Endowments, gifts benefiting present and future generations, are an important tool the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle employs to carry out its mission of serving as a community voice, strengthening connections to Israel and world Jewry, and making investments in Jewish life.
One of the many endowments the Federation manages for community benefit is the Special Initiatives Fund, which supports three programs that strengthen Jewish life in a variety of ways.
The Small Agency Sustainability grant program provides general support to Jewish organizations with annual operating budgets under $200,000. These organizations often have limited financial capacity for putting on engaging programs and for tending to day-to-day business.
One of the 2017 Small Agency Sustainability recipients this year was Congregation Beth Hatikvah (CBH), located in Bremerton. Says Amy Roszak, the congregation’s Board President, “We are a very small congregation that’s not in a very affluent area.” CBH’s building, which once served as Bremerton’s Jewish community center, dates to 1949, and the congregation has given high priority recently to catching up on deferred maintenance and introducing new programs for the Kitsap Peninsula community.
For CBH, Small Agency Sustainability funding has been “super important, very important, ultra-important” in giving the congregation additional wherewithal to serve as a focus of Kitsap Jewish life, Roszak says.
Similarly, the endowment’s Ignition Grants strengthen Jewish life by investing in creating and expanding onramps to Jewish life. “We are looking for projects that have a measurable impact, that reach a significant size of the Jewish population, and reach unconnected Jews,” says Noa Guter, the Federation’s Director of Engagement and Impact Evaluation.
An example of an Ignition Grant-supported project was the Israel Story Live production, which took place May 3 at the Stroum Jewish Community Center as part of #NWIsraelFest. The production was a multimedia storytelling performance, inspired by Ira Glass’s This American Life, that explored David Ben-Gurion’s dream of Israel as a melting pot and today’s “tribal” reality, which gave Puget Sound Jews a spotlight on contemporary Israeli culture.
Likewise, the Women’s Endowment Fund strengthens Jewish life by improving the lives of women and girls in the Puget Sound Jewish community and in Israel. For fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the fund is supporting four programs, two local and two in Israel. One of the local beneficiaries is Project DVORA, a Jewish Family Service program that provides counseling, healing, and other services through a Jewish lens to women who have experienced domestic violence. The Women’s Endowment Fund “has been critical for the development and success” of the program, says Lisa Schultz Golden, Chief Development Officer at Jewish Family Service.
The work supported by the Women’s Endowment Fund also helps the Federation carry out its mission of strengthening connections to Israel and world Jewry, which includes helping Jews in need in Israel and overseas. One of the endowment’s beneficiaries for this year and 2018, for example, is Nishmat Ethiopian Women, an organization that gives marginalized Ethiopian-Israeli women skills necessary for earning college degrees and competing in Israel’s job market.
Projects like Nishmat and others supported by the Special Initiatives Fund endowment are an investment in the future of Jewish life. “We’re very proud of the impact we’ve had on community organizations,” Guter says.