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Federation Invests in Community Collaborations

December 11, 2013 By:
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Lewis Gantman

Lewis Gantman, co-chair of Federation’s Center for Jewish Life and Learning along with Rena Kopelman, was surprised at the high level of participation in a late August meeting to strategize how best to enable communities to work together on creative and effective Jewish programming.

“Some 60 communal leaders — rabbis, synagogue professionals and agency heads — came together to discuss how they could maximize Federation’s investment of $200,000 in Neighborhood Grants to most effectively serve their constit­u­ents,” he explained.

Both Gantman and Kopelman came away from that meeting energized and excited.

They encouraged synagogues and other agencies that already enjoy close working relationships to submit applications for grants of up to $25,000 for projects or initiatives of their choosing. “Each applicant was encouraged to secure matching resources to ensure that these initiatives are adequately funded,” Gantman said.

Seven proposals have already been received from collaborative groups in Center City and Northeast Philadelphia, as well as organizations representing the Old York Road corridor in Eastern Montgomery County, Bux-Mont, Lower Merion, Chester and Bucks County.

Several hoped to use the resources to hire staff to coordinate existing programs and develop new initiatives based on conversations with community members.

Others plan to target grant dollars to develop Jewish holiday and Jewish education programming to serve unaffiliated and intermarried families.

“As these neighborhood groups develop their proposals, they can also provide opportunities for engaging people who are not already actively engaged in Jewish life,” said Ernest M. Kahn, interim director of Federation’s Center for Jewish Life and Learning.

He added that “recent results from the Pew Study on Religion and Public Life indicated large numbers of Jews — in particular young people — who do not identify as Jews.”

Two neighborhood groups hope to use a portion of the grant dollars to engage young families through participation in athletic activities.

In Bucks County, area synagogues would be encouraged to participate in a middle school boys and girls basketball league currently managed by Abrams Hebrew Academy. Now in its second year, the program already attracts 100 children.

Along the Old York Road corridor, grant funding would help to expand a highly successful Jewish soccer league to more children.

Many applicants seek funds to expand their marketing efforts to achieve greater participation in activities and events and to “sell” their communities to outside groups as ideal places to live and work.

One proposal seeks funding to expand upon a successful service that transports Northeast Philadelphia older adults to medical and personal appointments.

If approved, additional resources would be available to allow seniors to participate in Shabbat services, Jewish holiday celebrations and other Jewish community programs and events that would be scheduled during evening and weekend hours.

In Rhawnhurst, a section of Northeast Philadelphia with many Orthodox synagogues and easy access to kosher food and restaurants, a proposal asks for funds to purchase online and print advertisements in publications serving the observant Jews who might be interested in relocating.

These are just a few of the many creative projects that Federation Neighborhood Grants can support.

If you have a suggestion for an innovative program to enhance Jewish life in your community, email Ernest Kahn at: ekahn@jfgp.org.

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