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JUF’s Breakthrough Fund: Fueling innovation, and better ways to help

This year, The Breakthrough Fund is providing nearly $1 million to 15 initiatives.

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Breaking through barriers. 

Breaking through old ways of thinking.  

Breaking through to where innovation lives. 

For five years, JUF's Breakthrough Fund has been doing just that. Breaking through the barriers of "we've always done it that way" and "that's just the way it is" to find and fuel new ideas and better solutions. 

This year, The Breakthrough Fund is providing nearly $1 million to 15 initiatives: eight new projects-ranging from efforts to prevent wartime psychological trauma to respite care for families with children who have disabilities to making the Jewish community "greener"-and seven two-year programs approved last year. 

Three of the eight new efforts will enhance Jewish life in Chicago. Three will meet local human needs. And two will strengthen Israel and the overseas Jewish community. 

Five are from groups that don't receive allocations each year from JUF. 

Over the five-year life of the Fund, more than $5.5 million has been devoted to 76 initiatives. 

Here's a look at what the newest recipients are doing: 

The Board Member Institute for Jewish Nonprofits  is launching two Chicago-based cohorts of its training program for Jewish non-profit leaders. Curriculum and instruction are spearheaded by faculty from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. 

The Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education  received a one-year grant last year to launch its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) curriculum in five local Jewish high schools. This year, a new grant will increase the number of high school students reached and expand the effort into middle schools. 

Hazon  is partnering with six to eight local Jewish organizations to launch the first Chicago Seal of Sustainability cohort. The groups each will commit to "greening" initiatives that reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact, address sustainability, or combat food injustice. 

Hebrew Theological College's Blitstein Institute is launching a two-pronged program to bring STEM training to women in the Orthodox community. One initiative introduces an Advanced Placement Computer Science course in two girls' high schools. The second offers an adult education computer coding class to women in the community. The Institute then will partner with JVS Chicago to help participants find employment. 

Israel Trauma Coalition  is developing a psychosocial toolkit and training for front-line social workers and other professionals in northern Israel, to prevent burnout, vicarious trauma, and PTSD among helping professionals dealing with wartime evacuations. 

The Libenu Foundation , partnering with Jewish Child & Family Services, is expanding its after-school Lev Chicago Respite program. The effort provides care, support, kosher snacks, and dinner for children and teens with disabilities up to age 16-significantly older than other programs. All programming will be sensitive to the needs of the Orthodox Jewish community. 

REACH , which helps elementary and middle school students who have learning disabilities, ADHD, high-functioning autism, or social/emotional challenges, is working with Keshet to research, develop, and implement a high school-level program. Students will receive specialized services that allow them to remain in classes with their typically-developing peers. 

The Jewish Agency for Israel , one of JUF's key overseas partners, will launch Baby Futures, a support program that provides individual, couple and group counseling and classes for expecting and new parents. Based on the successful Youth Futures mentoring program, this initiative will provide practical and emotional support for at-risk families, to help both children and parents get a strong start during the critical early childhood years. 

Joel Schatz is the director of News and Information for the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. 


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