Federation Announces Its 2024 Allocations

In February, the Allocations Committee of Jewish Federation of the Berkshires announced its recommended allocations for 2024. In all, $452,200 will be distributed to worthy organizations in the Berkshires and beyond.

“As Jews, we recognize that the world is bigger than us,” said Allocations Committee chair Judy Usow. “Bigger than just our congregation or favorite Jewish organization. Bigger than just our Berkshire Jewish community. The Talmud teaches us that ‘kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh’ – all of Israel is responsible for one another. Through our allocation process, we accept this notion of communal responsibility and commit to the larger efforts to care for those in need and sustain the Jewish community wherever Jews in the world need us.”

With the war in Israel and the pressures on college campuses, the Federation decided to simplify their grant process this year, asking Israel and college grantees to two questions regarding what services and support they have been providing in Israel or on campus in response to the war, and their greatest need for funding was.

The funding allocated is drawn from the Federation’s annual campaign, endowment funds, donor-directed gifts, and other sources. They are separate from the $329,000 Federation raised and allocated as part of its Israel crisis relief campaign launched after October 7.  

BERKSHIRE YOUTH: Jewish Education, Jewish Camp, and Israel Experience Scholarships ($158,395)

In 2022, a Federation education task force created a new grant application to promote innovation in Jewish education. The committee funded Jewish education grants for the four Jewish religious schools in Berkshire County – Congregation Beth Israel, Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, Knesset Israel, and Temple Anshe Amunim – to support the 121 students enrolled for the 2024-2025 school year.   

The committee allocated funds for overnight Jewish camp scholarships to provide a joyous identity-building experience for Jewish youth. Federation received requests from 40 prospective campers, a 35 percent increase in the number of kids attending camp compared to 2023. The committee recommended an allocation to fully fund overnight camp scholarships this year, supplemented by contributions from the Maislen Fund and Jewish Woman’s Foundation of the Berkshires. 

Additionally, the committee allocated funds for financial assistance for full-time Berkshire families sending children to URJ Camp Eisner day camp in Great Barrington – families can receive up to $100 per week in assistance per child.

The committee also allocated funds for young adults aged 18 to 26 who participate in Birthright Israel, a 10-day immersive journey exploring their Jewish heritage alongside a diverse community of Jewish and Israeli peers.

REGIONAL: College Campus Engagement, and Honoring Our Past ($28,900)

During this hostile and challenging time on college campuses, the committee awarded UMASS Hillel in Amherst a grant to support the work of their Campus Israel Fellow and support increased security and food costs due to many more students seeking a community connection. The Williams College Jewish Association also received an allocation to support increased student attendance at Shabbat dinners and open these dinners up to invite the broader Jewish community and craft balanced discussions and programming to build connection and support for Jewish students on campus.  

The committee also provided meaningful financial support so that Ahavath Sholem Cemetery can be maintained in a safe and dignified manner. The cemetery was started by a Pittsfield congregation that no longer exists.

GLOBAL: Strengthening Our Global Jewish Community ($192,405)

As they do every year, our Israel and overseas partner agencies, The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and World ORT each received meaningful contributions to implement programs that save lives, build resiliency, and support Jewish life in Israel and in fragile Jewish communities around the world.

The war in Israel, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, and rising antisemitism across the globe have required a significant mobilization of resources by Jewish Federations. In an effort to provide the greatest flexibility in maintaining existing programs while allowing our partners to respond to the rapidly changing needs in Israel and across the globe, the committee allocated unrestricted funds to our partners to help them meet these needs.

Many of our partner’s traditional programs are ongoing and have been re-structured to address the immediate needs of Israelis at this moment and the challenging impact the war is having on Jews across the globe. We encourage you to visit their websites to learn more about their life-saving work: jewishagency.org, jdc.org, and ort.org.   

RELIGIOUS PLURALISM: iRep — The Israel Religious Expression Platform ($10,000)

The committee provided funding for iRep, a program of Jewish Federations of North America. iRep is a coalition of Jewish Federations and foundations that work together to advance legitimacy and provide funding support to organizations supporting Jewish religious diversity in Israel. Priority areas include marriage freedom, pluralistic options for celebrating Bar/Bar mitzvahs, meaningful options to celebrate Jewish holidays for all Israelis, and working with decision-makers on promoting Jewish diversity.

LIVING BRIDGES WITH ISRAEL: Afula-Gilboa Partnership, Arts Collaboration ($23,000)

The Partnership2Gether program in which we and 11 other New England federations participate connects us to the Afula-Gilboa region of Israel and fosters personal connections among our communities. This investment of Federation funds in Afula-Gilboa will continue to benefit the lives of children, women, and young people at risk and support NGO non-profits working for coexistence and humanitarian initiatives.

Funds will be directed to the collaboration between the Mishkan Museum of Art in Ein Harod and the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. “Art Pen Pals” is a program that brings together high school students from Israel and the Berkshires to communicate through continuous collaborative drawings to allow students to see beyond the media stereotypes and get to know one another on a human level. Federation funds will enable Israeli students to participate with their Berkshire peers.

ISRAELI SOCIAL SERVICES: Other Israel-directed allocations will benefit small nonprofits ($39,500)

  • Yad L’Kashish – A Jerusalem workshop supporting senior artisans, providing a sense of empowerment and essential services. Federation funds will cover the cost of breakfasts and lunches for one week for 125 elderly participants.
  • Israel Association for Child Protection (ELI) – Provider of prevention and treatment services for children suffering emotional and sexual abuse, as well as support for their families. Federation’s allocation will fund more therapists needed as a result of the trauma inflicted during the October 7th attack.
  • Haifa Women’s Crisis Shelter – Federation’s allocation will support the increased number of women coming into the shelter and to support transitional housing.
  • Ethiopian National Project – Federation funds will enable students to participate in the SPACE Scholastic Assistance program in Afula.
  • Neve Michael Children’s Village – Therapy and counseling for youth arriving at this multi-disciplinary therapeutic facility for children/youth at risk will be funded in part by Federation dollars.
  • Meir Panim – Its six restaurant-style soup kitchens serve Israel’s poor and hungry of all backgrounds with dignity, as does its extensive meal delivery program – more than 1 million meals annually. Federation’s allocation will provide meals for some of the 2,000 families displaced since Oct.7 and an additional 6,000 meals prepared daily for IDF soldiers.

Thank You, Committee Members!

Many thanks to the members of our Allocations Committee: Judy Usow (Chair), Arlene Schiff, Elisa Schindler Frankel, Gail Orenstein, Aviva Wichler, Stephanie Ilberg-Lamm, Ellen Masters, Tom Sawyer, Liz Miller, Scott Hochfelder, Ann Falchuk, Audrey Weiner, Ken Fishman, Josh Cutler, Judy Cook, and Executive Director Dara Kaufman.

Shown in the image above is Neve Michael Children's Village