Founded in 1990, JFN held its first conference in Chicago in January 1991, attended by 59 funders. Word spread, and by 1995, more than 190 participants were at the conference. That year, JFN began evolving from a loose network into a membership organization. By April 2000, our 10th annual conference drew 275 funders, including members from 31 U.S. states, Israel, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan.
Over the years, JFN has expanded geographically. In 2008, JFN Israel was established to enable Israeli funders, who major participants in JFN activities, to exchange ideas regarding their philanthropic involvement and to expand their giving circles in Israel and overseas. JFN Israel also serves as a bridge for philanthropists from abroad who wish to expand their philanthropic activity in Israel. In 2010, JFN opened a West Coast office, serving JFN members in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, and other Western states; the first JFN West regional conference, “When the Smoke Clears,” was held online in 2020.
JFN's programming and services have moved far beyond the annual conference to include consultations, a variety of gatherings, scores of webinars, and numerous peer networks. In 2006, Jewish Teen Funders Network was launched, and it rebranded as Honeycomb in 2021. A division of JFN, Honeycomb doesn’t work with teens directly, but serves as a central resource for the quickly growing field of Jewish youth philanthropy, working to grow and strengthen the field. Increasingly JFN is seen as a convener, coordinating the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty, incubating CANVAS, a Jewish arts and culture funding collaborative, and helping to broker numerous partnerships. JFN is a thought leader for the entire Jewish philanthropic field, sharing ideas and information via the monthly “What Gives?” podcast, regular articles in eJewishPhilanthropy, and other media.
Amid the Covid pandemic, JFN stepped up its programming, hosting more than 100 webinars on how different sectors in North America and Israel are faring, and actively bringing together groups of funders to collaborate and share information on specific areas of need. We also launched an online Covid catalog and resource hub providing up-to-date information on needs and responses, and a scenario planning process to help the Jewish community prepare for a post-pandemic future.