Teen Initiative Tzedek Cohort: Grants for Racial Justice, Civic Engagement, and Cultures of Diversity and Belonging for Jewish Teens

Background and Purpose:

Throughout history, our country has a successful track record of youth-led activism. Teens have played significant roles leading social change from the civil rights movement of the 1960s to the present-day activism around climate change, gun violence, and police brutality.  It is our responsibility as adults who care about teens to continue to empower them so that they may lead us to create the world they wish to see.  Our society and communities are facing trying times, and what we do now, will have lasting effects for years to come.

The San Francisco-Bay Area Teen Initiative was established in 2017 to expand the reach of meaningful Jewish teen programs to support the positive and healthy development of more teens during their critical high school years. It has become evident in our current political and social climate that a deep commitment to social change and justice is compelling large numbers of teens to step forward and be counted. Creating opportunities for engagement within Jewish contexts will not only support the resilience of our Jewish community in the era of COVID but will also build relevance for today’s teens in Jewish life and will create environments that reflect the diversity and intersectionality of our community.

“Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdoff: Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue” - Deuteronomy 16:20

Guided by Jewish values of tzedek (pursuing justice) and tikkun olam (building a better world), the Teen Initiative seeks to honor this historic moment in time by providing grants to organizations that will expand or offer new programming and leadership development for Jewish teens in one or more of the following areas:

  1. Advancement of racial justice in our schools, organizations, and/or our communities 
  2. Participation in civic engagement
  3. Creating cultures of diversity and belonging for teens

In this moment of reckoning, we must foster awareness, create capacity, develop action plans, and mobilize our Jewish community to further a vision that inspires our young people to be agents of change. From engaging teens in direct service to cultivating our capacity to create cultural belonging within our own programming, we can drive towards the systemic change that needs to happen in our organizations and within our communities. Our future depends on it and our young people can lead the way.

 Proposal Guidelines:

‘We make the road by walking.’ - Paolo Freire, author and activist

The Federation is pleased to launch the Tzedek Cohort to support meaningful teen engagement in advancing racial justice, participating in civic engagement, and creating cultures of diversity and belonging.  We seek organizations and programs committed to empowering teen leadership, and that are interested in building a collaborative approach to creating systemic change throughout the Bay Area ecosystem of teens, parents, youth professionals, and organizations.

Strength comes in numbers. We believe in the power of coalitions and networks, and we encourage collaboration with others within the Jewish community or in the non-sectarian world.

Qualified applicants will demonstrate:

  • Track record of success in teen engagement.
  • Commitment to advancing the principals of racial justice, civic engagement, and/or creating cultures of diversity and belonging.
  • Inclusion of teen voice and leadership in program development and implementation.
  • Organizational capacity to implement a program that will expand its reach to engage more teens.
  • Eagerness to participate as part of a cohort to drive systemic change, share learning, and support growth in the field of teen engagement.

Grants Offered:

Grants up to $50,000 will be awarded for an 18-month grant term (Jan 2021-June 30, 2022).

Funding may support program expenses and direct staffing and will be coupled with training, coaching, and evaluation as part of a cohort.

Additional Information:

Cohort Participation: Our goal is to create a collaborative approach to systemic change that will focus on justice, racial equity, and creating cultures of belonging in our teen programs, organizations, and communities.

This cohort of grantees will build a community of practice, convened by the Federation, that will support the implementation of their programs while also looking to create systemic change in our community. The community of practice will set shared outcomes and measures of success and will take a participatory approach to create this change.  We are looking for partners committed to collectively identifying and designing solutions for our community. This will include personal work, organizational reflection, and engaging teens to lead this change.

Organizations selected for the Tzedek Cohort must make an 18-month commitment to cohort participation, including:

  • 10 Community of Practice sessions for peer learning and collaboration via Zoom.
  • Contributions of time and wisdom to shape the educational content of the Community of Practice.
  • Report on successes and challenges throughout the grant term and participate in evaluation activities for the Teen Initiative locally and on a national level, which may include surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
  • Participation in Jewish LearningWorks’ monthly “Spotlight on Social Justice” workshops.

Eligibility and Criteria:

  • Registered 501(c)3 non-profit or organization with fiscal sponsorship within the Federation’s Service Area.
  • Successful track record working with Jewish teens.
  • 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.
  • Availability of competent staff and organizational resources to implement the program.
  • Commit to participating in evaluation activities for the Teen Initiative locally and on a national level, which may include surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
  • Participation in Jewish LearningWorks’ Service Learning Immersive focusing on Social Justice for youth professionals is encouraged but not required. Note the deadline for enrollment is October 15th, 2020.

Measures of Success:

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of 10 communities participating in a Funder Collaborative driving towards Shared Measures of Success to increase Positive Outcomes for Jewish Teens including:

  • Jewish teens have a stronger sense of self.
  • Jewish teens feel a sense of pride in being Jewish.
  • Jewish teens have experience learning that has been both challenging and valuable.
  • Jewish teens establish strong friendships.
  • Jewish teens develop strong and healthy relationships with their families.
  • Jewish teens develop significant relationships with mentors, role models, and educators.
  • Jewish teens are able to express their values and ethics in relation to Jewish principles and wisdom.
  • Jewish teens feel connected to their various communities.
  • Jewish teens develop the desire to be part of the Jewish people, now and in the future.
  • Jewish teens are inspired and empowered to make a positive difference in various communities.

The Teen Initiative is a project of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, with generous support from the Jim Joseph Foundation and a consortium of local funders.


Apply Here


Action Timeline
Proposal Submission November 12, 2020, at 5:00 pm PDT
Grantees Informed Friday, December 18, 2020
Grant Term January 1, 2021-June 30, 2022
The Community of Practice Launch January 2021
Final Report

August 2022


Applicants are encouraged to contact Michele Levine, Director of Teen Initiatives, for guidance or to answer questions before applying. 

For more information, visit the FAQ page.


Michele Levine
Director of Teen Initiatives