JULY 2022

Dear Friend,

I hope you are having a great summer!

Though it may not feel like it right now, fall is just around the corner. I'm particularly excited that we'll be kicking off our fall programming this year with a special pre-High Holidays text study exploring what traditional Jewish sources teach us about serving people in poverty, led by Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the CEO of T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

In addition, be sure to check out the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA)'s August 4 webinar on best practices in disability employment. You'll also want to read about an innovative financial coaching program offered at Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas and check out highlights from this spring's Jewish Funders Network (JFN) and NJHSA conferences.

I hope to see you at our upcoming programs and encourage you to take advantage of the many resources in this newsletter. The Affinity Group is here to serve you, so please don’t hesitate to contact me with feedback, ideas, news, "bright spots," and anything else you would like to share.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to reducing poverty in the Jewish community.


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


—Upcoming Events—

Best Practice Program Models in Disability Employment

Online: Thursday, August 4, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. ET (8:30-10 a.m. PT, 18:30-20 IL)

This NJHSA webinar will focus on the findings of a recently completed study on best practice program models in disability employment. The initial idea for the study came about through discussions at a meeting of the Affinity Group and its Jobs workgroup! With funding from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, NJHSA developed and implemented a study on this issue in partnership with colleagues from the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce and Respectability.

What Jewish Texts Teach About Our Obligations to the Most Vulnerable

Online: Wednesday, September 21, 12-1 p.m. ET (9-10 a.m. PT)

Judaism’s texts offer significant wisdom about economic cycles, the causes of inequality, and our obligations to each other. And a key component of the shmita year, which we are concluding, is to serve the needs of those in poverty.

Join us, just days before the High Holidays commence, for a high-level exploration of Jewish teachings on addressing poverty and serving those who struggle with it, both inside and outside the Jewish community.

The session will be led by Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and author of "There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law and Tradition." Additional speaker to be announced.

—Bright Spot—

Empowering Clients Through Financial Coaching

For many Americans, poverty feels like a journey to nowhere. As debt balloons and expenses outpace income, their financial challenges impair their ability to focus at work and maintain stable employment. Eventually, paying for child care or car payments become impossible, the very things necessary for career and financial stability. Poverty begets poverty.

Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas has found a way to interrupt this vicious cycle: offering free financial coaching to all its clients and incorporating financial coaching into career coaching. Following the holistic Working Family Success best-practices model established by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, JFS has, for the past five years, offered a variety of services designed to help clients achieve long-term employment security and financial stability.

Significantly, it uses a coaching, rather than counseling, approach. “With financial counseling, it’s more formulaic,” explains Kristin Lobenstein, JFS’ Manager of Financial Coaching. “The counselor immediately starts putting together a plan, and the client has to follow it. With coaching, we take a bit of a financial history, discuss the challenges they’re facing, and then we ask, ‘What would you like to work on first?’ It’s important that the coach develops trust with the client. It has to be client-centered. If we direct them, how successful will they be?”

Approximately 400 clients are currently served by the approach, and JFS has data that shows an average increase in savings of $3000, a 22 percent decrease in debt, and 67 percent of its clients achieving their employment goals. It also follows the careers of clients for one year after employment, which reveals that many of them have maintained employment and continue to improve their financial stability.

One client even managed to pay off $18,000 in debt in the first nine months of the Covid pandemic thanks to the program. “I created a debt-reduction plan for her, and she became so committed to it that she went out and took every odd job she could,” Lobenstein says. “She kept coming back to coaching: It was the positive conversations and the reinforcement, and she can carry the success with her.”

To learn more about JFS of Dallas’ coaching program, email Allison Harding, Senior Director of Career & Financial Services. ([email protected])

Download a PDF from Allison's presentation about the program at the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies' conference. 


Participatory Grantmaking: A New Funding Tool

Increasingly popular in the mainstream philanthropic world, yet not widely known in the Jewish funding community, participatory grantmaking (PGM) offers a range of opportunities for grantmakers to incorporate and empower community voices in philanthropic decisions. PGM ranges from integrating perspectives of those with lived experience to shifting decision-making power to the communities that grantmakers seek to support.

Authored by Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies and funded by Crown Family Philanthropies, JFN's free new guide details the philosophy, mechanics, and benefits and dilemmas of PGM, exploring its relevance for all grantmakers, with a particular focus on its potential role in Jewish philanthropy. It also offers case studies, as well as extensive resources for those considering incorporating elements of PGM into their work.

Affinity Group at NJHSA and JFN Conferences

Casper ter Kuile, Dr. Ilana Horwitz, and Howard Altschul at the JFN conference. 

The Affinity Group ran extensive programming at two major in-person conferences this spring: JFN's international conference in Palm Beach, Fla., and the NJHSA's Power NET conference in Minneapolis. At JFN, panelists Casper ter Kuile (author of "The Power of Ritual"), Dr. Ilana Horwitz (Fields-Rayant Chair of Contemporary Jewish Life at Tulane University), and Howard Altschul (Chair of UJA-Federation of New York’s Crisis to Stability Allocations Committee) discussed how Jewish communal engagement and social capital can help individuals confronting poverty. The Affinity Group also ran a post-conference session with Dr. Horwitz, Susan Ditkoff (Senior Advisor at the Bridgespan Group), and Jessica Mehlman (Vice President of Impact and Planning at Jewish Federations of North America) on how the funding community can impact change, including flipping prevailing narratives about Jewish poverty.  NJHSA's conference featured a showcase of Response to Poverty programs, highlighting the work of the Affinity Group, Toronto's Project Cobalt; the San Diego for Every Child Guaranteed Income Project, Jewish Family Service of Houston's Nutrition 101; Jewish Family Service of Minneapolis's Setting the Table with Community Partners; Caregiver Homeless Initiative, a partnership between Jewish Family Service LA and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services; and Jewish Community Services Baltimore's Financial Wellness. Learn more about each program in this slide deck or watch this video.


Affinity Group Videos

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:


The Affinity Group Website

Your one-stop shop for all Affinity Group videos, briefing papers, newsletters, and other materials. www.jfunders.org/affinity

Grantmaking Professionals Exchange

The JFN 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—

Long Lines Are Back at US Food Banks as Inflation Hits High
(The Associated Press, July 15)

Poverty Explains Why Philadelphia Is So Stressed Out
(Axios, July 14)

Lying Is Part of the 'Etiquette' of Poverty
(The New York Times, July 13)

Utah Abortion Ban Will Drive Women Further Into Poverty
(The Guardian, July 11)

The End of Pandemic Relief Measures Upends Progress in Reducing Child Poverty 
(Morning Edition [NPR], June 17)


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.