From Our Blog

Making Sense: Reflecting on Evaluations at the Jim Joseph Foundation

By Stacie Cherner on August 16th, 2017

A core part of the Jim Joseph Foundation’s relational approach to grantmaking is supporting grantees to evaluate their programs—either through engaging an external evaluator or by collecting and analyzing data internally.  The Foundation has always believed this is good grantmaking; it builds the capacity of organizations to ask questions, to collect data, and to reflect on findings in a way that then enables changes to be made to increase success. In this period of transition at the Foundation, the grantmaking team has asked some pertinent questions regarding our evaluation program: “What are we learning from the evaluation work we have supported over the past eleven years?” and “Are there common lessons and emerging themes that we ...More

A Funder-Grantee Partnership for Program Evaluation: How a Small Experiment Yielded a Mighty Partnership

By Anna Kernus, Roey Kruvi, and Rachel Halevi on August 15th, 2017

In 2015, Moishe House (MH) began implementing a new pilot program designed to explore a model for engagement. Premised on peer-led retreats, Jewish young adults attend a weekend training called Retreatology: The Art of Jewish Retreat Making. Following their training, they then facilitate their own Jewish learning retreat—grounded in Jewish learning, Jewish values, and personal interests—for a group of their peers. MH provides facilitators with a mentor and a grant for up to $5,000 to create an immersive learning experience to assist in the planning and execution. MH and the Jim Joseph Foundation, one of MH’s major funders, recognized the program merited a more substantive evaluation than just the standard feedback survey, but MH lacked the capacity to hire an external ...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

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

Reflections from Sandy Edwards, Jim Joseph Foundation Associate Director

By Sandy Edwards on June 18th, 2015

Editor's Note: Later this month, Foundation Associate Director Sandy Edwards will leave the position she has held since 2006. She will remain involved in Jewish education and philanthropy through consulting and volunteering efforts. Below are reflections from Sandy on her time at the Jim Joseph Foundation working with grantees, other funders, and stakeholders in the field. Ten years can at once seem like a long time and go by in an instant. As I reflect back on my ten years at the Jim Joseph Foundation, I am flooded with memories about where the Foundation and the field were in 2005—and where we now are today. When I joined the Foundation, nothing was in place. No infrastructure for disbursing grants. No methods for ...More

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at an Evaluators’ Consortium

By Sandy Edwards, Stacie Cherner on April 9th, 2015

In the midst of its tenth year, the Jim Joseph Foundation has created what might be called “a family of beneficiaries.” There are young Jews who have, as an example, traveled to Israel on Birthright, lived in a Moishe House, enrolled in HUC-JIR, Mechon Hadar, or other education institutions, and perhaps earned credentials as expert Israel educators as part of a program with the iCenter. All of these exceptional institutions and organizations are grantees of the Foundation. Now, a new “family” is developing. And while these family members often operate behind-the-scenes, we believe they are equally as important to the Foundation’s pursuit of its mission. This family is comprised of a small number of highly skilled evaluators and researchers, which the ...More

Are You High Performance? Leap of Reason Can Help You Answer “Yes!”

By Chip Edelsberg on March 11th, 2015

In 2011, social-sector thought leader Mario Morino released a book entitled Leap of Reason. In essence, Morino argued that the social-sector could be vastly improved by relentlessly measuring results for which organizations held themselves accountable to achieve. Morino subsequently created a community of stakeholders committed to this perspective and a website as a portal for conversation about Leap of Reason’s thesis and main ideas. In the years that followed, Leap of Reason expanded from being a title of a book to the name of an ambitious initiative. Last month, this ambition was on full display as Leap of Reason’s e-newsletter asked a simple yet profound question: “Are you High Performance”? Of course, who doesn’t want to answer a resounding “Yes!” But nonprofits ...More

Making a Difference: A Look Back at 2013

By Chip Edelsberg on December 9th, 2013

As the year ends, there is a natural tendency to look back and to take stock of what occurred in 2013. This was a significant year in the evolution of the Jim Joseph Foundation—first and foremost because of the determined efforts of Foundation grantees. We continue to be grateful for grantee success in creating engaging, substantive learning experiences and for developing Jewish educators to teach in myriad types of learning environments. Early this year, we released the Foundation’s 2008 – 2012 Summary Report. This report offers a snapshot of grantees’ achievements and insights about the Foundation’s own expectations for the years to come. We noted that “several of our major, multi-year grants will soon expire” and that “evaluations of ...More

Rethinking Our Communal Approach to Jewish Teen Education

By Josh Miller on April 8th, 2013

Editor’s Note: This blog was cross-posted in eJewishPhilanthropy. Jewish teens seeking to explore their Judaism and connect with Jewish peers have a menu of program options from which to choose. Nationwide, tens of thousands of teens enroll in Jewish high schools, take classes on Jewish topics, participate in youth groups, attend Jewish camps, travel to Israel, and sign up for a range of other ongoing and immersive programs. Research demonstrates that these experiences significantly influence participants and lead to further involvement in Jewish life. On the surface, the narrative is one of success and – for funders investing in the future of Jewish life – is heartening. We are compelled to support these opportunities for Jewish teens to ensure that ...More

Working in a Relational Way

By on October 3rd, 2012

In advance of its upcoming Board meeting, the Jim Joseph Foundation Board of Directors invited a small group of community thought leaders to submit a “Madrich Narrative” addressing the following question: What “big idea” for supporting Jewish education would you propose the Jim Joseph Foundation fund? The Board first conducted this activity as part of its August 2006 Retreat, shortly after the Foundation’s inception. That set of “Madrich Narratives” became a source of inspiration to the Foundation in pursuing an agenda of strategic grantmaking. To this day, the original madrichim papers foster thought-provoking discussion. For this round of papers (which we hope eventually to distribute to the field), Jim Joseph Foundation Executive Director Chip Edelsberg was asked to submit his ...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.