Zachary Benjamin | CEO Jewish Long Beach
Statistics from the Pew Research Center and various Jewish communities’ demographic studies have indicated that Passover is the Jewish holiday in which the highest number of American Jews participate. Indeed, many of us cherish childhood memories of reading the Four Questions, slowly navigating our way through the newly-learned Hebrew script. We relished the adrenaline rush we experienced as we spotted the tiniest corner of white napkin peeking out from behind a flower pot, realizing that we had found the elusive Afikomen. We recall the ritual retelling of the Exodus, the gradual consumption of the contents of the Seder plate, and the opening of the door for the prophet Elijah, perhaps struggling a bit against temptation to doze as the hour grew late.
Perhaps the most important function of Jewish Long Beach is to help ensure that the type of joy in Jewish peoplehood engendered by these moments remain aflame in every Long Beach-area Jewish soul, and that they are passed with pride from generation to generation. A primary means of fostering Jewish identity and engagement is through our Building Jewish Life Grants and our Ignite the Power of Community Innovations Grants. Through these grants, Jewish Long Beach funds projects and programs of Long Beach-area Jewish agencies and congregations that advance Jewish identity, peoplehood, and service.
Now in its second year, our grants program fosters collaboration between organizations and the sharing of resources, bringing innovative programs to our community and helping local institutions provide critical services. Programs supported last year by Jewish Long Beach grants included:
• Small-group counseling and classroom workshops to support the mental health and emotional well-being of Hebrew Academy Orange County students. This project was offered jointly with Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Long Beach and West Orange County.
• Attendance of a Long Beach-area delegation, led by Beth David, at the L’Taken Social Justice Seminar in Washington, DC.
• Temple Israel’s “Staying Engaged in Jewish Life Post-College” program, engaging young post-college adults in Jewish life.
• Volunteer training for Ethel’s Chicken Soup, a program of Chabad of Los Alamitos.
• Support for Jewish Family and Children’s Services’ Holocaust Survivor Program, supporting vulnerable, low-income survivors of the Holocaust living alone.
• And many more.
While our Building Jewish Life Grants will continue to serve individual organizations seeking funding for community-wide programs, our Ignite the Power of Community Innovation Grants are designed for organizations working in partnership to create opportunities for Jewish engagement, education, and service.
This year’s funding themes include:
• Jewish Education, including young adult engagement, camp, Holocaust remembrance and understanding, finding entry into the Jewish community, and Jewish education across Jewish movements.
• Community Engagement, including Tikkun Olam and social justice partnerships, outreach to promote understanding of Jewish community within the broader community, combating anti-Semitism, creating points of contact for non-engaged young Jewish families, and teen engagement.
• Jewish Pluralism, including programs providing access to resources for interfaith families, building bridges across Jewish denominations, and fostering inter-generational relationships.
• Engaging with Israel and the World, which includes building cultural bridges, partnerships, and engagement with community groups and organizations, plus incubator programs and other programs that connect Long Beach and West Orange County with Israeli business and culture, as well as with other overseas Jewish communities.
We are committed to growing the pool of available grant funds and to expanding the diversity of programs and organizations supported by our grants, with the goal of increasing funds available by more than double within the next two years. We hope to accomplish this though both careful management of investments and more impactful financial resource development tactics, including frequent features across media platforms that tell the stories of those impacted by Jewish Long Beach-funded programs, and how these programs are igniting the power of Jewish community among Long Beach-area Jews of all streams and walks of life.
All of us at Jewish Long Beach hope that this Passover yields unforgettable Jewish moments for you and your families, and we look forward to being part of your family’s Jewish journey, throughout the life cycle, for generations to come.