To Life! Reflections on a Legacy of Caring
By Vivian Henoch, Editor myJewishDetroit
November 30, 2015
As in many cities across the country today, Detroit no longer has a “Jewish hospital.” Most fortunately, however, the legacy of Sinai Hospital is alive and well, living today through the work of The Jewish Fund.
It’s been 18 years since the sale proceeds from Sinai Hospital established The Jewish Fund – a foundation conceived to support and promote the health and well being of the whole community through thoughtful, purposeful grantmaking.
Repair the World, Kids Kicking Cancer, City Year Detroit, Starfish Family Services, Authority Health’s Nurse Family Partnership, Summer in the City, JARC, Forgotten Harvest, Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Service, Hebrew Free Loan, JVS, JCC, Jewish Senior Life, Kadima, Tamarack Camps, Hillel of Metro Detroit, Friendship Circle . . . these are but a random sampling of the hundreds of organizations that have touched thousands of lives thanks to grants from The Jewish Fund over those 18 years. Dedicated to life.
Reflections on a milestone year
We live in extreme times. In her opening remarks at the Annual Meeting held in November, Margo Pernick, Executive Director of The Jewish Fund, said it best for all in attendance when she reflected, “The number 18 is often associated with the Hebrew word chai which translates as life. We have come to witness the fragility of life on a regular basis, through international and local outrageous acts on one extreme to the sorrow-filled taking of one’s own life by a growing number of teens on another extreme.
“This past Sunday at our teen board meeting, one of our former, long-term board members told a group of 30 teenagers that while we all want to live happy lives, nothing brings more satisfaction than helping others to live a better life. I think that’s why each of us – board members, community activists, volunteers, service providers and funders – do what we do.”
“I often thought that giving money away would be easy. What a fun thing to do!” Describing the day-to-day work of The Jewish Fund, Board Chair Karen Sosnick Schoenberg observes, “For a group of 36 board members to determine the best and most meaningful use of our funds requires continuous discussion, learning, some level of disagreement and reflection, but, ultimately, consensus on our answer to tough questions: What is best for our mission? How can our dollars affect change in our community? What will happen if we don’t support a given community program or service? And what difference will our grant make in the lives of the people for who it is directed? Fortunately for all of us, The Jewish Fund is one of many resources in the Detroit area that support not-for-profit or impact organizations. We frequently work collaboratively with other organizations and individual donors in our area, and we address community needs knowing that the more hands on deck the smoother the ship will sail.”
Follow the funding to the foundation’s grantees and you will meet the most wonderful, hardest-working, community-minded people in all of Detroit. Of special note are the recipients of the Robert Sosnick Award of Excellence, bestowed each year to an organization that represents “the ideals, the innovation, the collaboration and the impact that were the hallmarks of Mr. Sosnick’s leadership and vision” in helping to establish the foundation.
This year’s recipient of the Robert Sosnick Award is Hebrew Free Loan in recognition of Project HEAL, an interest-free loan program developed in 2010, and still going strong to support access to medical and dental care for vulnerable members of the community.
Past recipients of the Robert Sosnick Award
As past Robert Sosnick Awardees consistently demonstrate, capacity-building grants from The Fund have an impressive track record of helping agencies grow their donor support, as well as to improve their organizational structure.
2013: Fair Food Network
2012: Forgotten Harvest
2010: Summer in the City
2008: Jewish Senior Life/JVS – Dorothy & Peter Brown Jewish Community Adult Day Care Program
2007: Jewish Family Service – Project Chessed
2006: Jewish Community Center – Kids Altogether
2005: City Year Detroit
2001: Kids Kicking Cancer
2000: JVS/ Jewish Senior Life – Assisted Meals Program
Investing in the future: giving teens the power of grantmaking
Ahead of the curve in the growing trend of teen philanthropy, The Jewish Fund launched the first Jewish Teen Board in the state of Michigan with tremendous success. Last year, 29 high school students committed themselves to learning about community needs, how to assess grant proposals and make allocations based on consensus-based decision making. The year-long program engaged Jewish youth from throughout metro-Detroit with diverse religious affiliation and community involvement. And the results were impressive. The teens awarded four grants totaling $50,000 to JARC, Ruth Ellis Center, Starfish Family Services and The Guidance Center. Given the level of interest demonstrated by the teens, The Jewish Fund has developed a second year teen board and expanded leadership opportunities, along with an alumni program to further the impact of this experience.
In keeping with its mission, The Jewish Fund emphasizes support of health and social welfare services which benefit vulnerable Jewish people in the community and the improvement of health for vulnerable people in the broader community. Additionally, The Fund supports innovative initiatives that enhance the historic bond between the Jewish community and Detroit. Grants are reviewed twice a year in May and November. To learn more, please visit www.thejewishfund.org or contact Margo Pernick, Executive Director 248-203-1487 or Pernick@jfmd.org