It’s time to take a breath. Rosh Hashanah, which begins Monday night, ushers in a year of Shemita, one in which we are told to let the land rest and not plant anything, a year when all debts are to be forgiven and inequalities in the world lessened. This Shemita year arrives at the perfect time for us.
After 18 months of Covid, we are all tired. Staff burnout and donor fatigue are real, yet, there is still so much work to be done, so much help to give, and we do not have the luxury of taking a whole year off to rest. But in order to continue the important work of alleviating poverty and suffering, we must also take care of ourselves. And this next month of Jewish holidays is a good time to pause.
Take some downtime for yourself. Reflect on the important work you have done this past year. And focus on renewing your strength, energy, and perseverance for the year ahead. Think about what you need to do to recharge your batteries, and then do it for yourself.
The Poverty Affinity Group will not be offering any programming during the month of September and will regroup in October to chart a course forward. Our fall programming, inspired by the theme of Shemita, will focus on strategies for preventing burnout and on re-energizing our work by looking at innovative ways to address ongoing challenges. One such innovation, the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies’ coordinated online job training program bringing together agencies throughout the U.S., is spotlighted below.
Together, we will accomplish many goals this next year, approaching problems in new ways that can break cycles of poverty within our community. But first, breathe. Take some time to pause, nurture yourself, and then we can begin again.
Shana Tova. May it be a sweet and healthy one for us all.
Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu
Executive Vice President
Jewish Funders Network
NJHSA Pilots Online Job Services Collaborative
The ongoing Covid pandemic has undoubtedly been disastrous for the most vulnerable members of our society. But it has also sparked positive innovations and partnerships that will transform and improve human services over the long term. Case in point: a new pilot project of the Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies tentatively called the U.S. Jobs Initiative (USJI).
USJI brings together 20 Jewish vocational service providers from throughout the United States to offer coordinated online counseling, training, and other services for job seekers. It is believed to be the first project of its kind in the vocational services world, and a model that could be replicated to more efficiently offer other human services, such as support groups and elder care management, as well.
The project grew out of the realization, in the months following the arrival of Covid to the United States, that agencies, without making changes in advertising or recruitment, were fielding requests from and providing services to a growing number of clients from other cities, NJHSA President and CEO Reuben Rotman explained.
“At first agencies were a little nervous to say this publicly, because historically they’re funded to serve specific catchment areas,” he said. “But as we started talking about it, we began to think this could lead to an integrated service model.
Numerous meetings later, the project, slated to launch soon after the Jewish holidays, will include a virtual intake process housed on the Jewish Federations of North America’s “Jewish Together” website. Under the model, participating agencies will be able to focus on areas of expertise and refer clients to other agencies for services better provided elsewhere.
Rotman is hoping that by working jointly, individual agencies will also be able to tap into other agencies’ relationships with employers, particularly employers that operate nationally. He also expects it to fill a void for people living in areas that don’t have local Jewish vocational service agencies.
The project is being funded by a collaboration of funders including a two-year grant of $1.75 million from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation (which also co-convenes the Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty) and an additional leadership grant from Crown Family Philanthropies. Additional funding support is being provided by a group of anonymous funders.
To learn more about the U.S. Jobs Initiative, email Sarah Welch, NJHSA’s Vice President of Workforce Development Services, at [email protected]
Most people working at Jewish nonprofits are women. But most CEOs of Jewish nonprofits—especially at the largest organizations—are men. That's a problem not only because it is inequitable, but because this gap can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction among women employees and means that organizations may not be recruiting or retaining the most effective talent.
Building on the work of Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community, SRE Network, and many others, Leading Edge, an organization that works to inspire dramatic change in how Jewish organizations attract, develop, and retain top talent, has issued a report identifying and analyzing causes of this gender gap. Based on quantitative network analysis, the report identifies five “keystones” — areas where it is possible to make the greatest impact — among them. These keystones spurred five "opportunities," or recommendations:
- Boards, funders, and other powerful stakeholders can hold Jewish organizations accountable and incentivize them to elevate diverse leadership teams.
- Jewish nonprofit organizations can implement talent strategies to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
- Search committees, and the boards that appoint them, can implement processes to ensure that the work of the search committee is professional, equitable, and fair and that the most qualified candidate is chosen for the role
- Community members can work actively to shift our cultural assumptions about the capacity to be a leader and a primary caregiver at the same time.
- Institutions can give men the knowledge, support, and incentives to speak out and address the gender gap in leadership (and DEI more broadly).
Explore the growing library of Affinity Group videos, on this playlist on JFN's YouTube channel. For a more focused experience, check out the following Affinity Group playlists:
- Our Covid briefing series, which includes videos on "The Intersection of Government and Philanthropy in Addressing Jewish Poverty" and "How the Pandemic is Impacting Jews of Color."
- Videos from our FedLab workshops
- Our "Success Factors" series, which includes videos on "Engaging People with Lived Experiences" and "Best Practices Addressing Jewish Poverty in Small Towns."
Your one-stop shop for all Affinity Group videos, briefing papers, newsletters, and other materials.
Nonprofits addressing Jewish poverty — and the funders who support them — can benefit from the many resources offered by GrantED, a joint project of Jewish Funders Network and UpStart. GrantED (jgranted.org) creates and curates articles, tools, and other materials to inspire and inform grantmakers and grantseekers, organizing around four core interdependent components of successful partnerships: strengthening relationships, understanding, and addressing power dynamics, sustaining impact, and effective communication.
GrantED's resources and case studies are selected with an eye toward sharing best practices, showcasing success stories, and equipping funders and nonprofits with the tools to improve. GrantED also encourages interaction and knowledge-sharing by offering workshops, facilitated conversations, and other programs. Learn more at www.jgranted.org.
—From the Field—
Safety Net Policies Are Helping Reduce the Number of Americans Below the Poverty Line – but That’s Not the Whole Story
(The Conversation, August 24)
When it Comes to Ending Hunger in America, Money Changes Everything
(The Washington Post, August 19)
Ford and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations Put $7.5 Million Into Efforts to Give Tenants Clout
(The Chronicle of Philanthropy, August 17)
Pandemic’s Effects on Homeless Show Need for Mental Health Help at Nonprofits
(The Oregonian, August 11)
The Bay Area’s Hunger Problem
(The New York Times, August 10)
Anti-Poverty Organizations Call on NYC to Strengthen Nonprofit Human Services
(NYN Media, July 26)
Founded in 2019 and coordinated by Jewish Funders Network and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty is a collaborative of funders, Jewish Federations, direct service providers, researchers, media outlets, and advocates dedicated to fighting poverty in the American Jewish community. Learn more here.