SPONSORED BY THE JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION AND ENDOWMENT FUND OF SAN FRANCISCO, THE PENINSULA, MARIN AND SONOMA COUNTIES
At the Federation, we are designing Jewish experiences that connect people, generate a sense of belonging, and inspire a shared purpose. We’ve learned from experience that successful community building doesn’t happen by accident. It’s cultivated through practices and habits that develop our communal “muscles.” That’s why we fund programs that bring people together in intentional ways, but what about the physical spaces where community building occurs? Aren’t they critical to effective community building?
Jewish history in the Bay Area is rich with examples of how Jews built or helped finance physical spaces where people gather to connect and feel part of a whole. Rosalie Meyer Stern donated her land to San Francisco which later became Stern Grove, a popular site in summer for free music festivals. Herbert Fleishhacker played a role in funding the War Memorial Opera House, and Ignatz Steinhart gifted the Steinhart Aquarium, which became the California Academy of Sciences. At the Federation, we continue this tradition with a modern approach of working collaboratively with the community to support the development of spaces that will foster human connections and Jewish affinity. Below are four examples of projects, made possible by our donors’ generous gifts, that are building the Bay Area’s Jewish communal infrastructure.
Taking Belonging to New Heights: Camp Tawonga
At 93, Camp Tawonga is our oldest Northern California Jewish overnight camp, serving 2,700 people a year through summer camp, teen adventure quests, and family camps. Tawonga’s “Down the Mountain” programs, from its mass outdoor Rosh Hashanah service for 1,000+, to its B’nai Mitzvah program serving 100 kids with waiting lists, demonstrate the camp’s success in extending its brand of outdoor communal Jewish spirituality to the entire Bay Area. After losing buildings and trees during the 2013 Rim Fire, the camp is reducing fire risk while protecting the environment and upgrading its facility to serve a wider range of our community. Tawonga’s evolution means more people connecting to Jewish life through the camp’s unique communal experience.
A Time to Grow: Oshman Family JCC
The Oshman Family JCC anchors the 8.5-acre Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life, co-located with the Moldaw Family Residences in Palo Alto. Since opening in September 2009, the campus has created a hub for the region’s Jewish community, providing high quality Jewish education, arts, fitness, youth engagement, and Israeli culture programs at its state-of-the-art facility.
As we learned in our recent Community Study, one-third of the Bay Area’s Jewish population resides on the Peninsula. The JCC expansion addresses its demand for greater square footage, given its growth in membership (over 10,000 members), diversification of programs, and need for places to gather, engage, and celebrate Jewish life. The project’s centerpiece is the Pavilion & Park, designed to add green space, play areas, and a two-story activity center. The campus looks and feels like an intergenerational town square, with preschool parents chatting over coffee in the café next to techies working on laptops and older adults relaxing after a class or workout.
The Show Must Go On: URJ Camp Newman Summer Programs
In the six months since the North Bay wildfires destroyed URJ Camp Newman, the camp’s leadership has had to confront several enormous challenges simultaneously including finding a temporary site for this summer’s programming, while at the same time navigating clean-up, insurance assessment, and planning to rebuild the camp.
Miraculously, within 6 weeks of the fire (and with help from JCRC and the Federation), Camp Newman found a temporary home at Cal Maritime in Vallejo. However, the costs of running a temporary rental site for the next few summers are significant. The Federation’s Endowment Fund stepped in with a three-year emergency grant to help Camp Newman create a temporary home for the 1,000 kids heading to camp this summer. Camp Newman’s resilience in the face of adversity reminds us that a community is both the structures that surround it and the people who comprise it.
It Takes a Village: San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living
One of the most ambitious real estate projects in the Bay Area Jewish landscape is the transformation of the 147-year-old Jewish Home, renamed San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, into a one-stop campus for older adults and their families. It offers a continuum of residential options, medical care, social services, wellness and fitness, retail, arts and culture, and recreational and social activities in one bustling hub. When complete, the $140 million construction project will double the number of people served each day on the Silver Avenue campus, empowering older adults to find everything they need in one “public square” that is both a vibrant physical place and a virtual online community. The campus’ designed physical spaces, communal programs, and virtual site will ensure that no senior feels isolated or alone, and everyone is supported, seen, and heard.
As all these Jewish places demonstrate, making space for community is critical. As we support these organizations, the projects go beyond capital improvements and facilities. They are spaces where people feel at home—where they gather, connect, become part of something bigger— and that’s where the real magic of community building happens.
Moving Forward Means Giving Back
Being part of a community imbeds a sense of belonging, trust, and commitment—key ingredients for fostering Jewish life. And thanks to the generosity and foresight of current and past Federation donors, our community has resources to meet today’s challenges as well as enable future generations to adapt to unforeseen needs. No one could have imagined the extraordinary landscape of growth and innovation that currently flourishes thanks to legacy gifts from those who came before us.
From seed funding, to emergency relief, to capital projects, our donors—whether they give to our annual campaign, make a legacy gift, or recommend grants from their donor advised fund—feed the creative and thoughtful progress of our Jewish community locally and abroad.
Constructing Our Future
Jewish communities form when people connect with each other around common identity, purpose, experiences, values and traditions. This entails not only building inviting physical spaces, but also structuring opportunities for people to come together, filling up the rooms with thoughtful programs, and pulling up more chairs to the table—with the hope that one day, we will outgrow that space.
Learn how our Jewish community is a force for good by visiting jewishfed.org/how-we-help.