The Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee is distributing about $2 million to organizations, congregations and agencies throughout the local Jewish community here in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, regionally, nationally, and internationally. The grants are the single largest infusion of funds that support services and programs locally each year and represent approximately 85% of the total funds raised by The Jewish Federation annual campaign. Jewish Federation CEO Eric Stillman says, “We are pleased to be able to provide assistance to every single agency and congregation in our community. And this year we once again were impressed by the applications for Innovation Grants.” And according to Grants Committee Co-Chair Gary Fradkin, the recent Pew Study report provided insights in how best to engage and support the community. “We looked at the implications of the study results and knew we had to continue to support creative programming and involve untraditional populations, particularly young people who are not yet involved in a big way,” he says.
This year early efforts at re-tooling the grants process paid off. Fradkin says, “We began earlier than usual to think about this year. We were challenged to create a process coming out of a pandemic and to engage committee members in new ways.” One of the key changes implemented this year was the creation of four committee sub-groups, each tasked with a different aspect of the grants process. Ellie Flier, Co-Chair of the committee says, “The role of the committee members was expanded. We made an effort to put the action back to the committee members, and we think it was very successful.” The four sub-groups were: agency relations, which looked at the grants form and made adjustments to streamline the process; data collection, which reviewed various studies to better understand the range of needs; beneficiary agency status, which helped to better define agency eligibility; and Innovation Grants, which served as liaison to the agencies that applied for these grants.
There were also two important highlights this year. The first was a new way of approaching Innovation Grants. Organizations are now eligible to apply for these types of grants for three years, although there is no guarantee of funding in years two and three. This year there were 17 applications, three of which had already received one year of funding. A highlight was a grant that would help create Nashville’s own Moishe House, a residential house for young adults that also serves as a hub for community wide social and religious programming. The Federation’s grant for the project is part of a package from several funding sources. Adam Bronstone, Director of Planning and Israel Partnerships with The Jewish Federation says, “Our relationship with Moishe House will be different from in other communities. We want to be more involved as a partner to help it be successful and the folks leading the project are happy about that.” And Becca Groner, one of the founders of Moishe House, says thanks to the Jewish Federation’s support, the previous Moshe House Without Walls model can be expanded, “After being a Moishe House Without Walls host for two years in Nashville, mostly hosting small programs, I’m looking forward to broadening Moishe House’s reach and co-hosting programs with my fellow residents, Shea Northfield and Rose Capin. We are overjoyed to become a part of the thriving young Jewish community in Nashville and provide a physical space for community members to gather.”
Another highlight of this year’s grants was the creation of a pool of funding to be set aside for community-wide collaborative programming. Co-Chair Gary Fradkin says, “We were very happy with how our local congregational clergy works together and the committee wanted to encourage more collaboration between them.”
This year’s grants process was a reflection of last year’s need to pivot during the pandemic and how the community has been altered, perhaps for the long term. Bronstone says one of those changes was realizing the benefits of the virtual experience. “This year’s Mission Possible, for example, allowed committee members to Zoom into sessions with overseas partners to gain deeper insights into the work and impact of our Federation globally.” Another significant change was using an online portal for grants applications. “The organizations really seemed to enjoy the process. It did a good job of providing easy access to apply.” He says he hopes to continue using virtual tools in the coming year and would like to see it expanded even further. Additionally, he says the changes made this year really helped the committee members become invested in the process, which bodes very well for the future. Gary Fradkin is ending his role as committee Co-Chair and encourages others to become similarly involved. “It was a wonderful opportunity to serve my community. I learned so much and I would tell anyone who is asked to serve to definitely do it.”