For the third year in a row, the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago's Breakthrough Fund is giving a boost to innovative, leading-edge initiatives that meet local human needs, engage Chicagoans Jewishly, and strengthen Jewish communities in Israel.
This summer, $1.06 million will be awarded to programs focusing on themes ranging from inclusion of teens with special needs; educational programs to raise awareness about mental illness; crisis intervention and self-sufficiency for at-risk Israeli young adults; professional development for those working in the Jewish community; and engaging new Jewish experiences for local bar and bat mitzvah students, college students and congregants.
Some $781,000 will fund 16 new initiatives, with awards ranging from one-year grants of $10,000 to multi-year grants totaling $200,000. An additional $282,000 will support two programs in the third year of multi-year grants awarded in 2014.
Encouraging smart growth and innovation in the Jewish nonprofit sector is the goal of JUF's Breakthrough Fund, which launched in fall 2013 and has since awarded more than $3.3 million to nearly 60 local initiatives.
"They say the third time's the charm, but the Breakthrough Fund has truly been spectacular from the start," said Steve Miller, chairman of the Fund's review committee. "Three years in, we already are seeing our past grantees making incredible waves and changing this community's future for the better.
"I am so proud of the programs we are supporting this year that reach out to new communities across the world and create meaningful experiences for our community here at home-and that's what it's all about."
Anshe Tikvah: Jewish Recovery Home Research Project will explore the viability of a Jewish Recovery Home for those dealing with substance abuse in the Chicago area, and will establish appropriate relationships with community stakeholders.
Educating for Excellence: Pre-Academic University Program aims to introduce an extracurricular academic model of learning to young underserved middle and high school students in Israel's periphery.
Hillel: Habayit Shel Hillel (Hillel's House) Emergency Shelter houses 12 yotzim (young adults leaving the Haredi community) at a time for up to four months each, providing crisis intervention, counseling, social skills, employment preparation, and other support that empowers them as they transition to stable, self-sufficient living in secular society.
JCC Chicago: All-Star Abilities is a fitness literacy, wellness instruction, and recreational opportunity for teenagers with special needs, working in concert with community partners and peer volunteers. JCC will develop a research-based curriculum and pilot a model of teen engagement programming that is inclusive of all teens.
Jewish Child & Family Services, together with CJE SeniorLife, the Chicago Board of Rabbis, and other partners, will pilot Tikvah: The Jewish Chaplaincy Community Initiative in the Chicago City North region, offering pastoral support to individuals and institutions across denominations (including the unaffiliated), geographies, lifespan, language, culture and traditions.
Jewish Child & Family Services also will expand planning and research supported by the Breakthrough Fund this past year in order to develop community and institutional readiness for including disabled persons, of whatever age or special need, in all aspects of synagogue life, through Encompass's Synagogue Inclusion Education and Engagement Project.
Jewish United Fund: ThINK will test how a collaborative "ecosystem" can spur Jewish professionals to imagine, create, and share ideas and experiences, and to work together to advance the wider Jewish community's work and life. During this pilot year, an in-person symposium as well as a survey of Jewish communal professionals will test interest in print, online and face-to-face communications and opportunities to expand collective knowledge and programmatic offerings.
JUF Metro Chicago Hillel: Base Hillel empowers a young and dynamic rabbinic couple to use their home as a convening point for pluralistic Jewish life. Launching this summer in Lincoln Park, the couple builds individual relationships with young adults through hospitality, service and learning.
KAHAL: Your Jewish Home Abroad, creates transformational Jewish experiences for study-abroad students, connecting them to the Jewish experience and community in their host cities. Working with campus partners at the University of Illinois, Northwestern and other universities serving the Chicago area and Chicago students, KAHAL's work on local campuses is imbuing students with a sense of belonging to a global, diverse Jewish collective, helping them return home to their campus communities as internationally-minded leaders and future change-makers.
Ma'ase Center Organization will launch a pilot of the Bedouin Leadership in the Galilee program, which will develop self-efficacy and leadership skills of young Bedouin men before, during and after their IDF service, and provide them with an opportunity to develop and fulfill their innate potential through long-term academic, employment and social support.
Moving Traditions, in tandem with local congregations, will pilot Coming of Age , a new program to deepen the meaning of b'nai mitzvah preparation and halt post-b'nai mitzvah dropout by tweens and their parents. Coming of Age focuses not on the ritual, but rather on Jewish character education and exploring what it means to grow into a Jewish adult.
No Shame on U will increase community-wide knowledge about mental illness and the resources available in our community, raising much needed awareness and normalizing the conversation around mental health through both large community events and small group programs.
One Table Chicago aims to engage a broad network of individuals and their friends to develop positive, authentic and sustainable Shabbat dinner practices through in-home Shabbat dinners, large dinners at restaurants and clubs, and hybrid models in conjunction with other local Jewish organizations.
Poetry Pals uses creative expression and poetry to promote understanding, cooperation and peace in our multi-faith society. The program brings together elementary school children at faith-based schools and creates a safe, fun environment for them to learn about each other and become friends. This funding will allow the program to revise the curriculum for teens, as well.
The Garage: A Shared Office and Program Space for Jewish Nonprofits in Chicago, will create co-working and program/event space for Jewish innovation in Chicago, in order to stimulate cross-fertilization of ideas, encourage innovative collaboration, and reinvigorate the Jewish scene in Chicago and nationally.
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism will pilot Yozma Pilgrimage , a summer trip for Chicago-area teens with cognitive and social challenges. With specially trained staff, a safe, educational and fully immersive Jewish identity-building program will be made available to a population too long underserved and turned away from immersive summer programs in Israel.
Jewish Child & Family Services : Jewish 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.
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 JUF Breakthrough Fund or to learn how to apply for a future Breakthrough Fund grant, contact Sarah Follmer, Director of Grants, at (312) 357-4547, email
, or xvisitwww.juf.org/grants/breakthrough.aspx.