Jewish Life

The Jewish Life program focuses on grants that contribute to the strengthening of communities and their leaders in North America and in Israel.

In North America, the Foundation supports the strengthening of emerging communities, particularly among younger Jewish Americans and between Jewish and Muslim Americans. In Israel, we support the strengthening of underserved communities, Jewish and Arab, with a focus on young Israelis.

We are interested in intentional communities – people in a face-to-face network of affinity and diversity, belonging, and meaning. These communities are activated by their leaders’ and participants’ Jewish values and engaged in sustained activity that deepens their commitment to being responsible for one another and to making a shared, positive difference in the world. Newly interpreting the traditional privileging of community in Jewish history and practice, such initiatives are a creative response to the unique circumstances of 21st-century life.

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Featured Project: Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom

Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, celebrating unity at a prayer vigil, Cherry Hill, NJ chapter

Founded in 2010 by Sheryl Olitzky and Atiya Aftab, Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom (SOSS) is a home-based national program whose Jewish and Muslim members meet monthly in one another’s homes to build trust, respect, and relationships; stand up to hate against anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim activity; and engage together in social action projects that benefit their communities.

By November 2016, there were 50 chapters across the country. By February 2017, there were 140 chapters meeting or in formation, with over 2,000 requests to join.

Co-led by a Jewish and Muslim woman, SOSS chapters consist of 12-20 women, with an equal number of Jewish and Muslim members, recruited to be of diverse ethnicity, age, and religious practice. Co-leaders receive training in advance on how to form a chapter, facilitate guided conversation, and acquire leadership skills.

Jewish members of SOSS can be found meeting with local government officials to ensure that a permit is granted to build a new mosque. Muslim members can be found erasing anti-Jewish graffiti on the walls of a local Jewish institution. SOSS is also national, convening coast-to-coast unity vigils or a Sadaqa/Tzedakah Day of service on Christmas Day to enable Christian community members to celebrate the holiday.

SOSS has three different entry points for participation: local chapters; an annual national women’s leadership conference; and an annual building bridges trip, for women who choose to travel together to a location of significant interest to both faith groups—such as Albania, where Muslims saved Jews during WWII; and Azerbaijan, a Muslim country with a unique model of coexistence among people of different faith groups and cultural backgrounds.

From one chapter in 2010, SOSS is becoming a movement, a national network of women who contribute to their local communities around the United State and can be called to action in the face of discrimination and prejudice, whatever the source.

Coming together for peace

More to unite us than divide us

Featured Project: The Jewish Emergent Network Fellowship

Leaders and fellows of the Jewish Emergent Network in Central Park celebrate the first convening. Credit: Yadin Goldman

The Jewish Emergent Network is comprised of the leaders of seven pathbreaking Jewish communities from across the United States that have joined together in the spirit of collaboration: IKAR in Los Angeles, Kavana in Seattle, The Kitchen in San Francisco, Mishkan in Chicago, Sixth & I in Washington, D.C., and Lab/Shul and Romemu in New York. 

These seven organizations are all devoted to revitalizing the field of Jewish engagement. While each community is different in form and organizational structure, all have taken an entrepreneurial approach to this shared vision, operating outside of traditional institutional models and rethinking basic assumptions about US Jewish communities with regard to prayer, membership, staff structures, the religious/cultural divide, and physical space.

The Fellowship places select, early-career rabbis into each of the seven participating Network organizations for a two-year period, in order to train the next generation of enterprising leaders to take on the challenges and realities of 21st-century Jewish life in America in a variety of settings. The program’s goal is to create risk-taking change-makers, whose skills will equally prepare them to initiate independent communities and be valuable and valued inside existing Jewish institutions and synagogues.

Throughout the two-year program, fellows will meet seven times as a fully assembled cohort, traveling to each of the seven Network organizations for intensive site visits. Toward the end of the first cohort, a second cohort of rabbinic fellows will be selected and placed.