Major TJF Initiatives

2021 was another year in which the Jewish Foundation sought to balance two strategic priorities at once: Advancing new strategic initiatives focused on individuals seeking greater Jewish connection; and Strengthening our current investments designed to deepen Jewish experiences. This section of our Annual Report features a description of Reflect Cincy – our most recent effort to experiment with funding initiatives for the three population segments highlighted in the 2019 Jewish Community Study (Young Adults Without Children, Interfaith Families with Children, and Young Families with Children Age 0-5). The Reflect Cincy story is followed by shorter summaries of several other grant initiatives that exemplify the important work being done by our community’s institutions.

Reflect Cincy Launch

How do you describe Jewishness? It’s messy.

Many people yearn to connect to something bigger, but don’t always feel comfortable with what they see and where they fit. The 2019 Jewish Cincinnati Community Study data demonstrates just this, highlighting the many people who seek more Jewish connection but experience barriers to participating in traditional Jewish institutions.  Because many of these individuals and families are not in positions of influence and decision-making in Cincinnati’s formal Jewish community, current policies and programs may not reflect their actual needs and desires. This means that our traditional methods for building strong Jewish communities are currently leaving many people out.

And the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati (TJF) is paying attention to these stories. They matter.

TJF sees these findings as a way to experiment with funding priorities in complement to its support of existing institutions. This experimentation falls under the umbrella of its New Funding Focus Areas: Building Broader Connections; Expanding Delivery Systems and Investing in Scale Level Capital.

Enter Reflect Cincy:  an experimental pool of grant funding designed to spark new experiences and thinking around Jew-ish connection in Cincinnati by and for underrepresented segments, specifically those who feel disconnected and fall into the following segments: Young adults without children, Interfaith families with children and Families with children 0-5.

The power of Reflect Cincy is in the people behind it, a volunteer Creative Team comprised of underrepresented demographics who are responsible for designing a request for proposals (RFP), reviewing proposals, and making recommendations to the trustees. This team is a model for what is possible when new voices are in positions of influence and decision-making.

Over the coming weeks, the Reflect Cincy funding process will launch beginning with Community Info sessions in November. Prospective applicants and curious end-users  are invited to participate and to continue the conversation through training sessions and follow-up conversations. Visit the Reflect Cincy pages to learn more about ways to plug in.

Strengthening Foundation Investments

One Table Logo
  • OneTable: The Foundation made a grant to OneTable, a national initiative designed to empower people who don’t yet have a consistent Shabbat dinner practice to build one that feels authentic, sustainable, and valuable. Foundation funding will enable OneTable to hire a Cincinnati “Ambassador” who will coordinate with local partners to identify individuals eager to share in this powerful experience.
  • New Jewish High School Program: For a number of years, two “Hebrew High School” programs have provided supplemental Jewish education to students aged 14-19; Kulanu for those in the Reform congregations and Mercaz for those in the Conservative congregations. In an effort to address the community’s desire for more interaction and shared learning among students from different backgrounds, the congregations worked collaboratively to create a new, combined supplemental Jewish high school program, and the Foundation has invested start-up capital to help enhance the program and operations. The new model, which will be named by the participating students by the end of the current school year, has been well received by teens and parents alike.
  • Cincinnati Jewish Teen Initiative: The Foundation has invested in ish to serve as the operator of the Cincinnati Jewish Teen Initiative. ish has been taking a partnership-oriented approach to learning more about the needs of individual Jewish teens, with an eye towards piloting new initiatives in the year ahead. The Foundation also made a significant grant to BBYO to expand their proven engagement model to Cincinnati, and to help spearhead broader and deeper Jewish engagement throughout the region. ish and BBYO are working very effectively with one another, and with partners across the full landscape of Jewish teen programming.
  • Jewish Day Schools: Long a significant funder of Jewish Day Schools in Cincinnati, the Foundation honed its strategic rationale for day school investment, and revitalized its approach to serving our community’s educational needs. The Foundation and Rockwern Academy are partnering with Rosov Consulting on a research project designed to learn more about the academic and school environmental choices prioritized by local Jewish families; we transferred ownership of the former Losantiville Elementary School building to CHDS as part of their long-term expansion plan; and we continued our efforts to identify educational investments that will strengthen the Modern Orthodox community’s presence in Cincinnati.
  • Signature Grants: In addition to all of the above, the Foundation continued to fund its signature operating grant initiatives, including the Annual Campaign Match and six community services programs run by its partners at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Programming & Engagement at the Mayerson JCC, Engagement and Education grants at 11 local Congregations, vital services and aging services initiatives at Jewish Family Service, capacity building grants at JVS Career Services, Cincinnati Hillel, Miami University Hillel and Chai Tots, as well as community engagement and service learning initiatives at HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati Campus.
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