase 1, November 2016

Education Initiative Year 5; Hebrew Union College, Jewish Theological Seminary, Yeshiva University

The Jim Joseph Foundation created the Education Initiative to increase the number of educators and educational leaders who are prepared to design and implement high-quality Jewish education programs. The Foundation education granted $45 million to three premier Jewish higher education institutions–Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshiva University (YU)–(each institution received $15 million) and challenged them to plan and implement programs that used new content and teaching approaches to increase the number of highly qualified Jewish educators serving the field.

The grant covered program operation costs as well as other costs associated with institutional capacity building. The majority of the funds (75 percent) targeted program planning and operation. The grantees designed and piloted six new master’s degree and doctoral degree programs or concentrations; eight new certificate, leadership, and professional development programs; two new induction programs; and four new seminars within the degree programs. The Education Initiative also supported financial assistance for students in eight other advanced degree programs. The grantees piloted innovative teaching models and expanded their use of educational technology in the degree and professional development programs.

American Institutes for Research (AIR) conducted an independent evaluation of the Education Initiative.

Education Initiative Year 5 Evaluation Report and Executive Summary
Education Initiative Year 4 Evaluation Report
Education Initiative Year 3 Evaluation Report
Education Initiative Year 2 Evaluation Report
Education Initiative Year 1 Evaluation Report
HUC, JTS, and YU Education Initiative Grant Information