By Charles Bernsen
The board of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee has approved a plan to distribute more than $2.2 million in grants to 84 Jewish programs and institutions in Nashville, Israel and around the world during the fiscal year that begins on July 1.
The total distribution of $2,207,872 is an increase of $107,000 – about 5 percent – over the previous year and represents about 93 percent of the latest projections for the Federation’s 2017 annual campaign, which is on course to raise about $2.325 million. The remaining 7 percent goes toward the Federation’s operations.
The plan approved by the board was developed by its Grants Committee in cooperation with local institutions, agencies and organizations that provide services to the community.
“I want to thank the Grants Committee and all our service providers for their hard work, diligence, and thoroughness that they put into the grants process,” said Mindy Hirt, who co-chaired the committee with Robin Cohen. “We all have the same goal in mind, which is to deliver the best services to Jews most in need anywhere they live.”
The largest share of grants – more than $1.34 million — will be distributed locally, including about $500,000 for the Gordon Jewish Community Center, almost $100,000 to help fund a variety of counseling and assistance programs at Jewish Family Service, and almost $240,000 in scholarships for local children to attend Akiva School, the city’s Jewish pre-K schools and Jewish summer camps.
An important component of the local funding is the Federation’s New Initiative Grants program, which was established eight years ago to provide seed money for new grassroots programming and services that address key communal priorities: Engaging young adults and developing the next generation of leadership, services for seniors, Israel advocacy and education, expanding services beyond the demographic core, and outreach to newcomers, those who are unengaged or marginally engaged and interfaith couples.
“The New Initiatives allow us to innovate and plan creatively to meet the challenges of our Nashville Jewish community in partnership with our local leaders,“ said Hirt.
Many New Initiative Grant programs such as Shalom Taxi, a transportation service for seniors, and PJ Library, which provides Jewish-themed reading material for children, have become integral to the community. In addition to providing more than $214,000 to support 17 ongoing New Initiative programs from previous years, the spending plan includes $60,000 for 11 new ones. They are:
• BlendedGEN, an initiative of Congregation Micah, Congregation Sherith Israel, and Akiva School to reach out to both affiliated and unaffiliated interfaith couples in Middle Tennessee who are seeking to create a Jewish home and raise Jewish children. It will include immersive seminars, congregational celebrations, films, holiday workshops, and other cultural offerings. ($10,000)
• NextDor Night of 100 Seders, a coordinated community-wide initiative of The Temple to organize young adults in hosting home-based seders by providing food and religious support. ($3,000)
• Tot Shabbat Celebrations and Dinners, an initiative of Akiva School, Congregation Micah and Congregation Sherith Israel for a series of user-friendly Shabbat dinners for families with children 4 years old and younger. The aim is to introduce the families to each other, the Akiva educational experience and staff, and local congregations and to form relationships before kindergarten decisions are made. ($1,500)
• Next Dor Shabbaton, an initiative of West End Synagogue and NowGen Nashville for a Shabbat retreat at Montgomery Bell State Park. The idea is to provide young adults a total Shabbat experience and find ways to incorporate Shabbat-inspired values of balance, community, spirituality into their weekday lives. ($3,500)
• Summer Series with Akiva, an initiative of Akiva School and NowGen Nashville that will offer educational sessions for parents of preschool and school-aged children emphasizing Jewish values and teachings. The sessions will be offered at locations around Middle Tennessee and focus on the social thinking and development of children, healthy snacks, and the benefits of meditation and yoga. ($2,000)
• Young Teachers Engagement, an initiative of Akiva School and NowGen Nashville, will offer programming for Jewish young adults who teach in a variety of settings. The aim is to create a cohort to build social, professional, and Jewish connections with Akiva. ($1,000)
• Music City Shabbat, sponsored by young local singers and musicians and the Jewish Federation, will organize a monthly self-led Shabbat dinner and worship experience with a focus on music and song in the Jewish summer camp style that attracts both affiliated and non-affiliated participants. ($1,500)
• Vanderbilt University Faculty and Staff Engagement is an initiative of Vanderbilt Hillel to create a cohort of Jewish staff and faculty at the university and its medical center. Its aim is to increase their awareness of and connection to both Hillel and the Jewish community and to develop initiatives that will benefit the campus. ($ 5,500)
• Journeying for Justice in Tennessee is an initiative of Congregation Micah and the Federation’s Community Relations Committee (CRC) in partnership with Lee Chapel AME. It will follow up on the theme of the CRC Social Justice Seder and offer a low-cost tour of significant civil rights sites in Tennessee and will include a Shabbat experience. ($6,500)
• Next Generation Civil Rights Tour, an initiative of the Temple and the GJCC, will seek to engage young adults in a in a multi-day, multi-state civil rights tour of the South. The aim is to seek ways for the Jewish community and general community to deal with xenophobia, racism, bias, and discrimination. ($7,500)
• Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, a post sponsored by the GJCC and Jewish Federation,will be the central point of contact and service for newcomers, engagement opportunities, and volunteers. The coordinator will work with the membership staff of all Jewish organizations to create a seamless community-wide network. This effort is addressing the top recommendation from the BJN2.0 process which is to increase outreach to newcomers and those who would like to become more involved in Jewish life. ($18,000)
In addition to the funding for local programming, the Federation will provide more than $808,000 for programs in Israel and elsewhere overseas, primarily through two major umbrella organizations, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Agency. But the Nashville Federation also provides $162,000 in elective funding for a number of overseas programs, including $60,000 to aid poor and elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union as well to $20,000 to Maksam, a network of neighborhood centers for disadvantage youth in Hadera-Eiron, Nashville’s Partnerhship2Gether region in Israel.
An additional $38,250 will go to regional and national organizations like Taglit Birthright Israel, which provides immersion trips to Israel for college students, and the Jewish Children’s Regional Service, which provides a range of social services for at-risk Jewish children in Tennessee and six other southern states. •