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Grants aim to make a world of difference
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Grants aim to make a world of difference

The Jewish Federation of Monmouth County announced grants to 11 organizations in Israel and Eastern Europe, each targeted to make a more visible impact in its overseas allocations.

The recipients — ranging from an outreach project for at-risk youth in Jerusalem to an Israel-based center for the gay and lesbian community — represented a shift in emphasis from general grants given to larger organizations to more tightly focused giving to specific programs.

Beginning in January, the federation’s Overseas Allocations Committee reviewed grant applications from prospective recipients. About a dozen volunteers helped to make the decisions, instead of the usual six or seven in past years.

The grants, totaling more than $110,000, are in addition to the “fair share” contributions made by the federation and administered by Jewish Federations of North America, that help fund institutions like the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and ORT.

“These grants were only part of our overall international effort for 2013,” said Manalapan resident Tony Kestler, the overseas allocation chair. For the targeted grants, Kestler explained, “we determined to provide social welfare services and critical needs to vulnerable populations in Israel. The committee was specifically interested in the number of lives our grants would touch.”

Six key areas were identified, he said: critical care to adults, foster care, critical care to vulnerable youth, special needs, youth village education, and hunger. Aid to two sister cities — Arad in Israel, and Budapest, Hungary — also was included, with those donations being facilitated by the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee, respectively.

Some of the federation funding will go to the Crossroads Outreach Project. Executive director Robbie Sassoon said that social workers from the group are on the streets of downtown Jerusalem four to five nights every week, building relationships with “Anglo” teens who suffer from drug addictions, have minimal or no family support, and are engaging in self-destructive behaviors.

The Monmouth federation funding “enables hundreds of teens who would have otherwise remained on the streets, to receive therapy, get their GEDs, go to college, go to the army, sign up for rehab, and reconnect with their families,” Sasson said. “For Crossroads, this funding means being able to connect with and save the lives of highly at-risk teens in Israel, who are not ready to reach out to professionals, but instead need Crossroads to reach out to them.”

Another grantee, the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, provides a range of support services for Jerusalem’s lesbian, gay, and transgender community. It also works “to secure LGBTQ rights in Israeli society at large,” said Zachary Cohen, the organization’s development director. Advancing a “message of equality and acceptance to all those that hold Jerusalem as a holy city,” Jerusalem Open House pays particular attention to combating suicide.

“This funding is greatly appreciated by our community, especially since it shows LGBTQ young people that they are not alone. There are whole communities throughout the world willing to support them,” Cohen said.

Manalapan resident Sheryl Grutman, the new president of the federation, has served on the Overseas Allocation Committee for more than seven years and was its immediate past chair.

“I love the process and the sense of accomplishment. It is particularly rewarding when I travel to see the dollars at work,” she said.

Ariella Lis Raviv, the federation’s director of community impact, coordinates the work of the all-volunteer allocations committee. She said the group is open to all community members and welcomes active participation.

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