Jewish Women's Foundation awards $265,350 in grants

The Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago has awarded $265,350 in grants to 16 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. Included in this amount are the Foundation's multiyear and collaborative grant commitments as well as the inaugural grants from The Ellie Fund.

Since its inception 15 years ago, JWF has awarded more than $2.4 million to innovative projects.

"The Jewish Women's Foundation Trustees are proud to support these exceptional organizations and projects," said JWF Chair Dana Hirt. "Their goals tie closely with our own, which is to advance social change and improve the status of Jewish women and girls."

Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago-sponsored Ma'yan Research Training Internship (RTI) is among the new projects to receive funding. With assistance from a $17,650 JWF grant, Chicago will be the first city to replicate this six-year-old program developed by JCC Manhattan. Incorporating a gender lens, this 15-month internship program provides a female-only space where Jewish teen girls engage in critical thinking, skill-building and feminist discussions during bi-monthly meetings. The philosophy behind this program is that providers can best serve the needs of teen girls by listening to them - a core strategy to create social change. The RTI project achieves a secondary goal of producing new research on the needs and experiences of Jewish teen girls, which community professionals can use to improve existing programs.

"It is critical that we provide opportunities for our girls to learn the skills they can use for a lifetime as they grow into powerful and influential Jewish women. This project addresses one of JWF's core values, which is to empower Jewish women as leaders," Hirt said.

JWF Trustees identified and selected projects that best reflect the Foundation's mission from a pool of more than $1.25 million in grant requests this year. Trustees carefully review grant proposals and budgets, participate in conference calls with program staff and make site visits.

"Our Trustees are committed to mobilizing our collective power to promote justice, equality and empowerment for women and girls in our community and across the globe," said JWF Grants Chair Gerri Kahnweiler. "Through our grant-making work, we are able to transform the lives of individual Jewish women and advocate for further social change to strengthen families and communities."

Overall, JWF awarded five new grants and renewed nine others. New grant recipients include Ma'yan and the following:

Exploring Spirituality of Girls and Women in an Egalitarian Setting: Camp Ramah - $7,500. Camp Ramah in Wisconsin is a co-ed Jewish overnight camp, providing opportunities for young women and men to explore their Jewish identity and spirituality in an egalitarian setting. Although leadership opportunities are equally available to male and female campers, staff at the camp has observed that young women seem reticent to take on these roles, as evidenced by low participation numbers. To address this concern, Camp Ramah will create separate programming for female campers and counselors, creating a secure environment for young women to express feelings and receive support on their individual spiritual and leadership paths. This project, open to female campers entering grades seven through 11 on a voluntary basis, includes training for college-aged staffers, with the goals of shifting community behavior and establishing a sense of empowerment in girls and young women. In addition, some co-ed activities will encourage a wider understanding and acceptance of the meaning and power of an egalitarian community.

JCARES: Jewish Child and Family Services - $12,200. Under this pilot project, JCARES will collaborate with Shorashim, the Birthright trip provider used by the Jewish Federation of Chicago, to conduct the first ever violence prevention/awareness training and consultation for Birthright trip leaders. JCARES will develop a training curriculum for Birthright leaders that will equip them with the knowledge and tools needed to prevent, intervene and appropriately respond to unhealthy or abusive situations that may occur on these 10-day trips to Israel. This project will also assist Shorashim with creating and implementing internal protocols for trip leaders to use in response to inappropriate behaviors and concerns or allegations of abuse.

The Gender Index: Monitoring and Promoting the Status of Women in Israel: Center for the Advancement of Women in the Public Sphere (WIPS) at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute - $20,000. Launched in 2012, The Gender Index: Monitoring and Promoting the Status of Women in Israel created an index that serves as a tool to examine the rates and trends of gender inequality in Israel across a variety of issues. This multidimensional measurement tool monitors changes in the level of gender equality over time, and can be used to create a snapshot of the depth and breadth of gender inequality by pulling data from a variety of sources. The project will raise awareness among data generating organizations, women's groups and policy makers on using gender specific data to inform policy recommendations.

Crisis and Health Intervention Training for Israeli Mikvah Attendants: The Eden Center - $20,000.  The  Eden Center enriches, educates and empowers women about their bodies and intimate lives, as well as their Jewish identity, through the ancient tradition of mikvah immersion. Eden Center strives to create a new model of mikvah that combines educational, health and supportive services, turning this uniquely Jewish, female space into a women's resource center. The Crisis and Health Intervention Training for Mikvah Attendants education program will train mikvah attendants on how to identify issues women might be struggling with such as domestic violence, post -partum depression, and breast cancer, and empower them to become first responders and advocates for women's health.

Additionally, The Ellie Fund of the Jewish Women's Foundation, established by a generous donation from founding JWF Trustee, Ellen Block, has awarded three new grants to organizations working to help girls and women reach their full potential. These grants include:

Write to Change the World Program for Young Jewish Women in Chicago: The OpEd Project - $14,000. The OpEd Project is dedicated to increasing the volume of women's voices in key thought leadership forums, such as the editorial pages of major publications. Highly interactive group workshops challenge participants to consider their knowledge and experience and why it matters. The Write to Change the World program will train young Chicago area Jewish women on the elements of making a powerful evidence-based argument and empower them to make a case for the ideas and causes in which they believe, whether through media, before a board of directors or potential funders, or in the political arena. As participants perceive their knowledge and experience in expansive terms, they will develop a sense of social obligation and better understand their potential impact on the world.

Empowering Young Men to End Sexual Exploitation Program: Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation - $12,000. This school-based prevention program engages high school-aged young men as allies in efforts to address and prevent sexual violence and exploitation. Through a series of workshops, young men learn about the exploitative dynamics and violence that exists in the sex trade, to deter their involvement in this industry as consumers and facilitate a personal understanding of how sexual violence and exploitation affects them and their communities. Separate companion sessions are held with high school-aged young women. Learning about sexual exploitation not only deters men from purchasing sex, it may effect change in their relationships with women and help young men see how they can be part of the solution to end sexual exploitation and violence.

Justice and Support for All - Legal Representation and Social Support for Mesoravot Get: Mavoi Satum- $20,000. Working in Israel, this project provides social and legal support to agunot, women whose husbands refuse to give them a religious divorce (get). For many women, the process of securing a get can take many years, and ongoing legal and social support is crucial to ensure protection of women's rights. Through this project, women receive individual legal consultation and representation in both civil and religious courts as well as social support to help them address feelings of powerlessness and rebuild their lives.

"These three projects complement JWF's overall grant making strategy perfectly," said JWF's Executive Director Emily Muskovitz Sweet. 'We are honored to launch The Ellie Fund and expand the Foundation's impact and reach in such a meaningful way."   

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:

Projects in the Chicago metropolitan area:

AVODAH Chicago: AVODAH - $12,000. 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.

BeTween: A Jewish Community Planning Initiative - Jewish Child and Family Services (JCFS) - $20,000.  This planning grant will address the needs of Chicago area Jewish "tween" girls (ages 9-14), who often face challenging situations such as social isolation, bullying, and obsession with body image. The goal of this planning grant is to develop a comprehensive model program that will provide Jewish girls with knowledge and skills to promote their own leadership, health and identity. In 2013, more than 132 individuals provided input into the planning process. In 2014, this project will develop and implement a coordinated, sustainable pilot initiative throughout the Chicagoland Jewish community, which nurtures Jewish tween girls as they mature.

End Demand Illinois Campaign- Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation- $15,000. 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 Women's Foundation renewal grants 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 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 - $20,000. 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.

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 for and are elected to public office in Israel. This program will provide female candidates with the skills necessary to run, be elected and ultimately succeed in the municipal arena. Participants will also learn how to advocate for women's rights and representation in their new positions.  

YEDID - The Association for Community Empowerment: Bread and Roses: Protecting Women from Workplace Abuse - $20,000. 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 female Israeli workers.

Jewish Women's Foundation multi-year grants:

Jewish Vocational Service:The Jewish Teens and Women Credit, Asset Building and Savings Help (CASH) Program - $20,000. This is JWF's third installment of a three-year, $60,000 grant, which empowers Jewish female teens and women in the Chicago metropolitan area to build financial literacy skills 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, 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.

Jewish Women's Collaborative International Fund:Shutafot: Women's Organizations for Gender Justice and Economic and Employment Equality - $5,000 (second and final installment). JWF joined with 17 other Jewish women's funds - 14 in the United States and three in Israel - to award a $150,000 two-year collaborative grant to a partnership of six 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 is elevating 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.

Posted: 12/20/2013 10:15:38 AM
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