Creating Belonging for Jewish Young Adults in the Bay Area

Background and Purpose:

The Federation is launching an ambitious Jewish Engagement Initiative as one of three priorities emerging from our new Strategic Direction, with the goal of doubling the number and increasing the diversity of young people who feel a strong connection to the Jewish community. The Engagement Initiative will expand opportunities and pathways for youth, young adults, and families with young children to experience Jewish life in deep relationships with others.

Through this grant round, we seek to increase and deepen Jewish engagement for young adults ages 21-40 in the Bay Area and support a thriving ecosystem of young adult Jewish experiences. Our vision is for young adults of all backgrounds to find meaning, connection, and belonging through participation in Jewish life. We believe the best way to make a connection is to meet young adults where they are and provide entry points to Jewish life based on their passions and diverse identities.

The Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities found that there is a relatively small Jewish “vibrant core” and a majority of individuals that are not connected to Jewish life or community;  this disparity is most pronounced for young adults, ages 18-34. Young adults are also the largest segment of the Bay Area Jewish population, representing 45% of the total. 62% of them reported feeling “a little” or “not at all” a part of a Bay Area Jewish community.

Recent studies have also indicated that loneliness is an epidemic in the United States, most dramatically among Millennials (ages 24-39) and Generation Z (ages 11-24). While the national average loneliness score is 44 for all Americans, it is 45.3 and 48.3 for Millennials and Generation Z, respectively (2018 Cigna U.S. Loneliness Index).

The landscape of Jewish young adult program offerings in the Bay Area is robust, with well over 25 organizations and established groups actively working to engage young adults. While there is an array of events and programs (i.e.: social gatherings, Shabbat dinners, cultural events, and religious/spiritual services), this does not automatically lead to deep connection or belonging for Jewish young adults.

Proposal Guidelines:

The Federation will award one-year operating support grants of $30,000-$50,000 (with the intention to renew for a second year) to organizations active in the young adult space, who are eager to experiment with the Culture of Belonging methodologies through their programming. 

Preferred organizations will offer frequent activities and programs per month, have a track record of successfully engaging the target population, and have implemented strategies to reach unengaged young adults and diverse-identifying Jews (i.e. Jews of Color, Sephardim, LGBTQ, and Jews from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds).

This work requires intention and a reorientation around human connection and belonging. Each grantee will be asked to select at least two professional and/or volunteer leaders to participate in a launch gathering of grantees, quarterly workshops with the Federation’s Culture of Belonging Practice Group, and organization-specific coaching. Participants will ideally have an influence on the organization’s design process for existing young adult programming and the ability to infuse their learnings back into the organization.

Applicants must demonstrate buy-in from professional and volunteer leadership to work on this culture shift within the organization, the capacity and inclination to re-orient programming towards belonging, and the ability to measure the progress of this work.

Grant Opportunity:

  • Operating support grants of $30,000 – $50,000 for up to five organizations
  • One-year grant period: July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021 (with the intention to renew for a second year)
  • Grantees will report on their progress through a final report at the end of the grant period, and through regular communication with Federation professionals

Eligibility and Criteria:

Applicants must:

  • Be a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit or organization with fiscal sponsorship in the Federation Service Area
  • Actively serve Jewish young adults with multiple programs and activities in the Bay Area per month
  • Articulate alignment of this program with their organization’s mission and goals
  • Demonstrate strong organizational leadership and financial stability
  • Show a commitment to testing, learning, and iterating this approach in partnership with the Federation and other grantees
  • Have competent staff and organizational resources to implement the work
  • Align with the Federation’s mission and funding policy on Israel-related programming

Success Measures:

We aim to work in partnership with grantees toward the following outcomes:

Participant Outcomes:

  • Increased feelings of connection and belonging in the Jewish community 
  • Increased meaning derived from participation in Jewish experiences
  • Increased friendships with Jewish young adults
  • Increased confidence and empowerment to create Jewish experiences with/for others

Program Outcomes:

  • Professionals/volunteer leaders feeling increased comfort designing programs for belonging
  • Increase in returning participants


Application Process and Timeline:


Deliverable Timeline
Proposal Submission Deadline     Thursday, April 30, 2020, 5:00 pm PST
Grantees Informed Monday, June 15, 2020
Grantee Launch Gathering End of August/Early September 2020 (TBD)
Grant Term July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021 (Intent to renew for the second year)
Final Report Deadline August 17, 2021


For more information, visit the FAQ page.


Danit Trau
Senior Program Officer, Young Adult Engagement