Jewish Teacher Training: One San Francisco Funder’s Renewed Local Priority

As we reported over the summer, the San Francisco-based Jim Joseph Foundation recently went through a leadership transition. To quickly recap, Chip Edelsberg, who served as the foundation's first and only leader, stepped down and Barry Finestone has taken his place. Finestone previously worked as the executive director of the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund, which also focused a significant portion of grantmaking on the Bay Area.

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

Well, just recently, the Jim Joseph Foundation committed to a new round of investments, which we thought was worth a closer look given all the internal changes happening behind the scenes. Three major grants were made in the fall of 2016, as well as two expedited grants. Major grants are larger and go towards multi-year support.

Some of these grants are staying local in the Bay Area, so let’s look at those first.

One of the major grants of $600,000 went to the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, Marin & Peninsula for the Institute for Curriculum Services to expand Israel education professional development between 2017 and 2019. This money is funding professional development on Judaism and the Arab-Israeli conflict to support teachers in meeting curricular mandates. The institute aims to improve education about Jewish subjects in both public and private schools.

Another Bay Area grant went to the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education through the Jewish Federations of North America. This $242,000 expedited grant is going toward the Bay Area Peoplehood Education Initiative, which will offer professional development programs and tools to address challenges faced by Jewish institutions in the Bay Area. A $485,000 major grant also recently went to the New Teacher Center’s New Teacher Project, which aims to support quality teaching in Jewish day schools with mentoring for teachers. The New Teacher Center is headquartered in Santa Cruz.

Upon a brief review of these grants, it seems pretty obvious that the Jim Joseph Foundation’s focus is on Jewish educator development more than anything else in the Bay Area right now. In other places, such as Atlanta, the foundation has been giving to other causes like community-based Jewish teen initiatives.

“Excellent Jewish education requires excellent educators who are supported and trained at various stages in their careers,” Al Levitt, chair of the Jim Joseph Foundation, said in a press release. “We are excited to partner with these grantees to help create even more dynamic Jewish learning opportunities for youth, teens, and young adults.”

Accordingly, Bay Area groups may have the best success with this funder pursuing a program that increases the number and quality of Jewish educators. This grantmaking category represented 31 percent of overall grantmaking between 2006 and 2015.

Keep up with what this funder cares about at any given time by following the foundation blog. Two particularly interesting pieces come from the former executive director, Chip Edelsberg: "Series of Final Reflections as Executive Director: Why Effective Philanthropy Requires Trust"and "Series of Final Reflections as Executive Director: A Concentrated Set of Priority Grants."

But just a reminder: The foundation accepts grant proposals by invitation only.