Teen Initiative Tzedek Cohort

Grants to Advance Racial Justice, Civic Engagement, and Create Cultures of Diversity and Belonging for Jewish Teens

The Teen Initiative was established in 2017, with designated funding including a generous 1:1 match from the Jim Joseph Foundation, to expand the reach of meaningful Jewish teen engagement in the San Francisco-Bay Area, in ways that support the positive and healthy development of teens during their critical high school years. It has become evident in our current political and social climate that a deep commitment to social justice and change is compelling large numbers of teens to step forward and be counted. In response to this historic moment, and in alignment with the Federation’s goals to advance racial justice and deepen the connection and belonging for the full diversity of our Jewish community, the Teen Initiative launched a Request for Proposals (RFP) for teen-serving organizations that will expand or offer new programming and leadership development for teens in one or more of the following areas:

  • Advancement of racial justice in our schools, organizations, and/or our communities  
  • Participation in civic engagement 
  • Creating cultures of diversity, equity, and belonging for teens 

In addition to grant funding of up to $50,000, a key component of the Tzedek Cohort is a Community of Practice that will guide and support the professionals implementing these programs and builds a collaborative approach to creating systemic change throughout the Bay Area ecosystem of teens, parents, youth professionals, and organizations.


Grant Process

The Federation received 18 proposals from a range of local organizations including synagogues, schools, summer camps, and stand-alone teen organizations, totaling $818,000 in requested dollars. Proposals were reviewed by a Working Group comprised of members of the Teen Initiative Advisory Committee, Fed Fellows, and the Leadership Council of the Jewish Teen Foundation (7 teens).  This group looked to support organizations that aligned with the following criteria: 

  • Alignment with Goals: The proposal is designed to achieve one or more of the following goals:
    • Advancement of Racial Justice
    • Participation in Civic Engagement
    • Creating cultures of diversity and belonging
  • Quality of Proposal Plans and Budgets: The project or program design is clear and detailed. Budget and staffing plans reflect the number of teens served for the scope of the program/project.
  • Capacity and Staffing: The organization has the capacity to implement a program that will expand its reach to engage more teens.
  • Teen Involvement: Teens have been involved in developing the idea. There are plans for teens to support the implementation of the program.
  • Cohort Participation and commitment to systemic change: Evidence of contributions to the cohort and showing a commitment to systemic change in the areas of racial justice, civic engagement, and/or cultures of diversity and belonging. The proposal indicates buy-in and organizational support.


 The Working Group recommends funding 13 organizations and programs for a total amount of $627,500. We are inspired by the programs selected for this cohort and see the tremendous opportunity for these organizations to share resources and learn from one another over 18 months. The Teen Initiative will utilize the Community of Practice to work towards systemic and sustainable change for our community and will form pods within the group to build synergies for similar types of organizations and programs. As such, there will be a pod of 4 synagogues, a pod of summer camps and a high school, and a pod of community organizations. This approach has the potential to transform how we advance teen engagement by providing opportunities for meaningful collaboration around topics and causes that are important and relevant to our teens and community.

Tzedek Cohort (2021-2022)

  • Be’chol Lashon - Jews of Color Tzedek Teen Leaders 

    This multi-faceted project includes leadership development for 10-20 emerging diverse teen leaders, a mentorship program for these teens, and the implementation of Diversity Training Workshops for the broader teen community. This is a post Bar/Bat Mitzvah through high school program that strengthens Jewish identity by
    connecting young people to their rich multicultural heritage, engaging with unique cultures, and at the same time understanding the shared universal values that connect all Jews. 
  • Camp Ramah - Growing the Impact of Our Year-Round Teen Programming 

    This expansion of the Advah (“ripple”) Teen Leadership cohort and year-round teen programs will add focus on civic engagement, racial justice, and diversity. This includes growing and deepening partnerships with USY and local synagogues; adding new curriculum and programming elements, and building staff capacity through a dedicated DEI director. The goals are to institutionalize diverse practices at all levels (staff and lay leadership), and incorporate knowledge into our educational framework to create sustainable change.  
  • Contemporary Jewish Museum - Teen Leadership Fellows to Build Bias-Free Schools 

    The CJM seeks to empower teen leaders with the training and tools to become anti-bias teaching activists for their peers and teachers within San Francisco Bay Area high schools to address rising incidences of Anti-Semitism, hate speech, and hate crimes in our community and beyond. The Teen Leadership Fellows will be trained by experts in anti-bias, including ADL and the Holocaust Center, and will implement a “Teens Leading Change” program in spring 2022 for high school students, parents, and teachers – working through CJM’s established relationships with Bay Area schools.  
  • Contra Costa Midrasha (CCM) - Project Ezrach (Citizen)-  Empowering teens to be change-makers 

    Teens participating in Project Ezrach will fulfill a journey of growth involving three key strategies - education, advocacy, and service - empowering teens to become change-makers. This will include monthly learning seminars, a sustained and local service project, advocacy work with local and state lawmakers, and a Spring Break impact learning trip focused on an issue of their choosing.  
  • Eden Village West - Shomrei Tzedek Teen Justice Immersive 

    A new three-week summer session at Eden Village West will offer rising 9th-11th grade campers an opportunity to explore relevant social issues through the lens of Eden's values. Through hands-on service, engaging programming and discussion, and the opportunity to design a project to make a social impact when they return to their home communities, participants in Shomrei Tzedek will be given the tools to be effective change-makers and upstanding members of society. 
  •  Jewish Community High School (JCHS) - Social Justice Graduation Credit

    JCHS will implement a Social Justice Graduation Credit, required beginning with Class of 2025, to ensure that every graduating student will do so with proficiency in social justice learning standards. This will be accomplished through the completion of one of many courses offered across disciplines, or through a year-long Senior Keystone Project. The foundation for this school-wide endeavor will be accomplished through professional development training for all faculty and student leaders, and through the development of new curricular material grounded in anti-racism, social justice, and diversity. 
  • Jewish Film Institute (JFI) - JFI Social Change Film Fellowship for Teens

    The JFI Social Change Film Fellowship is a paid fellowship for twelve film fellows, between the ages of 13 and 18. The fellows will work as a team alongside professional staff and Filmmakers in Residence to craft and promote a series of screenings and conversations around JFI’s social justice films for other teens in the Bay Area. The Fellows will meet 15 times over the grant period and be trained on how to curate and produce a film festival, critically evaluate films, build panel discussions and social engagement inspired by the film, facilitate dialogues, interview filmmakers, and learn how to record and market online programs.
  • Jewish Community Free Clinic - Jewish Youth Advisory Board and Learning Cohort

    The Advisory Board/Tzedek Club is a new program that will provide a venue for local Jewish youth and others to expand their role in civic engagement, learn leadership skills, and work in collaboration with other teens addressing social justice issues within the organization and in the broader community. The goal is to teach teens skills in grant writing and fundraising to support non-profits addressing social issues, look internally to explore systemic racism in our community, and support the social justice work of JCFC as a safety net organization in Sonoma County. 
  • JYCA -  JAM (Jews Against Marginalization) Project Support 

    The goal of JAM is to build a safe, intentional cohort for youth with identities marginalized or underrepresented in the Jewish community so they may create a collective sense of identity affirmation and empowerment. JAM will run biweekly programs and while long-term goals include youth-led organizing, mentorship, and leadership development, JAM will begin primarily as a space for Jews of Color/Sephardi Mizrahi (JOCSM) youth to connect with one another for social connection and to create belonging.
  • Congregation Netivot Shalom (CNS)  -  Teen Social Justice Leadership Program  

    A leadership program dedicated to bringing CNS teens together to identify, explore and address social issues they deem most important and providing a platform to voice their perspectives and lead efforts within the larger synagogue community. The program will include educational, action-oriented, sustainability, and volunteer/work components, with the goal of elevating teens to be valued and seen as equal members of the social justice community and the congregation at large. 
  • The Jewish Teen Collective of Marin (JTC)  - A Project of Congregation Rodef Sholom

    JTC Marin is a new teen education program led by Congregation Rodef Sholom for teens county-wide which provides a space for teens to interact across different areas of community, culture, and connection. Extensive offerings include a biweekly social justice seminar taught by an expert teacher with two teen leaders, anti-Semitism programming and speaker series, a climate change seminar in partnership with Hazon, weekly current events conversations engaging teens across a wide variety of relevant topics, a monthly leadership series exploring facets of identity, leadership and community, a monthly gathering of LGBTQIA+ youth and allies to promote self-exploration and allyship within the Jewish community, and more. 
  • Temple Sinai  - YOZMA – Sinai Teen Leadership Initiative 

    This program educates and empowers teens to address social and racial justice issues in the East Bay, across the country, and around the world. As part of Temple Sinai’s longstanding tradition of diversity and commitment to social action, the YOZMA (Hebrew for Initiative) Teen Leadership Initiative will partner with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, MAZON, Oakland Unified School District, Alameda County Food Bank, and First Presbyterian Church. Teens will advocate for policy changes and work toward addressing systemic issues involving racial injustice and civic engagement. 
  • The Kitchen- Freedom City - On-the-Ground Workshops in Jewish Justice 

    Freedom City is a service-learning program for 8th-10th graders that brings them into proximity with the twin local injustices of homelessness and racism and prepares them to learn how to organize themselves and their communities to respond to these injustices. With this grant, Freedom City will add 11th and 12th grades and will expand teaching to include skills needed to organize and become activists, through building a leadership cohort of teens and deepening their “organizer-in-training” toolbox.


 Innovation Accelerator Cohort 1 (2017-2019)

  • BBYO - San Francisco/Marin Expansion and Enrichment Initiative 

    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.

    For diverse, busy Jewish teens who want memorable, exclusive experiences that they can't get anywhere else, and want to spend their valuable time on things that matter, our BBYO San Francisco/Marin experience is a teen-led, Jewish brotherhood and sisterhood that helps teens build lifelong friendships.
  • Camp Tawonga - Teen Year-Round Engagement & Leadership Development Program 

    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.

    For Bay Area teens who care about professional growth, work opportunities, communal experiences and mentoring kids, our Tawonga Teen Internship Program is a year-round immersive experience designed to foster a passion for working with kids and meaningful experiences with peers that promotes positive self-esteem, develops cooperative community and relevant professional development within the Jewish community.
  • Congregation Emanu-El – Teen Late Night Shabbat 

    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.

    For teens who want to explore their connection to community and spirituality, our teen engagement programs offer a vareity of experiences - Shabbat, leadership, and community building - that provide opportunities for Jewish education and personal growth.
  • The Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) – Museum Teen Council 

    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.

    For artistically-inclined teens who value self-expression and creative connections, The CJM's Museum Teen Council is a teen-centered programming collaborative that builds diverse artistic community through the lens of culture and identity.
  • JCC of San Francisco – Teen Arts Immersion Program (TAIP) 

    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.

    For teens who desire exclusive, "behind the scenes" experiences of Bay Area arts and culture and share a concern for the social issues present in these articistic experiences, TAIP offers the opportunity to connect these pieces to deeply rooted Jewish values and wisdom and to their everyday lives.
  • Jewish Youth for Community Action (JYCA) and Peninsula JCC – P-JYCA 

    A youth-led, social justice program for Jewish teens, the Peninsula-JYCA is a partnership program of 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.

    For Jewish youth and their allies who want to create a more just world who are looking for a community of peers to engage in activism with, Peninsula-JYCA offers an opportunity to be a part of a youth-led, Jewish social justice community where youth take action, learn, and build authentic, joyful connections together.
  • Oshman Family Jewish Community Center – ACT

    A diverse array of community service opportunities blended with high-energy activities, social development, team building, Jewish learning, and reflection.

    For Jewish teens post Bar/Bat Mitzvah who seek connections to friends, development of useful life skills, a sense of purpose, and meaningful involvement in Jewish life post-B'nei Mitzvah, the ACT Fully Fellowship is a teen-led service learning and leadership program combined with recreational social team building activities that will teach valuable life skills through experiential education, create strong bonds with friends, deepen exploration of Jewish values, and build connections with organizations that do essential work in the community.
  • NCSY – Jewish Student Union (JSU) Culture Clubs 

    NCSY runs JSU culture clubs 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.

    For Jewish San Francisco teens in grades 8-12 who are interested in Jewish topics, values, and a social environment, our educational and fun JSU programming are weekly opportunities that allow teens to explore their heritage and Israel, connect with other Jewish teens, and develop a strong Jewish identity.


For more information, please contact:
Michele Levine
Director, Teen Initiative