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JUF Breakthrough Fund awards $1.27 million to encourage smart growth and innovation

The programs focus on a range of themes such as inclusion programming for those with disabilities, connecting with diverse audiences, strengthening schools and students, and building and healing our community.  

Breakthrough Fund 550

Through its Breakthrough Fund, The Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago is once again helping fund innovative and leading-edge local programs and initiatives that meet local human needs, engage Chicagoans Jewishly, and strengthen Jewish communities in Israel and overseas. 

This summer, a total of $1.27 million will be awarded to programs that focus on a range of themes such as inclusion programming for those with disabilities, connecting with diverse audiences, strengthening schools and students, and building and healing our community.

Some $687,000 will fund 13 new initiatives with grants ranging from $13,000 to $100,000; an additional $588,000 will support six programs in their second year of multi-year grants awarded last year.

Encouraging smart growth and innovation in the Jewish nonprofit sector are the goals of the Breakthrough Fund, which launched in Fall 2013 and has awarded a total of $2.3 million in grants to 40 local initiatives.

"With this second full cycle of Breakthrough Fund grants, we are proud to support programs that reach out and welcome diverse populations within our community and strengthen our existing organizations with creative new initiatives," said David Sherman, chairman of the Breakthrough Fund review committee. "We have already seen the impact of past Breakthrough Fund recipients and know that these new programs will positively influence this community's future in immeasurable ways."

New Grants

Three of the programs focus on inclusion programming and programs for individuals with disabilities:

JCC Chicago : Aquatics Inclusion Program is an innovative swim program that will enable children and adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to learn water safety and swim skills in an inclusive environment.

Jewish Child & Family Services: Encompass Synagogue Inclusion Project is a year-long collaborative project with JUF's Synagogue-Federation Commission to conduct research and planning in order to better understand barriers to participation in the synagogue space for individuals with disabilities and their families.

JVS Chicago: Ready4Work Customized Employment Program builds on the Breakthrough Fund planning grant awarded last year and allows JVS to provide Customized Employment services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Chicago's Jewish community.

Two of the programs focus on older adults and their families:

Beth Emet The Free Synagogue: HaDerekh-Paths to Jewish Caregiving  develops and pilots a replicable, faith-infused caregiver training program that integrates Jewish traditions and stresses strategies for self-care, communication, and emotional well-being, as well as facilitating improved relationships, help-seeking, and support.

CJE SeniorLife: Chicago Virtual Senior Center allows CJE to fully launch its Virtual Senior Center, which uses videoconferencing to offer interactive, real-time bridge club, armchair yoga, museum "visits," Jewish text study, and other programs to older adults who find it difficult to leave their homes due to limited mobility or chronic health conditions.

Two programs focus on building and healing our community:

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs: Or Tzedek, Teen Institute for Social Justice will hold three retreats for high school students and use these experiences to create a core, customizable social justice retreat curriculum that can engage multi-denominational and unaffiliated teens across Chicago in social justice training and education. The curriculum will focus on the root causes of poverty and racism in Chicago, and how to engage in these topics through a Jewish lens.

The JUF TOV Volunteer Network will launch three new initiatives--a concierge service to create customized volunteer opportunities for individuals and families, Good Deeds Day, and the Day School Project.

Two programs focus on strengthening schools and students:

Associated Talmud Torahs: REACH-Collaborative Problem Solving supports REACH (Resources for Educational Achievement, Collaboration and Health) and ATT staff becoming certified collaborative problem solving (CPS) trainers so they may train Chicago day school staff on using CPS to address social, emotional and behavior challenges in the classroom.

Jewish United Fund: Israel Children's Zone® expands the Israel Children's Zone® program by adding Youth Futures mentors in two additional schools, addressing students' educational needs, emotional needs, behavioral issues, and learning difficulties, in addition to improving teacher preparation and mitigating school-wide challenges such as violence and bullying.

The remaining programs focus on reaching more diverse audiences:

A Wider Bridge Chicago creates new leadership development and community-building opportunities for Chicago LGBT Jews by hosting at least four local community programs and also providing an opportunity for five Chicago Jewish LGBT leaders to participate in A Wider Bridge's LGBT mission to Israel.

Moishe House Chicago: Blue Line will open a new House in the Jewishly-underserved Wicker Park/Bucktown/Logan Square region, using a proven peer-led, home-based and pluralistic model of community building to address the area's need for dynamic Jewish opportunities for 20-somethings.

Pushing the Envelope Farm will create two Jewish Food Justice Cohorts (teen and family) and a volunteer steering committee to create and engage in programs that connect Jews in the western suburbs to the Jewish community by exploring the Jewish connection between the land and the environment.

SHALVA will hire a part-time outreach coordinator to conduct education and foster dialogue about intimate partner abuse, domestic abuse in the Jewish community, local resources and services for Jewish Chicagoans ages 25-39.

Renewed Grants

CJE Senior Life: A Medication Abuse and Misuse Measure will create the first ever validated assessment tool to identify medication abuse and misuse by older adults.

GIFTS (Gratitude, Inspiration, Family, Tzedakah, and Service),  a program administered by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, provides grandparents with tools to connect with their grandchildren around Jewish values and philanthropy, including access to a donor advised philanthropic fund they can manage jointly.

Jewish Child and Family ServicesSynagogue-Community Partnership  expands JCFS' successful model to the Lakeview neighborhood and west suburban Naperville, deploying JCFS staff to local Jewish sites and bringing social and support services, consultation, information/referral, and educational programming to community members.

Jewish Child and Family ServicesJewish Center for Addiction  will work with Response to implement youth prevention and support programs in a Jewish context, including educational programs, individualized case management and referral, support groups, and recovery retreats for youth and young adults in recovery.

Mishkan Chicago: Going Broad Going Deep  supports expansion of lay and professional leadership opportunities, creates the Neighborhood Captain program, increases programming outside the Lakeview neighborhood, and expands worship opportunities, volunteer involvement, classes, and workshops.

UpStart: Chicago  will establish a network of support for approximately 20 local Jewish project leaders; provide R&D assistance to 6-10 emerging Jewish social entrepreneurs; and model "intrapraneurship" opportunities in Chicago's mature Jewish communal organizations.

For more information about the Breakthrough Fund or to learn how you can apply to be a future recipient of a Breakthrough Fund grant, contact Sarah Follmer, Senior Planning Associate, Strategic Partnerships at (312) 357-4547, email or visit


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