Jewish Education Innovation Grants are allocated

Milwaukee Jewish Federation is issuing $20,000 in Jewish Education Innovation Grants for the 2019-20 school year, for programming including a college-level Jewish Bioethics course and a Teen Jewish Art League.

In 2017, one of the recommendations of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s newly formed Jewish Education Task Force was to create the innovation grant fund. It’s for introducing more children to Jewish education by encouraging new partnerships and original programming throughout the local Jewish community.

Grant beneficiaries included:
• A college-level Jewish Bioethics course for Jewish high school students.
• Lake Park Synagogue’s Teen Jewish Art League.
• An effort to bring together Jewish families – primarily from the West Side and North Shore – for an art project based on Torah and Jewish values.

The Jewish Education Innovation Grants were established later that year, with four grants awarded for the 2018-19 school year.

“They all did great stuff and they were really wonderful programs, so the Federation decided to do it again,” said Tzipi Altman-Shafer, Jewish Education community planner at the Federation.

The grant is for the establishment of new programs that, according to the Federation, “exemplify respect for different approaches to Jewish life, reach unaffiliated families, add to Milwaukee’s diversity of educational experiences, and/or offer opportunities for collaboration across the Jewish community.” 

Each year, a total of $20,000 is allocated, with a maximum of $10,000 to a single grantee.

For the 2019-20 school year, three Jewish Education Innovation Grants are being given, as approved by the Federation board in their June meeting.

All were strong proposals, notes Altman-Shafer, but some didn’t quite fit the grant’s criteria, in which case, “we guided them to other places where they could find funding within the Jewish community.”

College Credit for Jewish Studies, a program of Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, received $8,000. They will offer a college-level Jewish Bioethics course for Jewish high school juniors and seniors, which is transferable for college credit through Marian University in Fond du Lac. Students will contemplate issues of health care, medical science and medical technology, exploring biomedical debates through a Jewish framework.

A $5,000 grant was awarded to Lake Park Synagogue’s Teen Jewish Art League. Once a month, a local Jewish artist will be invited to present and teach their craft, with a Jewish focus, to a target audience of secular Jewish high school and college students. The goal is to build a community of young Jewish artists, culminating in a one-day student art show.

RUACH and the Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC were awarded $7,000 for their joint proposal, “What Unites Us: Forming Friendships Across Diverse Jewish Communities Through the Shared Languages of Torah and the Arts.”For the project, RUACH, the JCC, and Yeshiva Elementary School will team up to bring together a cross-section of Jewish families from across Milwaukee (primarily from the West Side and North Shore) for an art project based on Torah and Jewish values.

“The project is designed to bring together diverse communities within the greater Jewish community,” says Josh Richman, executive director of RUACH, a Jewish arts and music organization.

“By focusing on the common bonds that unite us, the superficial differences fade into the background, and our true colors will come through.”

Calling the collaboration “a tremendous experience,” Rabbi Shari Shamah of the JCC adds, “One of our goals at the JCC is to create spaces, moments and opportunities for everyone to live their lives Jewishly. This grant is very much an extension of that. It allows each family to find common ground with another, and to bring Jewish families from Milwaukee together who might not share the same religious observance.”