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Federation urges teamwork by grantees
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Federation urges teamwork by grantees

Adrienne Ross, left, cochair of Federation’s Community Impact Committee, with the youngest grant-seekers at the Oct. 8 meeting, Esther Leventer, founder of the social media platform Torah Exchange, and Joseph Betesh, who helped her mount the program
Adrienne Ross, left, cochair of Federation’s Community Impact Committee, with the youngest grant-seekers at the Oct. 8 meeting, Esther Leventer, founder of the social media platform Torah Exchange, and Joseph Betesh, who helped her mount the program

Eager to make finite funds reach the greatest number of worthy recipients, officials of Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey urged representatives from area organizations to work together in pursuing similar projects. 

Such cooperation would minimize duplication and help funders decided among a more manageable number of programs, said Adrienne Ross, cochair with Laurie Landy of the federation’s Community Impact Committee.

Ross offered her plea at two meetings, the first held at the federation’s Old Bridge offices on Oct. 8, and the other at its Holmdel location, on Oct. 13. 

More than 80 representatives from 46 nonprofit organizations and synagogues in Monmouth and Middlesex counties — both established institutions and newcomers — took part.

Ross also outlined the application process. The deadline for proposals is Monday, Nov. 16, and grants will be given for programs and services beginning in January 2016.

Ross said the umbrella philanthropy has identified three local priorities in the coming year: “efforts that provide care for the vulnerable, attract people to a more vibrant community, and inspire the next generation to embrace Jewish life.”

Participants had a chance to explain the mission of their organizations and the initiatives for which they are seeking funding. At the Oct. 8 meeting, they ranged from a plan to train women who need jobs but have no marketable skills, to help setting up an Orthodox Hebrew school, to expanding a fledgling social media site that focuses on Jewish thought for young adults.

The site, under the name TorahExchange.com, was conceived by Esther Leventer, 20, of Deal, a student at Stern College for Women. Joseph Betesh, 19, also of Deal, who attends Baruch College, worked with her on the project, which is intended to serve as “a platform to share and engage in Torah universally.”

Making their first appearance at a federation funding allocations meeting, the two were by far the youngest people in the room and gave some of the more seasoned professionals a sense of excitement about the Jewish future.

Alice Berman, copresident of the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County in Freehold, discussed her organization’s commitment to preserving and informing the community about Jewish life in central New Jersey from Colonial times to the present day.

Representatives from Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls sought funding for a “day of health” that would highlight fitness and well-being resources in the local Jewish community. Pediatrician Samantha Leib and outreach/education coordinator Sarah O’Meara, of the Saint Peter’s University Hospital Department of Medical Genetics and Genomic Medicine, offered an overview of services available in this relatively new branch of medicine.

At the JCC of Middlesex County, located in Edison, activities coordinators are seeking to bring elements of its senior adult program off campus and into some of the area’s senior residences. Another goal is to expand the JCC’s existing travel program.

Other organizations represented at the two meetings included Rutgers Hillel; Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Monmouth County; Congregation B’nai Tikvah, North Brunswick; Monmouth Torah Links; MEOR’s Rutgers Jewish Xperience, which strives to show students that Judaism is relevant to daily life; Wilf Transport, which provides needed rides for senior citizens; Yesh Tikva, which offers on-line support for Jewish couples struggling with infertility; and the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. 

“We hope the conversations begun tonight don’t end tonight,” said Ross. She noted that the meetings were intended to connect organizations with one another with the goal of forming partnerships.

“This is how programs are improved and become more efficient,” she said.

She noted that the Oct. 8 meeting included the Friendship Circle in Manalapan, which has a mass hallah-baking project, and the Challah Foundation in East Brunswick, which currently buys and delivers loaves to hospitalized cancer patients. Why not explore the potential, asked Ross, for the foundation to begin acquiring its loaves from the Friendship Circle?

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