In a move to foster religious pluralism in Israel, the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago has awarded $300,000 in 2014 grants to Israel’s Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox movements, and to inter-denominational and non-denomination programs in Israel.
Recent headlines from Israel about religious pluralism and the need for inclusion have captured the attention of American Jews. However, JUF long has recognized the need and supported programs that encourage religious diversity, mutual respect and understanding in Israel. Over the last 14 years alone, JUF has provided more than $4.7 million in funding to programs of the religious movements and others who encourage inclusion for different ways of thinking about and practicing Judaism.
The 2014 grants are as follows:
Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (Reform) – $102,000:
- Advancing Jewish Pluralistic Education – Education materials and training for teachers in IMPJ schools.
- Youth Movement Fellowship – A pre-army fellowship for young people who delay their army service and spend that year working with Noar Telem, the IMPJ’s youth movement. The fellows, all of whom are Noar Telem alumni, focus on expanding Noar Telem’s activities and recruiting participants for IMPJ’s mechina.
- Beit Midrash BaDerech – Post-army program that combines working on a kibbutz in the Negev with religious study. The program also includes a community leadership component, and participants create tikkun olam projects and volunteer on the kibbutz or in the surrounding area.
Masorti Movement and Schechter Institute (Conservative) – $102,000:
- Ramah/NOAM Summer Camp in the Forest – A two-week summer camp for 600 children, in its 27th year, for 4th-10th graders, with 11th and 12th graders serving as junior counselors.
- Ramah/NOAM Youth Groups in the Periphery – With 28 of the 70 Masorti congregations in Israel in the nation’s geographic periphery, this program offers extra support to those congregations’ youth groups.
- Lehava – Continuing studies for Masorti congregational rabbis, who meets bi-monthly to learn together and support one another, as many congregations are the only ones in their local communities.
- Neve Schechter Holiday Events – Celebrations of a variety of Jewish holidays (Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, Tu B’Shvat) at Neve Schechter, the new Masorti community center in Tel Aviv.
- Student Leadership in Kehillot – A forum for rabbinical students to learn practical skills and the inner workings of how a Masorti congregation functions.
- TALI Shabbatons – Ten Shabbatons will be hosted for TALI students, their families and teachers.
Modern Orthodox/Religious Zionist – $73,000:
- Yachad Jewish Cultural Facilitator – Sponsorship of one of Ohr Torah Stone’s 25 cultural outreach facilitators in Israel.
- Taking the Lead for Tikkun Olam – A leadership training and youth group run by the Yaacov Herzog Center, bringing together a mix of secular and religious students in each of four locations: Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Beit Shemesh and Rechovot.
- Tzahali Pre-Army Prep Course – A year-long Yaakov Herzog Center program, held at Kibbutz Ein Tzurim in JUF’s Partnership Region (Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir), preparing religious women who want to join the IDF rather than National Service.
- Developing Religious Leadership – Sponsorship of two participants in Eretz Hemdah, an eight-year program that trains religious court (beit din) judges.
- Jewish Wedding Initiative – An alternative to the current Orthodox wedding system, this program of Tzohar offer a more open, halachically valid way for all Israelis, especially secular ones, to get married in Israel.
Inter- and Non-denominational – $23,000:
- Meitarim Schools – This pluralistic education system, from pre-school to post-army studies, was founded in 2001 by Rabbi Michael Melchior.
- Elul – An increasingly popular, 40-day intensive learning program run by Ein Prat during Elul (in the summer).
- Outreach to Schools – A program from Alma, started by Ruth Calderon, to bring high school students to Tel Aviv for a day of studying religious text and both touring and learning about Israel’s first Hebrew-speaking city.
- Secular Yeshiva – This is an opportunity for alumni of the Jerusalem Secular Yeshiva to continue structured Jewish learning.
Beyond JUF’s direct allocations, additional JUF funds are indirectly provided to the movements through major allocations to our overseas partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel. JAFI’s 2013 allocation to the movements was $2,882,140, which is divided as follows: the Reform Movement, $1,152,856; the Conservative Movement, $1,152,856; and Modern Orthodox, $576,428.