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Jacob Berkman
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Niche camps hope to draw more young Jews

WorldPublished: 02 April 2010

While most kids who attend Jewish overnight camps this summer will ship off to rural settings, a handful will find themselves in the concrete jungle of Manhattan engaged in what could be described as early career development.

The 92nd Street Y in Manhattan is recruiting campers for Passport NYC, a program offering its participants several New York-specific tracks involving three weeks of immersion in popular “specialties” such as film, fashion, culinary arts, the music industry, and baseball.

They will be able to work with industry professionals in New York who are leaders in their fields, from Greenmarket to the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league affiliate of the New York Mets.


A new twist on spring break in Florida: Volunteering

WorldPublished: 28 March 2010

MIAMI – Spring break is a tradition of sorts for college students, but rather than partying, 57 Hillel members from seven campuses headed to Miami last week to volunteer at a youth center in the downtrodden Overtown district.

Instead of swimming and sunning on the beach or getting soused in bars, they spent a week engaged in community service projects working with underprivileged communities.

The Overtown Youth center, built by former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning, is located downtown in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods. The 20-block area, which was founded as a segregated black neighborhood because of Jim Crow laws, once was the center of black culture in Miami. Now it is overridden with drugs and has the highest rate of violent crimes in the southern Florida city.


Groups pushed health reform, but some keeping quiet on bill

WorldPublished: 26 March 2010

Several Jewish non-profit groups are lauding passage of health-care reform legislation, saying it will benefit the community on a number of levels. Other groups, however, are keeping quiet in what some observers describe as a concentrated effort to keep out of the political crossfire.

Among those declining to comment on the passage of the bill is the Jewish Federations of North America, the North American arm of the country’s largest Jewish charitable network. The JFNA and its Washington office played an active role in advocating for parts of the bill, which Congress approved 219-212 late Sunday night.


Philanthropy round-up: Signs of recovery

WorldPublished: 26 March 2010

The following round-up was adapted from JTA’s philanthropy blog,

Camps hold steady, look to improve online presence

The Jewish camping industry experienced a huge boon over the past decade. Yet a year ago many camps had serious concerns that the growth could recede with the stumbling economy.

Now, however, the worst has passed — and camps by and large were able to hold steady.


Jewish community mulls response to Chile quake

WorldPublished: 05 March 2010

As U.S. Jewish organizations ponder how to respond to the massive quake that rocked Chile, they report that the infrastructure of the country’s Jewish community suffered little damage.

Chile and its capital, Santiago, while badly damaged, experienced less structural damage and significantly fewer deaths in Saturday’s earthquake than did Haiti and its capital, Port-au-Prince, in January, even though the quake in Chile was much more powerful. The death toll in Chile reportedly stands at more than 700, with some coastal towns having been wiped out by the earthquake and a subsequent tsunami.


Birthright foundation announces new matching grant

WorldPublished: 05 March 2010

A new matching grant program by the Birthright Israel Foundation will provide a dollar-for-dollar match on any increase in donations to the foundation based on 2008 gifts.

That means if a donor gave $100 in 2008 and gives $120 in 2010, the foundation would match the $20 increase.

Private philanthropists, the Jewish federation system, the Jewish Agency, and the government of Israel fund the Birthright program. The foundation oversees the private money given to the program, which makes up the vast majority of the Birthright budget.

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Avi Chai preparing for its final decade

WorldPublished: 05 March 2010

Heading into this decade, the Avi Chai Foundation was among the largest foundations in the Jewish community. It won’t be in another 10 years.

That’s because the foundation, perhaps best known for its work in supporting the Jewish day school movement, is set to sunset in 2020 as it spends down nearly all of its estimated $600 million in assets.

By then it will cease its operations in North America, Israel and the former Soviet Union aside from an endowment the foundation will leave to run its campus in Israel, Beit Avi Chai.

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Top-level layoffs at JFNA

WorldPublished: 26 February 2010

NEW YORK – The Jewish Federations of North America informed its board of trustees that it was letting go of three senior vice presidents — a very clear reminder that new CEO Jerry Silverman came to his post with an impressive corporate resume whose experience in the philanthropic world took place outside of the federation system.

Silverman was brought in as an outsider who could make changes, and in forging his leadership team he is dismissing three longtime executives at Jewish Federations and its predecessor, the United Jewish Communities.

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A call for more transparency from religious institutions

WorldPublished: 15 February 2010

NEW YORK – A network of philanthropists and family foundations is calling for greater transparency from Jewish religious institutions.

Most American nonprofits are required to file 990 tax forms that make public how the organizations pay their top employees and allocate money to outside organizations. But religious institutions such as synagogues, day schools, yeshivas, and Chabad outposts are under no such obligation.

Prompted by this summer’s money-laundering scandal in Deal and Brooklyn involving a number of synagogues, the Jewish Funders Network has drafted a list of guidelines that essentially would require religious institutions to be as transparent as other nonprofits.

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Federation moves 2010 GA

WorldPublished: 29 January 2010

Last year, the run-up to the annual conference of Jewish federations saw their umbrella body announce a name change and install a new CEO.

This year, months before the conference, the organization is making a late change to the conference’s venue — to New Orleans from Orlando, Fla. — and unveiling five new priority areas.

It’s all part of the ongoing struggle by the decade-old umbrella organization for federations — now called the Jewish Federations of North America — to prove its value to its 157 Jewish federations and, more specifically, to help the federations cope with the challenging philanthropic landscape brought on by the economic crisis.

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