Jewish Women’s Foundation awards $210,500 in grants

The Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago has awarded $210,500 in grants to 15 organizations with missions to improve the lives of Jewish women and girls locally and around the world. The grants focus on projects that promote social change at the individual, community and institutional levels.

Since its inception 14 years ago, JWF has awarded more than $2.2 million to cutting-edge projects.

"We at JWF are proud to support these outstanding organizations and projects that advance social change and enhance the status and daily lives of Jewish women and girls," said JWF Chair Dana Hirt. "Through these organizations, we will address a multitude of concerns, from building financial literacy to changing public policy." 

One of the new projects to receive JWF funding, a $20,000 planning grant, is the Jewish Child & Family Services BeTween: A Jewish Community Planning Initiative. This project was created to address the unique needs of Chicago-area Jewish tween girls ages 9 to 14, and will help develop a comprehensive, community-wide response aimed at empowering them to become strong women and future leaders. To achieve this goal, JCFS will convene a work group of representatives from a variety of local and national nonprofits with expertise in working with this cohort. The work group will conduct focus groups, examine existing community resources, identify unmet needs, research best practices, and develop a comprehensive model program for tween empowerment, while building strategic partnerships within the local community.

"We believe it is imperative for our girls to be equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to become resilient, influential Jewish women," Hirt said. "Our hope is that they will use their abilities to effect change within their own generation and those that follow as well."

From a pool of more than $1.2 million in grant requests this year, JWF Trustees identified and selected projects that best reflect the Foundation's mission. The process included detailed reviews of grant proposals and budgets, conference calls with program staff, and site visits.

"JWF Trustees judiciously consider each grant request they receive," said JWF Executive Director Emily Muskovitz Sweet. "They are committed to increasing and transforming opportunities for Jewish women and girls in Chicago and around the world, and their dedication is evident in the exceptional quality of projects they selected to fund this year."

Overall, JWF awarded four new grants and renewed 11 others. New grant recipients include the BeTween Initiative and the following:

 WePower:The College for Women in Politics Training Program - $20,000. WePower is dedicated to elevating women's status and representation by increasing the number of women who run and are elected to public office in Israel. The project seeks to help women access the skills and knowledge they need to run, win election and ultimately succeed in the municipal arena. Through this training program, WePower will target female candidates running for council or mayoral positions in the 2013 Israeli municipal elections.

 Chicago Justice Project:Sexual Assault Data Practices and Transparency Task Force - $7,500. CJP is an independent non-profit research organization dedicated to promoting evidence-based reforms that improve the criminal justice response in local communities. The 24-member task force will guide the implementation of an action-based research project that will examine local sex crime statistics, review best practices for sex crime case processing, and make this data more publicly available. Victims and advocates will, for the first time, be able to access hard data to evaluate how the justice system works for victims, and to advocate for policy and system reform. "These reforms will impact overall community safety and benefit all victims of sexual assault, including those from the Jewish community," Hirt said.

 Noga Center for Victims of Crime: Legal Clinic for Ultra-Orthodox Women - $17,000. This project will offer female Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) law students at Israel's Ono Academic College legal instruction and training to equip them to become advocates on behalf of crime victims in their community. "Many Ultra-Orthodox women are fearful of the legal system and do not report crimes, especially sex crimes that have been committed against them," Sweet said. "This program will help educate and position these women as role models and agents of change in their own community and beyond."

The Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago employs both a Jewish and gender lens in its grant allocations. JWF Trustees direct funds to individual programs that support economic security, legal reform, education, leadership development and overall health. JWF's model cultivates strategic grant making in the Chicago metropolitan area, Israel, and throughout the world.

The Foundation is an independent project of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

 For more information on grants awarded or the Foundation, contact Emily Muskovitz Sweet, Executive Director, at (312) 357-4948, or email For information on the Jewish Women's Foundation of Chicago, visit

Jewish Women's Foundation renewal grants include:

Projects in the Chicago metropolitan area:

 AVODAH: AVODAH Chicago - $8,500. This yearlong service-learning project engages Chicago Jewish young adults in anti-poverty and social justice work. JWF funding supports the incorporation of gender-specific education into Corps members' weekly trainings. By increasing Corps members' connections to social activism, civic engagement and Jewish values, this program works to develop a cadre of young female Jewish leaders and activists committed to social justice and gender equity.

 Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation: End Demand Illinois Campaign - $10,000. This organizing and advocacy campaign is dedicated to transforming the state of Illinois' response to prostitution and sex trafficking. By promoting policy and legislative reforms that focus on the demand side of the sex trade, CAASE directly targets the culture, institutions and individuals that perpetuate and profit from the sexual exploitation of others. CAASE continues its work in the Jewish community by sponsoring educational programs with Jewish organizations and synagogues to promote awareness and action.

 Jewish Vocational Service: The Jewish Teens and Women Credit, Asset Building and Savings Help (CASH) Program - $20,000. This is JWF's second installment of a three-year, $60,000 grant, which empowers Jewish female teens and women in the Chicago metropolitan area to build their overall financial literacy and begin setting and achieving their personal financial goals. JVS hosts group educational programs covering topics such as banking services, credit, consumer rights, saving, budgeting, loans, saving and/or paying for college, and home ownership. Participants also meet individually with a JVS financial counselor regarding their personal financial questions and goals. This program spans ages, neighborhoods and denominations of Judaism to increase personal financial management skills and promote the overall economic security of women and girls.

 Response: Girl Speak Up - $14,000. This program provides girls within the Chicagoland Jewish day school community with the necessary skills to negotiate the emotional and social demands of being a girl. Girl Speak Up addresses the complex issues experienced by pre-teen girls, such as bullying, peer pressure, conflict resolution, body image and stress. The program also educates and engages parents and school personnel to ensure that these lessons and skills are supported and encouraged throughout the greater community. Response is run by Jewish Child & Family Services.

Projects in Israel and overseas:

 Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI):Legal Counseling and Representation of Victims of Sex Crimes - $10,000. ARCCI is the umbrella organization representing the nine Rape Crisis Centers throughout Israel and provides free legal counseling and representation to victims of sexual assault. Under this project, ARCCI's legal advisors will support victims' rights by appealing to the Supreme Court on behalf of survivors, lobbying to change legislation, offering support and consultation, and raising public awareness on issues that affect victims of sex crimes. By addressing the deficiencies of Israel's legal system at the institutional level, ARCCI will enhance the rights of sexual assault victims and help strengthen laws against sexual offenders.

 Center for Women's Justice: The Public Interest Litigation Project - $15,000. This project supports CWJ's efforts to file key lawsuits in civil courts across Israel to set precedents and create legal reform with regard to discriminatory decisions and policies against women. Get refusal (husbands who refuse to grant their wives a religious divorce) is among the project's top priorities. Through litigation and public awareness activities, CWJ challenges unfair rulings and wins monetary damages for wives who were denied a get.

 Jewish Women's Collaborative International Fund:Shutafot: Women's Organizations for Gender Justice and Economic and Employment Equality - $5,000. JWF has joined with 16 other Jewish women's funds - 13 in the United States and three in Israel - to award a collaborative grant to a newly formed partnership of seven prominent women's organizations in Israel, Shutafot (Partnership). Established in response to the increasing instances of discrimination against and exclusion of women from the public sphere in Israel, this coalition will elevate women's voices and perspectives in policy debates throughout the country. Through public awareness activities, lobbying and advocacy, Shutafot will promote equality and reduce gender gaps in Israel's economic, social and occupational spheres. This is the second installment of the two-year grant.

 Mavoi Satum: Resolve: Private Rabbinical Court - Accountability, Advocacy, and Public Awareness - $20,000. Mavoi Satum deals with the plight of agunot - women whose husbands refuse to give them a divorce, or get - by targeting the ultra-Orthodox beit dein (religious court) in Israel. Under this project, Mavoi Satum will continue to advocate that Israel's new private religious court be used as an alternative to the state-backed religious courts and be granted the legal authority to award a get. Additionally, Mavoi Satum will work to promote the use of legally binding prenuptial agreements as a strategy to prevent women from becoming an agunah.

 Project Kesher: Building a Jewish Legacy: Supporting a Process for Addressing the Needs of Women in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Kazakhstan - $7,500. Project Kesher is a women's advocacy and human rights organization that empowers women in the Former Soviet Union to become activists in their communities. This project will enable Jewish women advocates to attend meetings and conferences where pressing women's issues are being discussed and debated. Such opportunities will provide women with a seat at policy-making tables and promote their active role in bringing about reform throughout the region. 

 Shalom Bait, Asociacion Civil de Prevencion de la Violencia Familiar: Pursuing Justice, the Law as a Tool of Change - $20,000. Shalom Bait is the only Jewish organization working directly to meet the needs of Jewish victims of domestic violence in Argentina. This project provides legal assistance to women within the Buenos Aires Jewish community, many of whom lack the financial resources to fight legal battles against their abusers. Shalom Bait also provides public education and professional training on domestic violence intervention, and advocates for the enforcement and strengthening of laws that promote victim safety.

 YEDID - The Association for Community Empowerment: Bread and Roses: Protecting Women from Workplace Abuse - $16,000. YEDID aims to increase public awareness of workplace abuse in Israel and develop policies and legislative reform to address the problem. The project specifically targets low-income female workers and concentrates on their right to earn a living in dignity. This work promotes policy reform and helps improve the economic status and well-being of Israeli working women.


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