Planting Jewish Family Roots (POSTPONED)

Growing a Culture of Belonging for Bay Area Families Raising Young Children

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 relationship with others. 

Core to the Engagement Initiative is the Federation’s Culture of Belonging practice. The Federation works with over 60 local Jewish organizations to strengthen our community building “muscles” by structuring programs and organizations with greater intention to build belonging for all. 

Endowment seed funding through this Planting Jewish Family Roots RFP will impact as many as 2,000 families with young children over two years by empowering grantees to build lasting communities of Jewish families, and by creating networks of Jewish opportunities that families can access more easily. The initiative builds on the Federation’s extensive support and field-building for the Jewish family engagement ecosystem over the past 13 years, which increased the quality and impact of many preschools and family programs, but also highlighted what’s missing from the perspective of parents looking for “villages” to raise families together as the best way to engage them Jewishly over time.

We know from the Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities and related research that the majority of Jewish families in the Bay Area are not connected to Jewish life or community:

  • Highly mobile, lacking local family roots and organizational ties
  • Diverse backgrounds and identities, including multi-faith households
  • Struggle with the high cost of living which impacts Jewish choices
  • Many feel alienated from Jewish mainstream institutions
  • Respond well to relational, authentic, customized, self-driven Jewish experiences

The 2013 study Looking for Connections: A Study of Jewish Families with Young Children in Chicago by Dr. Mark I. Rosen, Ph.D., found that many families make decisions about their Jewish trajectory before their children turn five years of age. Families with young children live at powerful inflection points for deeper identity formation, seeking and building new friendships and community, and making choices that can inform a lifelong path. What’s needed is a more systematic mindset and skillset around building lasting communities among families and connecting them to other Jewish opportunities.

Proposal Guidelines:

The Federation’s Endowment Committee will award 16 to 20 grants of $30,000-$50,000 over two years ($15,000-$25,000/year) to a mix of Jewish preschools and other organizations that engage families with young children (0-7) in Jewish life in San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma (with hopes to include a third cohort in the East Bay pending additional funding).

Grants will support intentional culture change efforts to connect families more deeply to each other around the Jewish community. Grantees will participate in one of two Community of Practice cohorts (one in San Francisco, and one on the Peninsula) that will meet regularly to learn the Culture of Belonging methodologies, build networks and Jewish pathways across programs, and share common metrics of success. Grantees will also receive coaching and evaluation support as they experiment with new ways of connecting families during and between programs.

Eligible organizations have a focus on building communities of Jewish families with young children (0-7) in San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma. They may include Jewish preschools, Jewish educational institutions, synagogues, JCCs, independent engagement programs, or Jewish family childcare. We are particularly interested in organizations that actively engage interfaith or inter-group families, Jews of Color, the LBGTQ community, multi-cultural populations, or families that are otherwise disconnected from Jewish life.

The overall aim of this grant is to create many more opportunities for parents to build their Jewish future with other families and to make the Jewish journey a central focus in the life of the family as a result of these important and meaningful connections.

Grant Opportunity:

Grants of $30,000-$50,000 over two years ($15,000-$25,000 per year) to 16-20 grantees may be used as grantees see fit to support their participation in one of two communities of practice (one in SF and one on the Peninsula) and to implement change projects that build community among parents. The grant period is July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2022.

Eligibility and Criteria:

  • Registered 501(c)3 nonprofit or organization with fiscal sponsorship
  • Serving San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma (we hope to offer a similar RFP in the East Bay)
  • Successful track record engaging Jewish families with young children (0-7) in ongoing (rather than episodic or one-off) programs
  • Priority to programs that focus on interfaith or inter-group families, Jews of Color, the LBGTQ community, multi-cultural populations, or families that are otherwise disconnected from Jewish life 
  • Alignment with the applying organization’s mission and growth plans 
  • Alignment with the Federation’s mission and funding policy on Israel-related programming
  • Strong organizational leadership and financial stability
  • Commitment to testing, learning, and iterating the approach in partnership with the Federation and other grantees
  • Availability of competent staff and organizational resources to implement the program

Additional Information:

Participation requirements include:

  • Identifying a professional in a leadership role who will commit to participating in the two-year cohort, attending six cohort meetings and one Day of Learning per year of the grant term
  • Appointing a parent to participate in the cohort within the first 60 days of the grant term who agrees to attend three cohort meetings and one Day of Learning per year of the grant term
  • Committing to full participation by organizational leadership in the Building Jewish Family Roots program over the 2-year program, including supporting culture change projects initiated through the program
  • Committing to providing release time for professional to participate fully in the cohort

Success Measures:

Grantees will measure progress and success through the following shared metrics and commit to surveying participants and reporting on progress annually. Evaluation coaching and support will be provided.

  • Increased interest in Jewish traditions/values/ customs
  • Increased confidence to engage with children in Jewish traditions/values/customs
  • Increased connection to other Jewish families
  • Increased connection to a Jewish group or community
  • Increased collaboration and shared knowledge among grantees
  • Enrollment in formal or informal Jewish learning options


For more information, visit the FAQ page.


Janet Harris
Director of Early Childhood Education and Family Engagement