Jewish Pride Fund: A Giving Circle Success Story

Pioneering an Innovative Model for Jewish LGBTQ+ Philanthropy

Beit Dror is an Israeli shelter for LGBTQ+ youth. In recent years, Beit Dror has served an increasing number of both trans and Arab youth, as well as teens who “age out” of government support at age 18 yet still deal with a lack of family support.

Jewish Baby Network is an organization that facilitates connections between Jewish parents of young children in the Bay Area. The network arose to fill a gap in resources and institutional support for families with children below preschool-age.

Both organizations received grants from the Jewish Pride Fund, a Federation-supported giving circle, as part of its 2021 granting cycle.

Impact Story: Beit Dror

Thanks to the Jewish Pride Fund’s grant, Beit Dror is able to award scholarships to youth who’ve “graduated” from the shelter but still face immense difficulty. Some still cannot return home, having been cast out by their parents. Some are barely surviving, and unable to pursue education or other opportunities to better their circumstances. And some struggle to get expensive medical care, including gender reassignment surgery, that can change the course of their lives.

All will benefit from the fund’s grant. And against the backdrop of increased tensions and violence between Jews and Arabs in Israel, the increasing number of Arab youth helped by Beit Dror shows how critically important the center’s services are to those who often have nowhere else to go.

Impact Story: Jewish Baby Network

Similarly, Jewish Baby Network fulfills a need that, on the surface, often doesn’t appear urgent. But as any parent—particularly first-time parents, single parents, and parents of limited means—will tell you, the first few years of a child’s life are as developmentally important as they are expensive and exhausting.

Viewed through this lens, even a single connection with another parent who understands that experience can serve as a lifeline—sometimes literally. Not only can fellow parents provide guidance and mentorship, simply knowing that one’s not alone or unique in this struggle can also contextualize and bring valuable perspective to early parenthood’s challenges.

But finding such connection can be challenging for LGBTQ+ parents. Even if other parents accept and empathize with them, they can’t relate to the unique struggles and challenges facing new LGBTQ+ families. And while similar networks do cater to the LGBTQ+ community, it’s hard to find fellow parents who identify as LGBTQ+ and Jewish. And as any Jewish parent will tell you, raising Jewish children is a unique experience in and of itself.

Now, thanks to the fund’s grant, Jewish Baby Network can expand its efforts to build Jewish community for local LGBTQ+ families—efforts which secured it the grant in the first place.

The Heart of the Jewish Pride Fund

David Rak (right), Outgoing

Since its inception in 2017, the Jewish Pride Fund has provided a space for members of the giving circle to honor their whole selves, a rare opportunity for LGBTQ+ Jews who often struggle to bring their full identities into “conventional” Jewish or LGBTQ+ spaces, even progressive ones.

“Two of the strongest parts of my [overall] identity are my Jewish identity and my LGBTQ identity,” says David Rak, a founding member of the fund, and its outgoing chair. David, a lifelong Jewish philanthropist and leader who also sits on the Federation’s board, had nevertheless found it difficult to discover his full identity as a Jewish LGBTQ+ person, much less express it. “[The Jewish Pride Fund] is really the first time I’ve truly matched and paired together the Jewish and LGBTQ parts of my identity.”

As it turned out, David was far from the only person who felt that way. It was this longing for a space to fully inhabit their identities that led David and his co-founders, Sam Goldman and Danielle Meshorer, to start the Jewish Pride Fund in 2017. And throughout David’s term as chair, the fund grew from 10 members in 2018 to 17 members today.

A Model for Accessible Philanthropy

Jordan Daniels, Member

Such fully-inclusive spaces are just as sought by and just as important—yet often further out of reach—for Black LGBTQ people, Trans people, and others who are often marginalized and overlooked even within the LGBTQ+ community.

Jordan Daniels, who joined the Jewish Pride Fund this year, hopes to make these people more visible to the Fund, and leverage its structure and resources to impact them and their communities in a meaningful and positive way. “As both a Jew and a Person of Color, I was ‘othered’ a lot growing up,” says Daniels, referring to how he’s felt marginalized in spaces where he should’ve felt belonging. The son of a Jewish mother and a secular Black father, he often felt reluctant to navigate Jewish spaces growing up because he was often met with disbelief about his Jewishness. It wasn’t until encountering Hillel’s inclusive programming in college that he started to explore that part of his identity. “I felt more included [in those spaces], but I was often one of the only Jews of Color there.”

Eventually, as he dove deeper into Jewish philanthropy, he met more Jews of Color and started to feel like he truly belonged. And as the Jewish community continues to awaken to the urgency and importance of elevating JOCs, he has emerged as a leader in helping to co-create more inclusive Jewish spaces. So when he was asked to join the Jewish Pride Fund, he enthusiastically accepted. His membership is mutually beneficial—the Fund benefits from his enthusiasm and perspective, and Jordan gets a great opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the communities he identifies with.

“[Philanthropy] is interesting when you’re someone who doesn’t really have access to money in that way,” he says. “The [comparatively] lower barrier of entry [to the Jewish Pride Fund] was really nice.” (The minimum donation to join the fund is $1,800).

Indeed, Jordan’s experience—along with those of Beit Dror and Jewish Baby Network—perfectly illustrates the advantages to the “giving circle” model underpinning the Jewish Pride Fund. At its core, a giving circle allows practically anyone to donate (though some, including the Jewish Pride Fund, have minimum donation amounts). And although not all giving circles are structured this way, the Jewish Pride Fund lets anyone who donates have a say in where their money is granted—every member, regardless of how much they donate, gets one vote. As David puts it, “we all have an equal say.”

This model confers numerous benefits: it is more accessible for those outside established philanthropic circles, the pooling of resources allows each individual donor to create a larger impact, and it can direct funds towards newer, smaller, or more “niche” organizations that would otherwise have difficulty securing grants from large foundations or funds.

What’s next for the Jewish Pride Fund

Daniel Wein, Incoming Chair

Little wonder, then, that giving circles are becoming more popular—they are, in essence, making philanthropy more accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to participate in it. The over $100,000 in grants made during the Fund’s lifetime attests to the need for such innovative giving models (as much for fund members as for organizations) as well as how effectively they fulfill such needs.

Indeed, as other Pride Funds and giving circles emerge across the country, they are starting to reach out to the SF-based Jewish Pride Fund for knowledge and best practices. As they apply these best practices, they become better positioned to succeed and help more people in their communities and cultivate a culture of philanthropy that might not be as robust or accessible otherwise.

And the Jewish Pride Fund is just getting started. As incoming chair Daniel Wein prepares to assume leadership of the Fund, he has three overarching goals in mind: to grow the fund in size and diversity, to recruit angel investors to grow its grantmaking pot, and to continue helping under-the-radar organizations—serving the intersection of the Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities—get the resources they need to succeed.

“The Jewish Pride Fund represents the best of shared values and community out of any organization I’ve been a part of in the Bay Area,” says Daniel. “It bridges the full breadth of my identity in a way that lets me live out my values—and that’s a beautiful thing for anyone who cares about building a more vibrant Jewish and queer community.”

For more information on the Jewish Pride Fund, contact Danielle Meshorer.

Categories: Philanthropy, LGBTQIA+


June 30, 2021


Jay Rooney