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Posts tagged ‘birthright’

Announcing the Winners of the Haas/Koshland Memorial Award for 2014

Yesterday, the Federation announced the winner of the Annual Haas/Koshland Memorial Award, which provides to an outstanding college student – from or attending school in the Bay Area – up to $20,000 to support a year of study and personal development in Israel. This year’s exemplary winner is Hana Rothstein, a junior at U.C. Santa Cruz majoring in the History of Art and Visual Culture and minoring in Jewish Studies. Read more

Thoughts on Engaging Millennials in Jewish Life

By Sue Schwartzman, Director of Philanthropic Education

The Philanthropic Service department of the JCF launched a monthly webinar/seminar series last month to inform and educate our 900 donor advised fund holders on cutting edge developments in philanthropy, community funding opportunities, and networking events.   The series includes a 12:00 pm webinar followed by a 1:30 pm in-person seminar on the same topic.  We all enjoy the connection and energy that comes from being in the same space, but also recognize that it is not always possible for clients to get to our offices in San Francisco, so we are giving our donors options.

The first webinar/seminar held on March 5 focused on engaging millennials (adults who are in their 20’s and 30’s) in Jewish life. The event featured speakers Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon, both from the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and founders of Birthright Israel, Slingshot, 21/64, and Grand Street, among other initiatives. They are a dynamic duo and are known as THE innovative philanthropists of the 21st century. Rounding our this impressive panel was Jordan Fruchtman, Chief Program Officer of Moishe House and former Hillel Director. Ben Abram, one of JCF’s young leaders, moderated the panel and kept the group on topic with his line of questions.

Our speakers captivated the room as they described the unique traits of millennials, including how they are tech savvy, networked, multi-taskers who continue to embrace the values of their parents and grandparents as part of what they believe in, yet do not typically connect to traditional Jewish institutions.

L to R: Ben Abram, Jeffrey Solomon, Charles Bronfman, and Jordan Fruchtman

Top 5 takeaways from the speakers:

  1. During an extended 11 year period post college, millennials are making major life choices, but there is a gap in Jewish community programming for them during this time.

    Moishe House and Birthright have stepped in to help fill this gap.  “This time is critical in identity development,” says Fruchtman, “a juncture in their lives when they are making huge long term life decisions about who they marry and where they are going to settle down, buy a house, and raise a family.” Very simply put Moishe House is meant to be a straightforward and organic model that speaks to this generation. It is three to five friends who live together in a house and open their doors doing anywhere from five to ten programs per month. The programs range from Shabbat dinners, Jewish culture and the holiday kinds of programming, to just general social programs, community service, and Jewish learning.

  2. Millennials like to customize; Jewish institutions need to allow for this if they want to remain relevant.

    According to Solomon, “Jewish is just one of the many identities these milllennials connect to.”  If our institutions are going to attract them, there has to be some allowance for customization for them to put their own unique mark on it.  “They don’t like being told what Judaism is or looks like, or how to be Jewish,” he adds; “they want to create that for themselves.”

  3. 91% of Birthright attendees remain connected to the Jewish community after their trip.

    Bronfman points out that millennials are free to be anything they want, and without meaningful Jewish engagement “a heck of a lot will opt out.” The good news, says Solomon, is that 12,000 Bay Area millennials have gone on Birthright trips.  “If they go on Birthright,” says Bronfman, “they are back in – period! We have a 91% success rate; 75% say it changed their lives and was the most important 10 days they ever spent.” And those young people, he adds, have a 50% better chance of marrying Jewish.

  4. Engagement programs for millennials, like Birthright, need to be funded!

    In spite of the overwhelming impact of Birthright on young people, 11,500 were put on waiting lists and could not go.  “For $3,000 (the trip is free to the young adults, and costs the community about $1500 per participant that is matched by a national funder) you get almost the same impact as a $180K Jewish day school education.  To have a waiting list for that $3,000 expenditure, when San Francisco is the most affluent Jewish community in the history of the world, makes no sense.”  He admonished, “We are so used to saving Jews from Eastern Europe, Ethiopia, and the former Soviet Union, yet we don’t think about our own backyard.”

  5. Millennials are tech savvy, networked, and use these traits as part of the skills they bring to the table

    According to Jordan, millennials are a generation that is more educated and has more resources at their disposal, and they aren’t seeking out the same Institutions as previous generations. Those have barriers.  Instead, they look at institutions they can put their own special brand on.  This poses a unique opportunity – and challenge – to the Jewish community.   Charles Bronfman challenges the Jewish community “to get out of the way and let these folks lead our major institutions.”

If you are interested in being part of a funding collaborative on this topic, please let us know. Our next webinar/seminar will be held April 23 from 12:00-1:30 pm, our first small group strategic philanthropy series on Setting Your Philanthropic Intention and Practice. Space is limited.  Please RSVP to or

Visionary Jewish Leaders Join Together in San Francisco

On March 7, 2013 nearly 200 professionals and philanthropists joined together for a morning of inspiration and networking at  BLC’s eighth annual Business Leadership Council Breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel.

We all joined to honor John Osterweis, a business leader, philanthropist, and longtime JCF supporter (in a variety of capacities including as chair of our Endowment Fund for 10 years), with the prestigious Business Leadership Award.

Mr. Osterweis shared that much of his inspiration comes from his sense of identity as a Jew, the values provided by our Jewish tradition, and the countless achievements of Jewish people. Coming from a home that was not particularly observant, he has developed a deep appreciation of Judaism as an engine of culture and has studied Torah for the last 25 years.

John Osterweis speaking at the BLC Breakfast

The  keynote conversation took place between Charles Bronfman, a renowned businessman, philanthropist, and co-founder of Birthright Israel, and Jeffrey Solomon, president of Bronfman Philanthropies and co-author (with Bronfman) of The Art of Giving and The Art of Doing Good.

Impressive change-makers in the Jewish community and beyond, Mr. Bronfman and Dr. Solomon advised that “philanthropy is about how you want to change the world” and that “anything you do has to hit your soul.”  Both statements tie into how Birthright Israel came to be.  Mr. Bronfman relied on entrepreneurial spirit and his instincts that this program was a good idea, securing private funding instead of holding out for support from additional organizations.  Nearly twenty years later, close to 300,000 young adults (including many event attendees) have participated in this journey of Jewish connection and peoplehood.

Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon speaking at the BLC Breakfast

Jennifer Gorovitz, JCF CEO, said of this event, “[it] really highlights the connection between philanthropy and the business community.”  We couldn’t agree more.  To honor Mr. Bronfman’s dedication to the Jewish community, the Business Leadership Council is proudly contributing $3,000 toward funding Birthright Israel this year.

Todah rabah, or thank you, to everyone involved in making this year’s Business Leadership Breakfast such a huge success, and especially to event co-chairs Scott Harrison and Jeff Zlot, as well as BLC Chair Alan Levins.  We hope to see you at many future events!

For more information on the Business Leadership Council, please contact Jeanne Miller at 415.512.6423.  Additional pictures from the event can be found on the BLC Facebook Page, and you can view video of the speeches on YouTube.

Super Sunday – It’s More Than A Donation

Super Sunday, it's more than a donation.

Your Gift Lays the Foundation for
a Lifetime of Jewish Experiences.

It starts with PJ Library®, an engagement program that delivers free monthly Jewish children’s literature and music to families to enjoy together. Then our Affordability Project provides $1M in scholarships so that more families can afford to send their children to Jewish school and overnight camps. Our Jewish Teen Foundations help create the next generation of leaders and philanthropists by giving teens tools and confidence to change the world. And young adults form a closer connection to Israel and a deeper understanding of their roots on our Birthright trips.

Your support makes it happen.

 Answer the call on January 27, 2013

Register to volunteer at Super Sunday

To learn more about our work to build a vibrant, caring, and enduring Jewish community that is a force for good locally, in Israel, and around the world,
visit our website or email us.
That’s the power of community.

A light bulb moment on Birthright-Israel

By Roxanne Cohen, Director of Fundraising Engagement

I recently met Sarah Glidden, a 26 year old from Newton, MA, who chronicled her 10-day journey to Israel through Birthright-Israel in a graphic novel, entitled “How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less.” Sarah shared her experience with a group of 50 gathered at the PJCC in Foster City, at a program co-sponsored by Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Community Federation.

Sarah’s “journey” began following 9/11, as her compass started spinning and her awareness of political issues elevated to new heights. For years, as a progressive young adult, she grappled with the question of whether there was room for her to feel a connection to Israel as well as empathy for Palestinian people. The two felt paradoxical to her.

When the opportunity arose to travel to Israel with Birthright, it was a “light bulb” moment for Sarah. She could actually go and see for herself. And though she expected propaganda aimed at influencing her to unconditionally support all aspects of Israel, she instead found Birthright tour guides and educators who helped her and the group tackle tough questions head on. Her expectations were challenged, and she learned quickly about a political situation more complicated than anyone could imagine.

Roxanne Cohen and Sarah Glidden

Roxanne Cohen and artist Sarah Glidden at the PJCC's exhibition of "How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less."

As they traveled from Independence Hall, past the security fence and throughout the country, Sarah learned that “YES”—she could feel love for Israel and sympathize with Palestinian aspirations for statehood. “We are all members of the human condition,” lectured renowned scholar David Hartman at the Shalom Hartman Institute. These words spoke to Sarah in a deep and meaningful way.

The title of the book is a joke, said Sarah. The point is – you can’t understand Israel in 60 days. It is easy to think you understand, but the issues are so deep. Part of being Jewish is questioning, talking, debating. As a people, we will never all agree – but we need to simply try to understand. If we can all open ourselves up to that, how much more “Jewish” we will all be.

Birthright is an amazing tool. No two experiences are the same, but its ability to impact Jewish identity is consistent. I am proud that our Federation not only supports Birthright, but has made a commitment to raise the funds needed to reduce the waitlist and help more young adults confront their own issues of identity and what it means to be Jewish.

Sarah Glidden’s work is on display at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center (PJCC) in Foster City through December 28th. For more information visit

“I wanted to experience more out of Israel”

Aaron Sholin

Many American Jews come to Israel for short visits on Birthright and other similar programs. I, too, have done that, and enjoyed it, but somewhere along the way, I realized that I wanted to experience more of Israel. This realization led me to the decision to go on a MASA sponsored post-college program.

There are a huge number of programs, so it took some time to figure out what I wanted. After doing some research, I decided two things: I wanted to be in Tel Aviv and I wanted to have an internship. I sent e-mails including one to WUJS Israel Hadassah, just one of over 180 program options that Masa Israel works with and received a call from Amy, who is responsible for getting people through the initial signing up process. I was impressed that she took the time to call me (from Israel) and explain in detail what the program was like. It started to become apparent that this was the right program for me.

I have been in Israel for a little over a month now, and I am happy to say that I made the right decision. I found an organization online called Transport Today and Tomorrow, whose main goal is to improve sustainable public transportation in Israel. Although it is a very small organization, with only one full time employee, it seems to have built an impressive network of politicians, professors, and transportation experts who are very committed to making change in this area.

Since I started my internship, I have met a number of professionals in the field and just recently attended an international conference that focused on ways to make cities more pedestrian friendly.

Although I am gaining experience from my internship, there is so much more to my program. I have ulpan classes twice a week. I am in the beginning level since I haven’t studied Hebrew since my Bar Mitzvah, but already I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Another highlight of WUJS is the weekly field trip and other educational activities. Every week we go to a new place. My favorite so far was the first, a hike in Ein Gedi, in the Judean Desert, followed by a trip to the Dead Sea.

Recently, I had the privilege of experiencing Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haaztmaut in Tel Aviv. For Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day), I attended a ceremony in Jerusalem for MASA participants. I don’t recall ever seeing anything like this scene before. In comparison with the Fourth of July, Israelis celebrate their independence very differently. Instead of just having private parties in houses or backyards, there are thousands of people in the street, to the point where I had to push to get through the crowds. There definitely seemed to be a certain kind of joy in the air that I have not witnessed before and I was happy to take part in it. Being in Israel for a long time really makes it clear how normal life can be here, despite what the headlines may say. I am glad that I made the decision to spend this time in Israel and WUJS is a great way to experience it. ~ Aaron Sholin

In 2010-2011, the Federation granted Masa $150,000 of which $1,500 goes towards each program participant. That will enable 100 young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 30 from around the world to spend 5 to 12 months interning, volunteering or studying in Israel, building a lasting relationship with the land and its people, strengthening their Jewish identity, and gaining meaningful, life-changing experiences.

Endowment Committee Grant Bolsters Bay Area Participation in Birthright

Thanks to a new grant from the JCF Endowment Committee, the Bay Area waiting list for Birthright Israel – the national program that takes Jewish young adults on free trips to Israel – just got a whole lot shorter.

Through a $120,000 grant earmarked for local participants, the Endowment Committee is providing 40 Bay Area students with the opportunity to visit Israel for the first time. Some 2,000 Bay Area young adults have been turned away from the program because of its popularity, but the Spring 2010 grant – which also launches a community campaign to raise additional funds – will help ensure that local young adults who sign up for a free trip to Israel won’t be denied.

The move to increase local Birthright participation is but one example of the many ways that grants approved by the Endowment Committee are energizing Jewish life. The latest swath of 11 grants totals $3,220,000 and funds everything from the Kehillah Jewish High School to an innovative partnership designed to bolster local synagogues.

The Synagogue-Federation Partnership in tandem with the Areivim Create A Jewish Legacy program – a combined effort that will receive $800,000 over three years – works to increase participation in synagogue life, as well as provide synagogues with the tools to build their own endowments.

The 2010 Spring Endowment Committee grants also provide much-needed funding for those agencies hardest hit by the financial downturn. Community dollars will be funneled to Jewish Family and Children’s Services, in order to provide emergency financial assistance to Jews in need, as well as Jewish Vocational Service’s Jewish Employment Network, which provides job placement assistance to 400 members of the Jewish community.

This is the first year that the Birthright Israel Foundation has allowed earmarked grants for local participants. As a result, the Endowment Committee was able to ensure that Bay Area youth who have been turned away from the program due to high demand, will now have a chance to see the beauty of the Jewish State.


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