Jewish Federation allocates the funds
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Jewish Federation allocates the funds

Senior meals programs beefed up; at-risk Israeli youths will be helped

Nature therapy, including rock climbing will be offered to at-risk teens in Israel.
Nature therapy, including rock climbing will be offered to at-risk teens in Israel.

The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey is taking more responsibility for funding kosher meals for the elderly. This is one of the results of the charity’s recently completed annual allocations process.

“The senior population in our area is growing, with more people choosing to age in place,” said Jayne Petak, the federation’s president. “Providing opportunities for good nutrition and valuable socialization is critical to enable seniors to age in place with grace and dignity.”

The federation has increased its allocations to the senior meals programs at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly and the Bergen County Y by $80,000. (Although the Y has closed, administrators still are running some programs for seniors.) The programs serve 450 people, totaling 15,500 meals annually. These meals programs also receive support from the JCCs, the Jewish Family Service agencies, and Bergen County government.

“It’s not just feeding people,” said Lisa Harris Glass of the senior meals programs. Ms. Glass is the federation’s ‎managing director for community planning and impact. “There are all kinds of requirements for programming and health-related things that have to happen.”

Allocations for Kosher Meals on Wheels remain constant, as do those for most of the programs that the federation funded last year.

Overall, the federation is funding 46 organizations and programs. Eighteen of them are overseas; the largest are the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The federation’s planning and allocations committee decided to fund three new international programs this year. In Nahariya, North Jersey’s twinned city, the federation will begin paying for an afterschool retreat house, called a bayit cham center, for at-risk boys, as well as a program that connects New Jersey and Nahariya high schools with a focus on science and technology education.

The third new program is a departure from the federation’s usual focus on Nahariya: The Jerusalem Foundation’s Yaelim Center, which offers educational nature therapy to at-risk youths.

“What we loved about it was that it was for Jewish and Arab youths together,” Ms. Glass said.

Ms. Glass said the grant was motivated by a recent Pew study from Israel that reported that a quarter of all Israeli first-graders are Arab and a quarter are charedi.

“The Arabs and the charedim don’t serve in the army,” she said. “That means in 11 short years, half of the eligible people aren’t going to serve. The IDF is the great fulcrum of Israeli national identity building. For the sake of the nation, we better find a way to normalize the relationships, to build positive relationships between Arabs and charedim and other Jewish people in Israel.”

Locally, the federation expanded its allocations to two new organizations this year. It set aside money for the Paterson Hebrew Free Loan Association, which provides interest-free loans for Jews in Bergen and Passaic Counties. And it funded Yachad, which serves people with developmental disabilities, to enable a program for vocational certification with the Jewish Home Family.

Jayne Petak discusses the range of federation programs.
Jayne Petak discusses the range of federation programs.

The federation announced a change in how it will support the area’s Jewish day schools, which an estimated third of the community’s children attend.

“There are over 5,000 kids in that system,” Ms. Glass said. “There’s not enough campaign money anywhere to significantly underwrite tuition. That challenges us to be more creative about how we can make the money work.”

Ms. Glass said the federation has been doing that by helping the Orthodox Union’s advocacy efforts for increased state funding for private schools.

“When they make inroads into state funding that increases the per capita they get for nursing, security, and textbooks, that’s capacity building for the schools,” she said.

Last year, the federation paid for a marketing director to work on behalf of all the day schools.

After evaluating the program, however, “We found it was nice to have, but was it critically impacting them? It was not,” Ms. Glass said. It was discontinued.

Instead, this year the federation will allocate money directly to the day schools. The amount will be divided on a per-student basis, giving each school a sum of money. And each school will present an idea of how it wants to spend that money.

“We’re not going to have them jump through a million hoops,” Ms. Glass said. “We want them to use the money impactfully.”

Bruce Brafman, the chair of the planning and allocations committee, said, “Allocating finite resources to the community is always a challenge, but we are confident that we are investing our time and money in the strategic programs and areas that will have the most positive overall impact on the northern New Jersey Jewish community.”

“We have 31 volunteers on the committee,” Ms. Glass said. “These 31 people put in an unbelievable amount of time, visiting agencies, reading mid-year reports, and reading requests for proposals.”

The committee’s recommendations were approved by the federation’s board at its May 26 meeting.

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