JCF awards grants to programs aimed at engaging young families in Jewish life

In recognition of the Jewish Community Federation granting $1 million to promote family engagement in the South Peninsula area, a celebration was held March 20 in Los Altos Hills.

The event at Congregation Beth Am outlined the S.F.-based Federation and Endowment Fund’s inaugural initiative and honored the four organizations that have been awarded a total of $500,000 over the next three years. Each has developed programs aimed at engaging young families in Jewish life.

The programs selected are the Jewish Birth Network (Congregations Kol Emeth and Beth Am), Setting the Table South Peninsula (Hazon), Kesher (Jewish LearningWorks) and Friendship Circle Bay Area. Another $500,000 will go to other Jewish groups working in the area.

The grants were in part determined through the Impact Grants Initiative, an innovative approach to philanthropy that lets local donors prioritize areas of greatest need in their community.

“It’s a really exciting initiative that provided donors with a hands-on way to deepen their philanthropic expertise and make a real impact in their community,” noted Jennifer Gorovitz, federation CEO. “Once our South Peninsula committee determined that engaging young Jewish families was a pressing need in their community, they issued a request for proposals and received responses from organizations that could best effect that change.”

The Jewish Birth Network collaborates with secular birth education centers to provide high-quality childbirth classes with Jewish content for new families who would not otherwise pursue Jewish experiences. It also aims to create communities of new Jewish parents.

Setting the Table creates programs for prekindergarten students and their families that allow youngsters to engage in fun activities (such as crafts) while young parents learn how to make an authentic Jewish home environment.

Kesher is targeted at less-engaged families with children ages 3-7 and attempts to find culturally relevant programs and activities that fit their needs and interests.

Friendship Circle is a program for Jewish families with children with special needs. It will use its new funding to reach a broader audience in the South Peninsula.