The Federation Announces $2,000,000 in Grants to Launch the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Initiative

Significant investment from the Jim Joseph Foundation will increase opportunities to engage teens in Jewish experiences during formative years

San Francisco, CA – The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties (the Federation) is pleased to announce the launch of its Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Initiative. This major five-year, $7.6 million endeavor is designed to build our community’s capacity to provide innovative, compelling, and sustainable opportunities that increase the number and broaden the diversity of Jewish teens engaged in Jewish experiences during their high school years. 

The teen years represent a critical time of identify formation in a young person’s journey to adulthood. Meaningful Jewish experiences are known to offer significant benefits to the positive and healthy development of teens, however, national estimates suggest that only 10-15% of Jewish teens ages 13-17 are involved in any level of Jewish activity post Bar or Bat Mitzvah. This Initiative will increase the number of teens participating in Jewish experiences, and deepen the experience for those who are marginally engaged.

The Initiative was designed with generous 1:1 match funding by the Jim Joseph Foundation, in the context of the national Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative* and will include five components:

  1. Innovation Accelerator to scale, expand, and diversify innovative programs for teens with grant funding to a cohort of nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurial training, and coaching;
  2. Professional Development to support well-trained, high caliber Jewish educators, widely recognized as the key to successfully engaging teens;
  3. Experimentation Micro-Grants to pilot and test new program ideas;
  4. Information Hub to provide a centralized resource for teens, parents, and the community; and
  5. Scholarships to create incentives for teen participation in immersive experiences and Israel travel.

Additional support for and partnership in this work comes from The Jewish Federation and The Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay.

The Federation has hired Mike Friedman to lead this new Initiative. Mike, a Bay Area native, brings more than a decade of experience to his role as Director, working in both formal and informal educational settings in the teen arena, both Jewish and non-Jewish. On what drew him to the role, Mike shared “The Teen Initiative offers organizations the opportunity to think differently about Jewish teen programming, to create more authentic Jewish experiences that help teens see that living a good life and being a good person is Jewish.”

The Federation’s board of directors has approved $2 million in grants to community partners to be disbursed over three years. Of these grants, nearly $1.2 million were awarded as part of an Innovation Accelerator to eight organizations poised to scale, expand and diversify innovative program offerings. Programs in the Innovation Accelerator will participate in cohort-based learning on entrepreneurial methods and mindsets, guided by UpStart, a San Francisco-based incubator for Jewish community innovation.

The Teen Initiative’s first set of grants include:

BBYO – San Francisco/Marin Expansion and Enrichment Initiative ($145,000): Expansion of BBYO’s presence in San Francisco and Marin by developing new chapters with meaningful Jewish niche interest programming; expanding leadership development and outreach efforts in these regions; increasing quality, variety, and impact of programming; and serving as a gateway to continued involvement.

Camp Tawonga – Teen Year-Round Engagement & Leadership Development Program ($150,000): Training workshops for teens to develop the skills to be effective teachers and mentors to youth, with practical experience working at Tawonga’s B’nai Mitzvah programs, family camps and throughout the community. Social gatherings and community-wide events led by a cohort of teens aimed at expanding year-round engagement of Tawongans and their friends.

Congregation Emanu-El – The Gathering ($150,000): Monthly teen-inspired Friday night Shabbat service, modeled after the nationally recognized ‘Late Night Young Adult Shabbat’, which builds community and provides an authentic Jewish spiritual experience. A Teen Leadership Committee (TLC) will build leadership skills and shape programming, including special events, travel experiences and retreats.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) – Museum Teen Council ($125,000): Expansion of The CJM’s Museum Teen Council to include greater frequency and diversity of teen planned and produced activities, offered free of charge, including an array of art experiences and community building events that allow teens to creatively explore self-expression and their Jewish identities in a Jewish context.

• JCC of San Francisco – Teen Arts Immersion Program (TAIP) ($125,000): A program of theater-arts exploration which encourages teens to explore and understand difference through immersive artistic and “behind the scenes” experiences with playwrights and actors. Framed in Jewish values, TAIP nurtures empathy, inclusion, and inspires teens to build a just and compassionate world.

• Jewish Youth for Community Action (JYCA) and Peninsula JCC – Peninsula-JYCA ($150,000): A youth-led, social justice program for Jewish teens, the Peninsula-JYCA is a partnership program of Jewish Youth for Community Action (JYCA) and Peninsula Jewish Community Center (PJCC), and will provide opportunities for Jewish teens on the Peninsula to engage in social, racial, environmental and economic justice work as young Jewish leaders while forming a supportive community of growing activists.

• Oshman Family Jewish Community Center –  FACST-Fun, Active, Community Service for Teens ($150,000): A diverse array of community service opportunities blended with high energy activities, social development, team building, Jewish learning and reflection.

NCSY – Jewish Student Union (JSU) Culture Clubs ($150,000): Jewish Student Union (JSU) culture clubs in in public high schools, coupled with out-of-school teen-led programming to create a continuum of engagement. JSU clubs take a pluralistic approach through partnerships with local Jewish organizations, acting as a natural feeder into Jewish programs and community.

Camp Ramah in Northern California/Ramah Galim ($25,000): Pilot year-round programming building on camp core specialties, such as outdoors and water-based activities, arts and environmental action (not part of the cohort).

Jewish LearningWorks ($745,000): Recognizing the critical role played by well-trained, high caliber Jewish educators in successfully engaging Jewish teens, Jewish LearningWorks will create a multi-faceted program of professional development for teen educators and youth professionals. Led by Debra Sagan Massey, a veteran educator with more than 20 years of experience in the field, the program will include regional teen educator networks, immersive learning experiences, and mentorship, aimed at building competencies to better equip these professionals. Launch activities have already engaged more than 60 educators area-wide, including the East Bay.

Danny Grossman, the Federation’s CEO, adds “This initiative confirms what we have learned from the recent Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities. That creating meaningful and relevant ways to engage the younger generation in Jewish life is key for the future health of our community. We are grateful for the partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund, the Jewish Federation and The Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay, and the many donors and leaders who, together with the Jewish Teen Foundations, Diller Teen Fellows programs, and the Teen Initiative serve to elevate teen engagement as a priority for our local Jewish community."




The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties connects people of all ages, backgrounds, and perspectives to the power of the Jewish community to improve the world. We partner with donors, organizations, and foundations to address pressing issues facing our community, and develop innovative strategies that result in deep and lasting impact locally, in Israel, and around the world. Learn more at

*The Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative is comprised of national and local funders committed to investing in community-based Jewish teen education and engagement initiatives in ten communities across the country. Started informally in spring 2013, the Collaborative also supports continued learnings for the field of Jewish education and engagement, including Generation Now: Understanding and Engaging Jewish Teens Today. Members of the Funder Collaborative include Combined Jewish Philanthropies (Boston); Jewish Community Federation & Endowment Fund (San Francisco); The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati; Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta; Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago; Jewish Federation of San Diego County; Jim Joseph Foundation; Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah; The Marcus Foundation; Rose Community Foundation (Denver); Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore; and UJA-Federation of New York.

For immediate release

March 05, 2018