Grant-giving related to mental health, underserved children, LGBTQ+ and more

Two Milwaukee Jewish Federation funds, one led by women and the other by teens, are putting forth strong efforts to help those in need.

Milwaukee Jewish Teen Philanthropy

The recently formed Milwaukee Jewish Teen Philanthropy board holds monthly sessions for its Jewish teen members on communal giving, as they strive to achieve the goal of tikkun olam (“repairing the world”).

Launched in the fall of 2017, teens apply to the yearlong program and, upon acceptance, contribute $120 to the fund, to engage them in philanthropy right off the bat.

In 2018-19 the group was composed of 30 students (up from 24 in the inaugural year), from private and public schools in the Milwaukee area. According to Outreach and Teen Philanthropy Coordinator Anna Goldstein, starting in 2019-20 the program will move from a 12-month to an 18-month model.

The 2018-19 group was introduced to over 200 local nonprofits. After each member made their recommendations, 50 nonprofits were invited to apply, and 25 did.

The teens met in small groups, sharing information to determine the impact of potential funding on each organization, and narrowed it down to 15.

They visited the semifinalists, so that “they were really able to see where the money was going,” explained Goldstein.

“The people who did site visits felt passionate and empowered.”

In their final meeting, they discussed how to divide up the $19,000 allocated for 2018-19 funding (up from $16,000 the first year). The meeting, said Goldstein, “really focused on consensus building, making compromises, and working to come to a decision that everyone felt proud to put their name on.”

An additional factor considered is that 75% of funds must go to Jewish organizations.

A total of eight different programs received funding (up from five the previous year), assisting an array of causes, including LGBTQ+ youths, mental illness, and children at risk. Teen Philanthropy contributed $4,000 each to Jewish Family Services, Jewish Museum Milwaukee, and L’Chaim Chaverut Clubhouse Northshore; $3,000 to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin; $1,250 to Torah Academy of Milwaukee; $1,000 each to Milwaukee LGBT Community Center and Pathfinders; and $750 to this newspaper.

Jewish Women’s Endowment Fund

The Jewish Women’s Endowment Fund was formed in 1993 by a group of 41 women, who collectively donated $100,000 to establish the fund. The first grants were awarded in 1995; since then, JWEF has awarded grants totaling over $310,000 to more than 65 local agencies, funding Milwaukee-area programs that focus on women’s health, women’s self-sufficiency and children at risk.

Today there are 250 members, all of whom are Jewish women. Each pays a one-time fee of $1,000, which grants a lifetime membership and goes into the fund.

In a typical year, JWEF allocates $25,000 in grants to five or six nonprofits, said Chief Development Officer Caren B. Goldberg of the Federation. The Jewish Women’s Endowment Fund is a fund held in the Jewish Community Foundation of the Federation.

A volunteer grants committee of about 15 members is assembled. They request proposals from Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and, according to co-chair Karen Schapiro, receive about 40 proposals each year.

The pool of applicants are evaluated by the committee based on criteria such as the impact the funding will have on the program, and how substantial the benefit will be to the women and children in need. After a meeting where the 12-15 finalists are discussed, a determination is made on which organizations will be offered funding. At least one Jewish project must be included.

For the 2019 grant year, 117 organizations were sent proposals, 38 applied and 15 finalists were named.

“The women on the committee found all of the proposals deeply meaningful,” Schapiro said.

“As a member you feel like you can have some impact in helping to meet the critical needs of the community.”

In 2019, JWEF provided $5,000 grants to five organizations, and a $2,500 grant to a sixth. Full grants were awarded to the Dominican Center for Women for the Amani Hydroponics Project, which promotes access to healthy food; the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center’s Rainbow Day Camp, which brings underserved children to summer camp; Women’s Initiative’s Project RETURN, which supports formerly incarcerated women; Cathedral Center for the Women’s Independence Program, which assists women experiencing homelessness; and Meta House for the Recovery Housing Community, which offers a safe, sober living environment for women recovering from addiction. The half grant was awarded to Milwaukee Jewish Day School’s free lunch program for students in need.