From the Executive Director

Summer months at the Foundation and the Future of Jewish education

By Chip Edelsberg on June 29th, 2016

Work at the Jim Joseph Foundation this summer will be highly concentrated, as it has been these past ten summers. Immediately following the Foundation Board meeting in mid-July, we will begin preparing for another meeting with the Board of Directors in early September. At the moment, it appears that as many as a half dozen major grant proposals will be reviewed by Directors at these two meetings.

With transition occurring at both the professional and governance levels, active change management is necessary in order to seamlessly "hand off" responsibilities to the incoming President and CEO and new Directors. This activity adds a measure of complexity to the Foundation's otherwise routine grantmaking processes; we rely on colleagues and technical assistance experts to guide the Foundation in this period of change and growth.

Against this backdrop, it is natural to reflect on a decade of Jim Joseph Foundation philanthropy. That the world is different than it was in 2006 obviously goes without saying. And that Jewish education--and philanthropy in support of Jewish education--has evolved is also manifestly apparent.

It is in this context that I confer with Foundation Directors and the professional team to share lessons we have learned as a basis to improve the Foundation's future performance.  At the same time, as part of a multi-pronged CEO OnBoarding plan, Barry Finestone and I constantly converse with one another about the dynamic growth of the sector, accelerating trends in Jewish education, and potential ventures for the Foundation to pursue.

The Foundation is in the midst of clarifying and refining its strategic approach to numerous areas of its grantmaking. As part of this process, the professional team devotes hours to learning and research: studying Jewish young adult engagement and education; critically examining (uses of) educational technology and digital content (in Jewish educational contexts); exploring diversity issues (as related to education of young Jews, the organizations serving them, and the Foundation's own forms of diversity); and updating our understanding of best practice professional development and training of Jewish educators.

We remain vigilant in surveying Israel education, routinely discussing with Directors potential mission-aligned grantmaking possibilities.  We have considerably deepened our study of formal programs in (educational) leadership.

This ongoing learning, studying of programs, and constant search for best practices is greatly aided by our foundation funding partners, who contribute meaningfully to these efforts.  Funding partners often direct us to seminal sources of expertise or inform us about an emerging initiative that builds on the initial findings of research we are conducting.

The past decade’s worth of grantmaking and learning combined with a prospective future filled with new opportunities and leadership changes—considered deliberately and in interaction with one another—make for charged moment in time at the Jim Joseph Foundation. I hope that as the Foundation’s intensive work continues in my final months as Executive Director, I will soon be able to describe a few new major initiatives that will help propel the Foundation—and the field of Jewish education—forward.

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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.