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JUF provides $332,000 to pluralistic programs in Israel

Funding supports diversity, inclusion in the Jewish state

In a show of continued support of religious diversity in Israel, the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago has made $332,000 in grants for 2012, to fund six new and 10 ongoing programs within Israel's liberal and transdenominational religious movements.

Of the total, Progressive (Reform) movement programs will receive $110,000; Conservative movement programs - split between the Masorti movement and the Schechter Institute - will receive $116,000; and Modern Orthodox and Transdenominational programs will receive $106,000.

Over the last decade, Chicago's JUF has allocated more than $4.2 million to religious movements in Israel, supporting their important work to promote diversity and inclusion.

Funded programs include:

Progressive (Reform Movement)

  • Youth Movement Fellowship - $25,000 (New). The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) plans to create a pre-army fellowship program in which graduates dedicate a year of service to Noar Telem, the IMPJ's youth movement that promotes Jewish pluralism and a just Israeli Society. The IMPJ currently supports 35 Reform and Progressive communities throughout Israel and offers programs that advance creative and pluralistic Judaism through a range of spiritual, educational, cultural and social justice programs.
  • Advancing Jewish Pluralistic Education - $60,000 (New). The program seeks to promote greater participation of Israelis in Jewish ritual, practice and community involvement. Many secular Israelis rarely experience opportunities to engage in meaningful Jewish activities and a large population is completely detached from Jewish life. The IMPJ plans to develop a network of educational centers, based in IMPJ congregations, to serve local public schools by enriching their educational programs with Jewish and Zionist content.
  • Beit Midrash BaDerech - $25,000 (New). Beit Midrash BaDerech is a unique post-army program designed for Israeli young adults, ages 20 to 24, combining agricultural Kibbutz work and Beit Midrash study. During the six- to eight-month-long program, 20 to 30 young adults create a community on Kibbutz Yahel in the Negev, engaging in Kibbutz work during the day and Jewish learning in the evening.

 Masorti (Conservative) Movement

  • Ramah NOAM Summer Camp in the Forest - $23,000 (New). Ramah NOAM (No'ar Masorti-Masorti Youth) is the overnight summer camp of Masorti's youth movement. This camping experience for seventh- through tenth-graders will take place in the forest for the first time in the camp's 25-year history. The new location and format will focus on ecology and the environment in a way that is respectful of Masorti values and tradition.
  • NOAM Youth Groups in the Periphery - $20,000 (New). Approximately 40 percent of Masorti congregations are in the periphery, and in Israel, geographic periphery can mean the difference between poverty and affluence, and health and sickness for residents. NOAM ensures that peripheral local families have the option of infusing traditional values into the informal education of their children. NOAM chapters run with an in-depth knowledge of the Kehilla to which they belong, and adapt activities to local needs. The groups work to deepen Jewish connectedness through open dialogue, study and personal experience with a pluralistic and respectful approach.
  • Hannaton Education Center - $15,000. The Masorti Hannaton Education Center, adjacent to the Kibbutz Hannaton, offers a wide curriculum of informal educational studies, activities and seminars, in the pluralistic spirit of Masorti Judaism.

 Schechter Institutes (Conservative movement)

  • Midreshet Schechter for Jewish Leadership - 'MISCHLEI' - $20,000. The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary offers MISHLEI, a two-year traditional Beit Midrash study combined with an academic program and M.A. degree in Jewish studies at the Schechter Institute. Since the program's inception in 2010, the number of students studying at the Rabbinical Seminary has doubled.
  • Midrashot Learning Centers - $20,000. Midreshet Yerushalayim of the Schechter Institute created this network of local Learning Centers (Midrashot) geared to secular and traditional Israeli adults, veteran Israelis and Olim of all ages. Educational programs are offered in Hebrew, Russian and Spanish.
  • TALI Bar/Bat Mitzvah Seminar at Kibbutz Hannaton - $18,000. Children attending Israeli TALI schools, especially those approaching Bar or Bat Mitzvah, can engage in positive experiences that reinforce the values stressed in their classes and that forge their Jewish identity. The two-day outdoor seminar includes large and small group activities, nature walks and archaeological hikes, synagogue visits, Shabbat preparations and a group Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration.

 Modern Orthodox

  • Taking the Lead for Tikkun Olam (Herzog Center) - $10,000 (New). The Yaacov Herzog Center (located in JUF's Partnership region) launched a pilot program to create connections between secular and religious Israelis. The program involves discussion and study groups composed of student leaders in five local student and youth councils within both the secular and religious educational systems. One religious and one secular facilitator lead each group in respectful, joint study of Jewish sources, dialogue and discussion. Each group then implements a local leadership social action project at the end of the joint study period, under supervision of the local Authority Council.
  • Shalom Hartman Center for Rabbinic Enrichment - $20,000. This program focuses on developing the role of the rabbi as a teacher and educator within the synagogue and throughout the community, through a three-year program structured around study in Israel and in home communities in North America and Europe. Chicago rabbis who are currently participating in the program are Rabbi Sidney Helbraun (Temple Beth El) and Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin (Am Yisrael Conservative Congregation).
  • Yachad-Jewish Cultural Facilitator - $23,000. The Yachad outreach program from Ohr Torah Stone was established to empower the secular population of Israel to restore, reclaim and cherish their Jewish heritage on terms that are comfortable to them and that make sense to their daily lives. Example programs include: "The Holidays are for Everyone," Kabbalat Shabbat, and a Youth Study Hall that brings secular and religious teens together to study Jewish sources and translate them into action in the community and through Bar/Bat Mitzvah programs.
  • Yaacov Herzog Center Project Atid - $28,000. This 10-year-old program has been bringing young people together to confront deep questions about Jewish identity, tolerance, civic responsibility, leadership and secular-religious pluralism in Israel. The yearlong educational leadership-training program for almost 300 at-risk tenth-graders from southern Israel brings together youth from different populations - religious and secular, new immigrants, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, etc. Groups meet eight times a year to develop social awareness and pluralistic sensitivity, and then create and implement a joint project of charitable community action.

 Transdenominational

  • Meitarim's Mechinat Lachish - $10,000. This program, located at Kibbutz Beit Guvrin in JUF's Partnership region, provides a new type of mechina - a post high school leadership academy - for Israeli youth before they enter their military service. This mechina focuses on the environment, ecology, agriculture, pluralism, volunteerism, individual development and accountability, artistic expressionism and preparation for military service. Participants are high school graduates from all streams of Judaism, committed to the land of Israel and its people.
  • BINA Center Zehutarbut - $5,000. Established more than 10 years ago, BINA Center for Jewish Identity and Culture's social, cultural and educational programs reach nearly 1,000 secular Israelis annually in yearlong programs, and more than 13,000 in youth seminars and public events with the goal of enhancing the Jewish and Zionist identity of non-orthodox Israelis. Zehutarbut integrates the Israeli Russian-speaking population by engaging participants in the exploration of their Jewish identities together through study of Jewish texts, joint social action and Jewish-cultural expression.
  • Atid Bamidbar/Kochav David Jewish-Israeli Identity Empowerment for Russian Speaking Immigrants - $10,000. Working with the Kochav David organization in JUF's Partnership region, Atid Bamidbar reaches out to Russian speaking Israelis to help strengthen their Jewish identities. The two-year BAKII (a Hebrew acronym for Building a Jewish Community Together) program includes a training course on how to organize Jewish heritage activities for Russian-speaking Israelis; family celebrations of four Jewish holidays - Sukkot, Tu Bishvat, Passover and Shauvot; Jewish enrichment for the general Russian-speaking population; and regional Jewish communal events that include participation of Russian-speakers from Kiryat Gat.


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