Jim Joseph Foundation Announces $15 Million Grant : to HUC-JIR to Advance Jewish Education

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Jim Joseph Foundation (JJF) today announced that a $15 million grant over six years has been awarded to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, including nearly $1 million granted in September 2009, as part of a continued concentrated effort to increase the number of credentialed future Jewish educators and to improve the quality of professional preparation and Jewish education they receive.  This grant is part of the $45 million in JJF grants that have been awarded to the three leading training institutions for Jewish educators: HUC-JIR, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Yeshiva University. These grants represent multi-year investments and a partnership between the foundation and the three institutions. The funding provides financial aid for students pursuing education degrees or certification in programs that prepare them to work with Jewish youth and young adults. The grants will also assist each institution in planning, staffing and implementing new and enhanced programs designed to attract more educators to the field.

Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President, stated, “We are enormously grateful to the Jim Joseph Foundation for this historic, potentially transformative gift to advance the training of Jewish educators at HUC-JIR, which will enable us to recruit larger numbers of talented and motivated individuals, provide them with the necessary depth of knowledge, and nurture their creativity and aspirations so that they may serve the growing educational needs of the Jewish community. We are honored that our institution has been chosen to strengthen the crucial role of Jewish educators in ensuring the vitality of Jewish identity, practice, and values through shalshelet haKabbalah -- the chain of Jewish teaching and learning.”

Dr. Michael Zeldin, Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, added,“The Jim Joseph Foundation wisely understands that the quality of Jewish education provided to children, youth and young adults depends on the quality of the educators who guide education programs.  The foundation will make it possible for us to extend the reach of our excellent programs in Jewish education so that many more well-prepared educators will be available to congregations, camps and schools.  We will also be able to provide serious preparation in Jewish education to many more rabbis and cantors who will touch the lives of children and their families.” 

The JJF grants will enable HUC-JIR to develop a coordinated, multi-year initiative to attract and train the next generation of talented, high achieving Jewish educators prepared to provide compelling experiences of Jewish learning and living to youth, teens, and young adults.  This grant will fund:

  • full tuition scholarships for students studying Jewish education full-time at HUC-JIR;
  • a new Executive MA program for working professionals, delivered by a mixture of summer institutes, short-term intensives, online learning, and one-on-one mentoring;
  • a new certificate program in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults;
  • new certificate programs in Jewish Early Childhood Education for synagogue professionals and for early childhood program directors and aspiring directors;
  • expanded opportunities for rabbinical and cantorial students to spend an extra year at HUC-JIR earning masters degrees in Jewish education; and
  • expanded faculty and administrative infrastructure to successfully expand our offerings in Jewish education.

 The JJF grants also present a unique opportunity for collaboration and partnership among the three institutions. Two areas of shared interest the seminaries have identified are the advancement of new technologies for distance learning and the marketing of Jewish education as a desirable professional career.  The three institutions will work to foster best practices, and they have committed to collaborate on projects when possible to ensure creative new directions to the education of future Jewish educators.

“The investment in these seminaries directly addresses the future of Jewish education and is a partnership that will greatly advance this cause,” says foundation President Al Levitt.  “We care deeply about the future of Jewish life in this country. This partnership should have a significant impact on the number of future Jewish educators and the skills they will bring to their professions.  With the help of these grants, we know the institutions can reach their full potential and produce teachers who continue to positively shape the lives of Jewish youth.” 

The Shimon Ben Joseph Foundation, commonly known as the Jim Joseph Foundation, is committed to the legacy of its founder, Jim Joseph, z”l, devoted exclusively to supporting education of Jewish youth in the United States.  Jim Joseph was a dedicated Jewish philanthropist who cared passionately about the education of Jewish children, youth, and young adults.  He believed that focusing on young people was the best way to preserve a strong Jewish faith and proud heritage, thereby ensuring success of the Jewish people for the future.

After completing his master’s degree at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Jim Joseph began a highly successful career acquiring and developing commercial and residential property for his company, Interland Corporation. As he built his business, Joseph donated generously to a wide variety of Jewish institutions and organizations and formed the Jim Joseph Foundation in 1987.  Mr. Joseph passed away December 19, 2003 and was buried by his family in the Jewish tradition in Israel.

The Foundation’s Board of Directors and its foundation professionals are building on the philanthropic mission that Jim Joseph pursued – to foster compelling, effective learning experiences for young Jews in the United States.  In accordance with Mr. Joseph’s view, the Foundation recognizes that Jewish learning takes place in a multitude of settings, including but not limited to day schools, camps, youth groups, congregations, college campuses, service learning experiences, community centers, and the like. 

The quarter of a billion dollars gifted since 2006 has gone to an array of institutions and organizations that cover a multitude of settings, including Jewish day school and religious schools, camps, youth groups, and Israel programs - including Birthright Israel and its follow-up program Birthright NEXT.  The Foundation has also generously funded teacher training, education and recruitment, service learning, and incubator programs such as the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Specialty Camps Incubator, which was designed to provide expertise and support to a cohort of entrepreneurs as they plan and implement their vision for new models of non-profit, Jewish specialty camps in non-traditional settings. 

Among the largest and highest profile gifts the Jim Joseph Foundation has awarded over the past four years was to B’nai Brith Youth Organization for their professional development institute; Birthright Israel Foundation to establish Birthright NEXT; to Hillel for its Campus Entrepreneur/Senior Educator initiative; and to the Israel Education Resource Center to develop their pre-college education center. The Foundation has also supported considerable research in the field. Just last week, Stanford University received $12 million to renew and expand its doctoral concentration in Education and Jewish Studies and to establish the Jim Joseph Professorship in Education and Jewish Studies.  NYU, which also provides this kind of doctoral program, also receives funding from JJF. 

Executive Director Chip Edelsberg notes, “The Jim Joseph Foundation is confident that partnering with these institutions is an effective way to impact the next generation of Jews.  The foundation’s first four years of grant making represent significant investments in both established institutions and newer organizations - indicative of JJF’s commitment to support Jewish youth and young adults in myriad educational settings.   JJF Directors deeply value preparing, credentialing and developing professional educators.  The Board also generously supports organizations that enable individuals to have immersive Jewish learning experiences.  The Foundation believes this approach to its philanthropy will help to create multiple pathways to a vibrant Jewish future.”


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu