Foundation funds innovative community programs

Foundation funds innovative community programs

MetroWest agencies to offer mentoring, education, support

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

The Friendship Circle piloted a Saturday night out for families with special-needs children last December, one of the programs included in the grant it received to expand its Family Support Circle. Enjoying activities at Gold’s Gym on the Aidekman c
The Friendship Circle piloted a Saturday night out for families with special-needs children last December, one of the programs included in the grant it received to expand its Family Support Circle. Enjoying activities at Gold’s Gym on the Aidekman c

Teens will learn how to use journalism to advocate for Israel. Seniors will gain confidence managing their transportation options. New parents will find guidance in the Jewish community to help them raise their children.

The Jewish Community Foundation announced the first cohort of grant recipients from the MetroWest Innovations Funding Initiative on June 23. MWI, launched this spring, was established by JCF to encourage MetroWest agencies to find inventive ways to engage diverse populations in Jewish life across our community.

Eight grants, including those mentioned above, were awarded this year, totaling approximately $108,000, to be distributed over two years.

“We were hoping to spark new and creative programs and to build connections between agencies and partners we hadn’t thought about working with before,” said Michael Gooen, JCF board member and chair of its grant review committee. The foundation has had long-standing working relationships with local agencies, and that, said Gooen, “is very valuable, but we wanted to experiment a little and build bridges with different parts of the community.”

Renie Carniol, manager of funder services for JCF, said, “We are trying to look toward the future and link our agencies to others to move everyone forward.”

The eight projects to receive grants were chosen from among 11 proposals received. The project criteria in the selection process included: supports synergistic collaborations that create new capacities or efficiencies; empowers individuals and families to explore Jewish life; creates programs in strategically important and donor-designated areas, including the elderly, special needs, young families, youth, and education; partners with an entrepreneurial project or program beyond our UJC MetroWest community; and has a high likelihood of success with measureable outcomes by the end of the two-year cycle.

• The Community Relations Committee of UJC MetroWest received $15,000 to bring the national organization Write On For Israel to the local community. Write On For Israel is a two-year program that educates Jewish high school students about ancient and modern Israeli history and promotes the use of journalism to advocate for Israel.

• The Friendship Circle received $18,000 to expand its Family Support Circle. Funding will support multiple new programs for families with children with special needs, ranging from Saturday Nights Out, Sibling Events, and Grandparents Days.

• The Holocaust Council of MetroWest was awarded $12,000 for Shoah Stories on Stage. This new partnership with the Jewish Plays Project of New York will engage students and adults in Holocaust education through creation of new plays and dramatic readings about survivors. Each presentation of these new productions will reach 200-300 audience members, involve six-10 local artists and survivors, and use newly crafted educational materials.

• Jewish Family Service of MetroWest was awarded $15,000 for First Steps, in partnership with PJ Library and the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life, MetroWest’s Jewish education and identity-building agency. Aimed at helping first-time parents find support for the challenges of child-rearing, JFS will sponsor new support groups, hold individual consultations, create a new parenting blog, and promote the use of PJ library, which sends free Jewish-themed books to families with young children. This program is modeled after one in San Francisco that combines parenting resources with Jewish learning in a supportive environment.

• Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest received $5,000 for outreach for its new career center for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The center, to be dedicated July 21, was established in response to the high number of adults with autism spectrum disorders who are unemployed. The grant will support outreach to local synagogues to promote job development and increase awareness of the JVS Career Center.

• MetroWest Cares was awarded $16,000 to develop MetroWest Mobility in partnership with NJTIP. MetroWest Cares will provide targeted education and training designed to help senior citizens serve as peer mobility advocates and to interact with local authorities on transportation-related matters on behalf of seniors.

• The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life received $12,000 to partner with area synagogues and religious school principals in creating E3 — Exploring Educational Experiences. This grant supports research as well as an interactive, multiple synagogue development process that is designed to discover and test new educational experiences for religious school-age children and their families.

• MetroWest’s Young Leadership Division and Information Technology Department were awarded $15,000 to create We Have an App for That! A new application for smart phones, it will provide individuals with instant connection to all UJC events and activities and to each other.

For more information about the Jewish Community Foundation and the Innovations Funding Initiative, visit

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