A Closer Look at Jim Joseph Foundation’s New Leadership and Funding Shifts

Last fall, we got you up to speed on Jim Joseph Foundation grantmaking in the Bay Area and touched on its local support for Jewish learning, educator training, and research. This is a funder known for its large, multi-year grants and its strong belief that Jewish education occurs in many different types of settings.

Now, this locally focused funder is in the midst of an interesting leadership transition. Chip Edelsberg is stepping down as Joseph’s leader; he was the first and only executive director the foundation has ever had.

Taking his place starting November 1 is Barry Finestone, the first person to claim the title of president and CEO of the Jim Joseph Foundation. An announcement earlier this year said that Finestone would take charge on January 1, 2017, but that date has now been moved up.

So who is this Finestone and how might his leadership affect the foundation’s grantmaking?

He was previously working as the executive director of the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund, and he’s originally from Scotland. In the past, he led the JCC of San Francisco and Cincinnati’s Isaac M. Wise Temple. He has a wife and three children, and he was a residential camp director in the Young Judaea youth movement in the 1990s.

But Finestone won’t be on his own as he takes over this local force of philanthropy. Edelsberg will continue working as a consultant in the fields of Jewish education and philanthropy.

“Barry and Chip have worked closely to ensure a smooth, even seamless, executive transition—and they will continue to do so in the months ahead, said Al Levitt, president of the board of directors of the Jim Joseph Foundation. “Most importantly, we maintain our steadfast pursuit to create effective and compelling Jewish education experiences, working closely with valued grantees, funder colleagues, and other stakeholders in the field.”

The Jim Joseph Foundation has only been on the philanthropy scene in San Francisco for a just over a decade, but it’s already made over $420 million in grants. Overall, the purpose behind these grants has been to benefit Jewish education for youth, teens, and young adults in the U.S.

This isn’t the only leadership shift that the foundation is going through right now. The president of the board of directors is retiring, and there’s some internal shifting of chair positions. Also, two new members have been added to the Jim Joseph Foundation board. Laura Lauder from the Laura and Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy and Rachel Levin, who’s the executive director of the Righteous Persons Foundation, are the new members joining the board to contribute to grantmaking decisions.

Lauder and her husband co-founded the Socrates Program of the Aspen Institute in 1996. She focuses efforts on leadership capacities at local and national nonprofits through her venture philanthropy fund. In the Jewish community, she has been active with the Foundation Board Incubator and has expanded Jewish teen boards nationally and internationally. She and her husband live in Silicon Valley.

Levin worked in philanthropy for nearly two decades before launching a boutique philanthropic consulting firm. She’s worked at the California State Treasurer’s Office, established the Righteous Persons Foundation where she serves as executive director; it was set up by Steven Spielberg. She also manages other private foundations and grant portfolios on a wide range of issues.

This is a lot of change for a young foundation with just 11 years of grantmaking. No big grantmaking changes have been announced just yet, but some shifts may very well be on the horizon.

At the end of June, Edelsberg wrote that the foundation was in the midst of clarifying and refining its strategic approach to numerous areas of its grantmaking. The foundation staff and board have been devoting hours to learning and research about Jewish young adult engagement and education, with particular interests in the use of technology and digital content, diversity issues, and professional development of Jewish educators. So more grantmaking attention to these issues is very likely under the new leadership’s guidance in the coming grant cycles.

Check out these recent foundation press releases to learn more about funding that’s been distributed lately in the Bay Area and beyond:

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