More than $23 million in grants for 2014 were approved last week by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s board of directors. The grants will help fund a variety of organizations and programs that support human services and community building locally and in Jewish communities throughout the world.
“I prefer to call these disbursements investments, rather than allocations,” said Woody Ostrow, chair of the Federation’s board. “Certainly, we are earmarking funding to address critical needs, but we are also taking a close look at the impact we are making in various areas — and considering the impact we can make with continued or expanded support.”
Funding decisions are based on a yearlong process in which volunteers and professionals examine community priorities and how best to address them.
“Those who donate so generously to our Federation’s Annual Campaign and Foundation — and through other means — want to see how their dollars are making a difference,” Ostrow stated. “It is our obligation to those who place their trust in us to keep our community strong, to take action both in the here and now and to be forward-thinking.”
A significant portion of Federation allocations in 2014 will continue to address aging and human needs and facilitate the establishment of new services for seniors, said Joshua Donner, planning director at the Federation.
Those grants will allow organizations like AgeWell Pittsburgh — which established four new programs last year to aid seniors, including one that provides the aging with necessary transportation — to continue to be “field-leading and doing a great job in helping keep our senior citizens healthy and vibrant,” Donner said.
Another focus of the 2014 allocations, made through the Jewish Community Foundation’s Centennial Fund for a Jewish Future, is on Jewish continuity, according to Donner.
The programs supported by the Centennial Fund “are already starting to make a big impact,” he said.
Last year, the Centennial Fund helped 104 children attend a Jewish summer camp for the first time through the One Happy Camper program, noted Donner. This year, the fund also will support Onward Israel, a program that provides young adults with an immersive and transformative resume-building experience in Israel, as well as the hiring of a Hillel-JUC staff member charged with recruiting students for travel to Israel. That staffer will also work with those students once they return home to capitalize on their Israel experience, Donner said.
The Federation’s 2014 grantees include nine first-time recipients, among them: the Jewish Community Legacy Project; the Anti-Defamation League; the Jewish Journey Navigation Project; and the National Council of Jewish Women’s Center for Women.
“We are going to use the grant to expand our outreach,” said Becky Abrams, director of the Center for Women, a program that provides services and referrals to women in transition. “We are looking for ways to engage women in the Orthodox community because we are just not grabbing them there.”
Federation funds going to the Jewish Community Legacy Project, which operates out of Atlanta, will help congregations in dwindling Jewish communities plan for their future and, in some cases, their ultimate closing.
“They have been a really helpful local partner to us,” Jeff Finkelstein, Federation president and CEO, said of the JCLP. The JCLP currently is assisting several area congregations, including Beth Israel Center in Jefferson Hills; Congregation Emanu-El Israel in Greensburg; Beth Israel Congregation in Latrobe; Temple Hadar Israel in New Castle; and Beth Israel Congregation in Washington, Pa.
A new grant to the ADL will allow “for programming and training here to affirmatively respond to anti-Semitic issues,” said Finkelstein. “The ADL is an important partner to us. We want to make sure that people are trained and prepared to deal with anti-Semitism.”
A grant to the Jewish Journey Navigation Project, a pilot program to be launched at Temple Sinai under the direction of Rabbi Ron Symons, will help engage Jews both inside and outside the confines of the synagogue, according to Donner.
“The basic idea is, we engage Jewishly in so many different forms,” he explained. “Temple Sinai is acknowledging that its congregants ‘do Jewish’ outside of the congregation. The Federation is particularly supportive and interested in this project. The committee felt it was innovative and could serve as a model.”
The Federation, Donner said, is committed to trying new ideas, and “the Jewish Journey Navigation Project is one of them.”
An allocation to the Agency for Jewish Learning will be used to help launch a new approach to teen education through J-SITE.
“J-SITE will be completely restructured,” Donner said. “There will be more variety in courses, and they will try to structure it so it will meet the teens and families where they are.”
Another allocation will be to the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition to aid in its is planning for the intersection of Forward and Murray avenues, in light of the upcoming construction of affordable housing for residents with special needs at the site of the old Poli’s restaurant.
“About 50 percent of the Jewish community lives in the east end,” Finkelstein said, “so the vibrancy of the community where all our agencies are located is important for us.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)