Bringing Berkeley Bayit Back with a Federation Impact Loan

When a need in the community was identified, Barry Cohn was perfectly positioned to act on his longstanding commitment to Jewish life and leadership in the Bay Area. As a student at UC Berkeley, Barry was a founding member of the Berkeley Bayit — a Jewish communal living house on the campus that was established in the spring of 1980. Barry described the original Bayit ethos, “We structured ourselves kind of in line with the kibbutz style. Everybody had equal say, and everybody took responsibility for all the parts of the functioning of the house and the design and organization of the house and advancement of its purpose.”​​

While that vision remains strong today, the historic house was in dire need of seismic upgrades and extensive remodeling. Through his leadership roles on the Board of Directors at both the Federation and the Berkeley Bayit, Barry worked to implement his vision for utilizing Federation donor-directed funds for community projects. By securing a low-cost Federation impact loan and structuring a unique deal, the Federation’s Impact Investing team mobilized funds that were otherwise sitting in investments. This proved to be an innovative approach to community resource management.

In the past year, the Bayit has been significantly transformed — its structure rejuvenated and its spirit intact. With the help of a capital campaign, the Bayitniks raised an impressive $565K for the project — with a $765K Federation loan covering the remaining renovation costs. Today, the house boasts a dance party-ready floor, seismic safety upgrades, new plumbing and electrical wiring, modern appliances, a revamped kitchen equipped to accommodate kosher practices, and completely new bathrooms.

The rededication event earlier this month was a milestone for Berkeley Bayit, marking the culmination of a collective effort that epitomized the spirit of community collaboration and mutual growth. Joined by Bayit board members, founders, and representatives from Berkeley Hillel, we came together to celebrate the new life of this distinguished campus residence. This September, the historic and inclusive sanctuary will once again welcome Jewish students for the fall 2024 semester. As a symbol of peace and tradition, we planted an olive tree and affixed a mezuzah, embracing the future with optimism and unity in the Berkeley Jewish community. Thanks to Barry’s efforts and his work with the Federation Impact Investing team, Berkeley Bayit will continue to be a vibrant center of the Jewish campus community for decades to come.

The Federation’s Impact Lending program supports small business relief, affordable housing, economic equity, and other pressing environmental and social issues. Our portfolio includes direct investments in the Bay Area’s Jewish community. With a Federation donor-advised fund or supporting foundation, you have access to innovative philanthropic programs that leverage our collective community strength to create immediate and lasting change.


June 20, 2024


Andrew Schneiderman