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Millions Approved for Jewish Programs

July 26, 2012 By:
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Kids at the Lokoff Early Learning camp enjoy some time in the sun. Federation's latest round of funding reflects its priority of engaging children and young families in Jewish life.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the central fundraising body of the local Jewish community, has approved the allocation of $22.1 million -- of which $15.7 million was unrestricted funds -- to support a wide range of initiatives, ranging from Jewish education to social services.
The funding decisions were made official at Federation's July 26 board of trustees meeting. The figure for unrestricted dollars was essentially the same as a year ago, when Federation awarded $15.5 million in grants.

Continuing a trend that has developed in recent years, a growing slice of the funding pie was awarded to programs that fall under the rubric of Jewish identity-building and engagement.

Of the $11.9 million in grants, $6.3 million, a little more than half, went to a range of Jewish identity-building programs -- with a particular emphasis on the young. Those grants were awarded through two of the Federation's three centers -- Jewish Life and Learning, and Israel and Overseas. The third center is the Center for Social Responsibility.

(Of the $15.7 million, $3.8 million aren't allocated by the centers but fund other communal programs.)

Lewis Gantman, co-chair of the Center for Jewish Life and Learning, said his board's goal is to create a "continuum of funding" that will support programs that "attract the Jewish lifeline of Philadelphia.

"We want to bring more people in, to keep them in this endeavor so we end up with people who are more committed and better educated," added Gantman.

The question of how to most effectively use dollars to bolster connections to Jewish life is one that federations -- and nearly all Jewish institutions -- continue to grapple with. This is a particular challenge at a time of decreasing birthrates and increasing rates of intermarriage.

"Our Jewish community is not replenishing itself and this is one of the greatest challenges that this community now faces," said Federation CEO Ira M. Schwartz at the board of trustees meeting. "The long-term implications are significant if we don't act and act smartly and wisely."

Federation allocations involve a complex, back and forth process that takes about six months. Groups submit grant proposals for specific programs to be funded by the $15.7 million in unrestricted funds. Federation professionals and lay leaders on the center boards, as well as on the Policy, Strategy and Funding Committee, determine which programs to fund.

This year's allocations eliminated funding for some programs while also providing grants to some new programs. Some of the single largest grants came not in new areas but were for existing programs. These include:

· $1,462,500 in grants to six area day schools, the bulk of which is for scholarships. That figure was the same as last year.

· $897,300 to the Jewish Learning Venture to run the Kehillot initiative, which focuses on family engagement, institutional strengthening, Jewish educational leadership development and early childhood education. This is the last year in a three-year arrangement between Federation and JLV.

· $800,000 to the Klein JCC for senior socialization programs that are aimed at "improving the quality of life."

· $682,420 to the Jewish Family and Children's Services for assistance to vulnerable populations, along with $646,619 for its Healthy Aging at Home initiative.

· $700,000 to the Jewish Agency for Israel "to operate programs that address the most significant challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people." The agency is also getting $480,000 for its Partnership 2Gether with Netivot/Sedot Negev.

This year's allocations report contained some programs that had never been previously been funded by Federation. Those include:

· $50,000 grant to the Jewish Learning Venture for an early childhood education initiative. This is on top of a $240,000 for Jkidsphilly, an initiative aimed at engaging young Jewish families and includes the PJ Library program.

· Davai, which serves young professionals in the local Russian Jewish community, is receiving $20,000 for a program to develop leaders within that community.

· Interfaithways, an agency that serves interfaith families and had received a dramatic funding cut from Federation two years ago, is getting $25,000 for its Mother's Circle Pilot Program, which engages non-Jewish mothers raising Jewish children.

· Gratz College is receiving $100,000 for its Individualized Teacher Education Program. The aim is to create individualized plans to improve the knowledge and pedagogic skills of selected teachers in Jewish settings.

· $20,000 to Bible Raps, an organization that "strengthen Jewish identity amount children and young adults using rap and hip-hop music."

· The Klein JCC is getting $125,000 for an initiative to help seniors in the Northeast with transportation needs.

· The Abramson Center for Jewish Life has been awarded $75,000 for a new medical adult day care center located at Federation Housing's Arbor House in Northeast Philadelphia.

The Center for Israel and Overseas funded more new programs than the other two centers. This is reflective of the fact that the center is focusing more on building connections between the local Jewish community and Israel, according to officials.

Among its nine new grants -- out of a total of 23 initiatives -- is a $100,000 allocation for Project Leket, the National Food Bank of Israel. That's an effort by volunteers -- mostly young adults and some from abroad -- to rescue produce that has been abandoned and rotting in the fields.

While new programs are receiving dollars, some existing programs have lost substantial or all Federation funding.

Among those cut is the kosher food program at the Abramson Center for Jewish Life, which last year received $285,000 and this year is getting $72,000. Federation officials said this was transitional funding for the program, which will be totally cut in the future since providing kosher food at institutional settings is no longer a Federation priority.

The Jewish Learning Venture, though its funding was boosted in other areas, saw Federation funding eliminated for three of its programs. Last year, the Catalyst for Congregation Education and Reshet programs, which focus on synagogue strengthening and supplemental education, received $150,000 and $67,000 respectively. This year they're getting no funding.

In addition, the One, Book, One Jewish Community program, which last year got $18,000, will also no longer be getting Federation funding but is expected to raise funding on its own to continue the program.

And this year, the Center for Israel and Overseas opted not to renew $50,000 in security grants to the Netivot Municipality and the Sedot Negev Regional Council respectively.

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