North Shore Teen Initiative

Transition to Sustainability

Before 2008, Jewish teens living in the 23 towns and cities north of Boston had few options to engage in meaningful Jewish experiences. The North Shore Teen Initiative (NSTI), funded by the Foundation, was launched to fill that void and connect Jewish teens to their peers and foster participation in Jewish teen life across the community. As NSTI enters its sixth year, the demonstration project has evidenced success both in the number of teens engaged and in its influence on Jewish growth among the participating teens. Through collaborative social programming, travel opportunities, service learning and more, hundreds of Jewish teens from all over the North Shore have been involved.

How has its model achieved success? NSTI has become the hub of a network of North Shore synagogues and other teen-focused organizations to engage new teens and build on existing teen engagement in Jewish learning. Its also creates new Jewish educational experiences for teens, all centered on experientially-based programs rooted in Jewish values. In collaboration with partners, these engagement and learning opportunities range from Lag B’omer Beach Jam, to Maccabi Artfest, to Torah Hub, to numerous Tikkun Olam activities.

Smaller organizations and congregations credit NSTI’s support and capacity building in providing them with the means to engage more Jewish teens.

“They’ve made all kinds of conversations possible, brokered new partnerships and brought the different pieces of the community together. NSTI is the way of the future.”

-Rabbi Baruch HaLevi, Congregation Shirat Hayam, and President, North Shore Rabbinical Council

As NSTI moves to sustainability, other communities with similar geographic and demographic characteristics can look to its model to engage their own Jewish teens.

Jim Joseph Foundation funding to support NSTI’s continued growth and transition to become locally sustainable:

Up to $436,000 over three years, 2013 – 2016

(total Jim Joseph Foundation grants: Up to $1,821,043 over 9 years, 2007-2016)

Los Angeles High School Affordability Initiative

Los Angeles High School Affordability InitiativeIn 2008, families throughout the country had extreme pressure brought to bear on financial decision-making. For many Jewish families, this included the difficult choice of determining if they could afford to enroll their teenager in a Jewish high school. To help provide greater access to affordable Jewish high school education, the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, in collaboration with Builders of Jewish Education (BJE), worked with the Foundation to launch the Los Angeles High School Affordability Initiative (LAHSAI).

Five high schools are participating in the Initiative – Milken Community High School, New Community Jewish High School, Shalhevet High School, Yula Boys High School, and Yula Girls High School. The LAHSAI is a demonstration model that not only is designed to stabilize and to incrementally increase the enrollment of students from middle income families attending these five high schools, but to build the capacity in the schools to support day school education through endowment development. The schools together are responsible for  raising more than $17 million towards their own endowment funds (the Simha and Sara Lainer Day School Endowment Fund is providing a $4.25 million in additional endowment matching funds).

Since the grant’s inception, 245 students have utilized the tuition assistance for all four years of high school. In particular, the New Community Jewish High School (NCJHS) is achieving remarkable results: 52 students have been served by the grant; 18 of whom were from public or private non-Jewish schools. And, 22 NCJHS students have graduated as a result of receiving these subsidies. The BJE honored NCJHS for already exceeding their endowment fundraising target that was set for the end 2014.

Jewish Day Schools and high schools are proven settings for developing strong Jewish identities and shaping Jewish journeys. The Initiative’s implementation shows promise as a model for day school for middle income families and for successfully raising endowment funds.

Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles in collaboration with Builders of Jewish Education

High School Affordability Initiative

Up to $12,700,000 over 6 years, 2008-2014

Jewish New Teacher Project

Teachers are the heartbeat of high quality and effective Jewish Day Schools. They deserve proper training and support to refine and improve their skills, and, equally as important, must have a desire to remain at their schools. For over a decade, the Jewish New Teacher Project (JNTP) has addressed both of these areas, helping Day Schools offer support to new and veteran teachers in Jewish and general studies through their intensive mentoring and mentor training programs.

JNTP’s model was adapted from the New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz, California, which trains veteran teachers to provide two years of intensive mentoring to support new teachers in public schools across the country. Along with supporting new teachers, JNTP helps Day Schools recognize, retain, and deepen the teaching and leadership skills of their best teachers and provides Day Schools with a vision for rigorous professional development and a set of professional teaching standards.

“The mentoring program has had a profound impact on improving quality of instruction and teacher support at [my school].”

– Principal at Jewish Day School

What began with a select group of Jewish Day Schools in Metropolitan New York ten years ago, JNTP expanded into Washington, DC and Baltimore with a Jim Joseph Foundation grant, and now works with mentors and new teachers throughout the east coast. In 2012, JNTP worked with 75 mentors and 106 new teachers at 45 schools in Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Their training seminars for new teachers, mentors, and principals helped each group understand how they can contribute to new teacher induction and provided them with critical tools to help new teachers grow and succeed.

Later this year, JNTP will release a study detailing its successes in helping Day Schools retain their teachers. According to data collected through previous studies, nearly 90 percent of teachers that participate in JNTP’s new teacher induction program stay with their schools for five or more years – the national rate is only around 50 percent.

Leading this program is Nina Bruder, who joined JNTP as its new executive director in fall 2012. She will guide the organization as it continues to engage more teachers and mentors throughout the country. This training is so critical to help Day Schools offer the best education possible to North American Jewish youth.

Jim Joseph Foundation grant for expansion into Baltimore and Washington, DC
Up to $1,719,622 over 6 years, 2008 – 2014

Honor your [Jewish] Mentor

Jewish Student Connection is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping teens explore what [Jewish] means to them by providing Jewish mentors and role models. Please honor the mentor in your life by participating in JSC’s campaign to honor the Jewish mentor in your life. Please visit for details.


Building a love of and connection to Israel among Jewish youth and young adults helps to create strong Jewish identities. For this to happen, schools, camps, synagogues, and other places of learning need effective and engaging Israel educators. In just fours years of existence, the iCenter has become the central address for excellence and innovation in the field of pre-collegiate Israel education – training and further developing thousands of Jewish educators in this critical area.

The iCenter professionalizes Israel education by supporting Jewish educators in formal and informal settings. It establishes standards of excellence, offers professional development, promotes a culture of educational entrepreneurship and innovation, develops Israel education resources, and increases commitment to Israel education among educators, communal leaders and supporters.

This year, the iCenter brought together leaders from a wide range of institutions, communities and fields to put Israel education on the Jewish communal agenda. The iThink convening, held in February 2012, marked the first time that such a diverse gathering of over eighty organizational leaders, Jewish and Israel educators, funder representatives, and scholars gathered to reflect on the field of Israel education and envision what the future could look like.

Through ongoing collaboration with hundreds of communities, camps, youth groups, day and supplementary schools, and national agencies, the iCenter has built relationships with educators from all settings across the country. Its partnership with six American academic institutions that offer a Master’s Degree Concentration Program in Israel Education allows future Jewish educators to study a common curriculum, gather together for eight colloquium days, receive individual mentoring, and create their own learning experience in Israel.

Founded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Schusterman Family Foundation, the iCenter has expanded its base of support through grants from numerous major foundations and is at a pivotal stage in its development. With a new Foundation grant, the iCenter aims to build on initial success, establish a firmer foundation for the field, and become an essential Jewish educational intermediary organization. It will continue to have widespread, systematic engagements with leaders and educators in day schools, supplementary schools, summer camps, youth groups, and central agencies.

The new grant to iCenter – matched by the Schusterman Family Foundation – is for up to $1,950,000 over three years, from 2013 – 2015. The Jim Joseph Foundation previously awarded $2,500,000 to the iCenter from 2007 – 2012.

Yaffa Tevuah and Kever Rachel

Toldot Yisrael (‪‬) presents its latest firsthand account from Israel’s founding generation.

In 1945, Yaffa Tevuah was a 22 year old Lehi fighter imprisoned by the British in the women’s prison in Bethlehem. While being taken back and forth to Jerusalem for questioning at the Russian Compound, the British Police headquarters in Mandatory Palestine, she passed by Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb) and recognized the landmark from pictures that hung in her home as a child in Moldavia. Seeking courage when facing her British interrogators, she drew strength from Rachel Imeinu (Mother Rachel) and comfort from her sense of returning home.

Produced by Toldot Yisrael in cooperation with the iCenter and the Jim Joseph Foundation.
Cinematography and editing: Eitan Wetzler
Interviewer: Peleg Levy

Kevah Teaching Fellowship

Shaping Jewish identity, building community, and studying the spiritual and intellectual richness of Jewish tradition can be enlightening and dynamic communal learning experiences. But for this type of learning to be effective and engaging, innovative and skilled teachers are needed to guide the process.

Through its pluralistic network of self-organized Torah study groups, Kevah already empowers individuals to take ownership of their Jewish and spiritual lives by creating their own micro-communities. Kevah study groups, such as “Peninsula Russian young adults” and “Oakland hipsters,” meet monthly to examine relevant Jewish themes. Now, with its new Teaching Fellowship, Kevah is also helping to create tomorrow’s innovative Jewish educators.  Kevah’s Director and Founder Sara Heitler Bamberger, a 2012 recipient of the Joshua Venture Group’s Dual Investment Program, developed the organization in order to more deeply engage a critical age group perfectly suited for Kevah’s approach to learning – young Jewish adults.

Along with Kevah, the Jim Joseph Foundation recognizes the potential of a “network-based” approach connecting learners to talented teachers. These “do-it-yourself” study groups – in which participants choose their fellow learners, the Jewish subject matter, and their teachers – are especially appealing to today’s young adults accustomed to numerous options in almost all facets of daily life.

A year long program featuring mentorship, workshops and retreats, personalized guidance in curriculum development, and regular communication between the Fellows, the Fellowship will enable dynamic young adults to become tomorrow’s creative and effective Jewish educators. This helps fill the vital need to connect young Jewish adults, eager to study and grow spiritually, with educators to guide this experience.

The 2012 – 2013 cohort of 25 Fellows represent a variety of Jewish backgrounds. Many are graduates of learning programs that provide immersive opportunities to study Jewish texts, such as Pardes Institute and Mechon Hadar. Eleven Fellows already have been matched with and will teach new young adult Kevah groups in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. As the Fellowship continues, other Fellows will be paired with study groups from young adult communities such as Moishe House, Hillel, and Birthright NEXT.

“I’ve been teaching informally and without guidance and I’ve really struggled to feel those classes were successful,” says Kadin Henningsen, a current Fellow. “Kevah has given me a very clear framework around how to both build and facilitate a class.  The Fellowship could end here and I would leave feeling a sense of more confidence and preparedness. I’m thankful that I will continue to have an opportunity to learn additional skills over the next year.”

Hundreds of young adult learners are expected to be engaged during the grant period, and the Fellowship’s long-term effect on Jewish education has the potential to be profound. These young adults, the future of Jewish learning, should have the skills to infuse big ideas and meaningful discussion into the heart of the Jewish experience. As the Fellowship continues, and as it continues to evidence success, Kevah moves closer to its goal of catalyzing, facilitating, and supporting pluralistic study of traditional Jewish texts on a national level.

The Jim Joseph Foundation awarded a $250,000 grant to develop and launch the Kevah Teaching Fellowship in March 2012. 

Columbia University – New Media In Jewish Studies Collaborative

“People of the Graphic Novel,” courtesy of Citizen Film.
The Collaborative discussed how Youtube can help present archival sources within a historical context, while inspiring students to learn and share.

Today’s university students are “digital natives” – individuals that are naturally drawn to online, visual, and multimedia material, with an understanding of the value of producing content that can be shared. Yet, Jewish Studies programs are behind the trend in adopting New Media education methodologies.

Columbia University’s New Media in Jewish Studies Collaborative (NMJSC) will cultivate a network of educators to bring tools of new media and digital storytelling into their teaching, student assignments and scholarship. Launched in August 2012 with a $250,000 Foundation grant, the first cohort of ten Jewish Studies professors from U.S. universities already has begun learning about the most compelling New Media Jewish learning experiences. The Collaborative will provide stipends for them to participate in intensive one-on-one training; build a professional learning network (PLN) through in-person and virtual convenings; and disseminate materials and share best practices.

The Jim Joseph Foundation recognizes the need to invest in opportunities that train and support Jewish educators to use new media tools. Columbia University is a natural partner, as its Center for New Media in Teaching and Learning (CNMTL) – which explores how new media “shapes, transforms, and reconfigures” communication, teaching, and learning – will be a key asset for the Collaborative.

Led by Professor Jeremy Dauber, director of Columbia’s Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies, and Sam Ball, an acclaimed documentarian and head of Citizen Film, NMJSC will provide the cohort with new media strategies and effective tools of engagement. Dauber and Bell will coordinate specialized training by Citizen Film and CNMTL staff and help each professor develop a workplan to integrate at least three new media assignments into Jewish Studies courses.

“Academic and scholarly institutions have, over the last few years, amassed enormous – and growing – digital archives,” says Dauber. “But how do we use them? And how do we teach students to work with them, present them, analyze them? Learning, and teaching, those techniques of study, pedagogy, presentation – it’s a big task, but a vital one to prepare for the study and research of the next generation.”

A study of Jewish college students found that half of them have taken at least one Jewish Studies course. With 250,000 Jewish students enrolled in universities, NMJSC projects that 2,000 students will directly benefit from the incorporation of New Media into Jewish Studies courses, along with thousands more through viral projects. The Collaborative will prepare professors to engage these young Jewish adults in new and innovative methods, and will further advance the field of Jewish education.

The New Media in Jewish Studies Collaborative was developed by Dauber and Ball in collaboration with the Jim Joseph Foundation, building on an ignition grant awarded by the Covenant Foundation to Citizen Film.

Read more about Program Officer Renee Rubin Ross’ experiences at the New Media in Jewish Studies Collaborative.

Foundation for Jewish Camp – 6 Points Sports Academy

With a vision for providing new nonprofit Jewish specialty camps, the Foundation for Jewish Camp launched 6 Points Sports Academy in 2010 as a product of the Jim Joseph Foundation’s Incubator I Specialty Camps grant. Having just completed its third summer, 6 Points is a model for successfully blending Jewish identity and values with a specialized, immersive camping activity.

Lenny Silberman, CEO of Henry Kaufmann Camps and a 14 year Continental Director of the JCC Maccabi Games, recently visited 6 Points in Greensboro, North Carolina and saw the results first-hand.

“The facility is incredible, the coaches and staff are first rate, and the way Jewish values are integrated is fabulous,” Silberman said. “More than that, in the three years that the camp has existed, Camp Director Randy Colman has managed to begin some wonderful, unique camp traditions that will connect future generations of campers.”

Created and managed by the Union for Reform Judaism, 6 Points brings young Jewish athletes from all over North America to participate in a unique camping experience that offers top-level sports training with the traditions of Reform Jewish camping. Campers select a “sports major” in basketball, soccer, swimming, tennis, baseball, softball, lacrosse, or cheerleading, and have use of state-of-the-art facilities and a 22-acre lake. Combined with other electives and activities, the campers form friendships for life and achieve a higher quality of life as young Jewish athletes.

6 Points and the five other camps of Incubator I – 92Y Passport NYC, Adamah Adventures, Eden Village Camp, Ramah Outdoor Adventures – have combined to attract nearly 1,000 campers that would have otherwise not attended Jewish camp. By successfully offering specialized interests in a Jewish camping environment, the specialty camps have exceeded their enrollment and retention goals.

Building on this success, the Jim Joseph Foundation in partnership with the Avi Chai Foundation awarded $7,200,000 to Foundation for Jewish Camp to launch Incubator II. This latest funding will provide expertise and support to a new cohort of four individuals or organizations as they plan and implement new models of nonprofit, Jewish specialty camps.

The initial success of 6 Points not only helps to validate the specialty camps model, but is indicative of the potential for even wider outreach as well.

“For generations those in the sporting world and so many others have talked about creating a Jewish sports camp. To know that it has finally happened and after seeing 6 Points in action, I personally can see a similar growth pattern to that of the JCC Maccabi games.  Not only is there so much potential with athletes in the U.S. but this can reach beyond to other Jewish communities in Europe, South America and Israel.”

The Foundation for Jewish Camp will announce the cohort of Incubator II participants on September 14, 2012.

Foundation for Jewish Camp, Inc: Specialty Camps Incubator Evaluation



Foundation for Jewish Camp – Specialty Camps Incubator II

Foundation for Jewish CampIncubator II provides resources, expertise, and guidance for entrepreneurs as they implement their vision for new nonprofit, Jewish specialty camps. This unique and forward looking entrepreneurial opportunity will build on the success of the first Incubator, which launched five Jewish specialty camps in 2010.

The camps of Incubator I – 92Y Passport NYC, Adamah Adventures, Eden Village Camp, Ramah Outdoor Adventures, and URJ 6 Points Academy – continue to surpass their enrollment and retention goals, proving the demand for Jewish specialty summer camps. By combining Jewish culture and learning with specialized areas of interests, such as the environment, hiking, spiritual growth, film, fashion, or sports, the Incubator I camps created a model that blends Jewish identity with immersive experiences.

Evaluation of Incubator I shows that nearly 1,000 campers of these specialty camps would have otherwise not attended Jewish camp. And, three quarters of returning campers’ parents said that camp “positively impacted” their child’s Jewish identity.

Building on this success, Incubator II will provide expertise and support to a new cohort of four individuals or organizations as they plan and implement new models of nonprofit, Jewish specialty camps. Through a rigorous selection process, the Incubator advisory committee selected nonprofit specialty camp proposals possessing strong Jewish missions that weave Jewish culture, values, and learning throughout the elements of the camp program. In particular, the Incubator seeks to develop camps that continue to reach demographic groups and geographic regions underserved by existing traditional and specialty Jewish camps.

Once implemented, the Incubator II camps – Camp Zeke, Camp Inc., JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, and URJ Six Points Science Academy and Technology Camp – will reach a new segment of Jewish youth entering grades six through twelve, strengthening their Jewish identity and contributing to their specialized interests.

Specialty Camps Incubator

Foundation for Jewish Camp, Inc: Specialty Camps Incubator Evaluation