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Dear Friend,

Happy New Year! I hope all of you are managing to stay healthy and are steering clear of the Omicron variant.

As we approach the two-year anniversary of Covid’s arrival in North America, it’s important that we take stock of what we’ve learned so far. In particular, that means understanding the critical role community networks and connections play in addressing poverty, and thinking about best practices for online services.

Networks and connection are at the center of both upcoming Affinity Group events – a webinar later this month and a session at Jewish Funders Network’s (in-person!) 2022 International Conference in March. In both programs, we’ll explore implications of research findings that demonstrate that individuals who belong to faith-based communities fare better both financially and psychologically. These findings present exciting opportunities and synergies for Jewish organizations committed to eliminating poverty in our community while also increasing community engagement.

Meanwhile, Project EM: Empowering and Employing our Community, a nationwide network providing job seekers with all the assistance, resources, and tools they need to find work is an exciting new initiative of the Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies and Jewish Federations of North America. This is a wonderful example of increased collaboration between organizations. Although this new service was catalyzed by Covid realities, it will benefit our community even after the pandemic passes.

I hope to see you at our upcoming programs and encourage you to take advantage of the many resources in this newsletter: In particular the video and suite of information about affordable housing solutions, as well as the Affinity Group’s library of videos and materials. The Affinity Group is here to serve you, so please don’t hesitate to contact me with feedback, ideas, news, and anything else you would like to share.


Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu
Executive Vice President
Jewish Funders Network
[email protected]


—Upcoming Events—

The Protective Power of Connection

Online: Thursday, January 27, 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT)

Who struggled the most in the Jewish community at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic? Join the Affinity Group and the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis for a data-centered conversation on the financial and material hardships experienced by members of the Jewish American community. Integrating data and theory, we’ll learn how the Jewish community has kept us feeling connected and supported through the pandemic, and learn how we can ensure others do not get left behind. Speakers include Michal Grinstein-Weiss of the Social Policy Institute and Carol Graham of the Brookings Institution.

Affinity Group Programming at JFN 2022 

Palm Beach, Fla: March 27-29

Philanthropists and foundation professionals: Join the affinity group at Jewish Funders Network’s 2022 International Conference, March 27-29, in Palm Beach, Fla. JFN’s annual conference is the premier event in Jewish philanthropy, and it’s being held in person for the first time since 2019 (with strict Covid protocols and a flexible cancellation policy).

The conference will include a session under the auspices of the Affinity Group, focusing on the intersection of Jewish engagement (or faith observance more broadly) and economic mobility/resilience. Dr. Ilana Horwitz, Fields-Rayant Chair of Contemporary Jewish Life at Tulane University, will speak. (Read Horwitz’s recent study "Ties in Tough Times: How Social Capital Helps Lower‑Income Jewish Parents Weather the Economic Hardship of COVID‑19"). Speakers also include Casper ter Kulle, whose book “The Power of Ritual” shows how transforming everyday practice into sacred rituals can heal our crisis of social isolation and longing for connection. Other conference speakers include Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum; Amy Bach of Measures for Justice,  Urbanist/Professor/Author Richard Florida, Darius Jones of the National Black Empowerment Council, and many others. Please note that session descriptions have not yet been published on the conference site. 


Developing Sustainable Solutions for Affordable Housing

Learn about affordable housing issues and how to build sustainable, mission-aligned housing and programs that help older adults and adults with disabilities lead independent and fulfilled lives, in the video from a webinar hosted by the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. (CHAI), and others. You can also take a virtual tour of the Weinberg Commons community described in the webinar and take an Affordable Housing Solutions Assessment Survey to help develop an affordable housing initiative in your community. To learn more, contact Karen Bray-Pollak at [email protected].


NHJSA and JFNA Launch National Network for Job Seekers

The Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA) and Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) have launched Project EM: Empowering and Employing our Community, a nationwide network providing job seekers with all the assistance, resources, and tools they need to find work. (We reported on this initiative in August of 2021 when it was still in the planning stages.)

The goal of Project EM is to ensure that no matter where someone is on their career path or where they are located geographically, they can get the support they require to get a job–or a better job–free of charge.

Through Project EM, job seekers can access interactive workshops, technical skills training, financial literacy sessions, resume writing assistance, and personalized career coaching, as well as job listings. While administered by Jewish organizations, it is open to anyone and everyone.

Project EM is administered with services provided by 19 NJHSA member agencies with the support of Jewish Federations and relies on the partnership and funding support of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, and additional funding partners. Project EM’s resources are available at

PAG Members Chosen for Wexner Field Fellows Program

Three Affinity Group members are among the 15 outstanding professionals selected for Class 6 of the Wexner Field Fellowship, a three-year intensive program run by The Wexner Foundation, in partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation. Yasher koach to Sarah Abramson of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, Jon Hornstein of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and Erica Phillips of Crown Family Philanthropies! Utilizing the diverse, cohort-based learning that is the hallmark of The Wexner Foundation programs, Field Fellows will be exposed to different approaches to leadership and tools for addressing pressing issues in the Jewish community, while being integrated into The Wexner Foundation’s network of more than 3,000 professional and volunteer leaders in North America and Israel.


Affinity Group Videos

Explore the growing library of Affinity Group videos, on this playlist on JFN's YouTube channel, including our recent webinar (above) on Jews with disabilities in the workplace. For a more focused experience, check out the following Affinity Group playlists:

The Affinity Group Website

Your one-stop shop for all Affinity Group videos, briefing papers, newsletters, and other materials.

Grantmaking Professionals Exchange

The Jewish Funders Network Grantmaking Professionals Exchange aims to strengthen relationships and enhance strategic, technical, and Jewish learning among professionals across the field of Jewish community philanthropy. The Exchange is managed in partnership with Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies. Offerings include monthly online convenings, mentor matching, and peer learning groups.

—From the Field—

How New Robin Hood CEO Buery Plans to Fight NYC Poverty
(The Associated Press, January 12)

Guaranteed Income Experiment for Black Women Aims to Tackle Racial Wealth Gap 
(ABC News, January 12)

Are We Failing the Aging?
(eJewish Philanthropy, January 10)

Monthly Checks, Child Tax Credits: What Will Help End Poverty?
(PBS News Hour, January 9)

What Happened To Poverty in America in 2021?
(Frontline, December 22)

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.