SJCC Spring 2020 Magazine

Check out the spring issue of the SJCC Magazine to see everything going on at the J this spring.

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This Fall at the J

The J is celebrating 50 years in Mercer Island, and 70 years in greater Seattle. Take a look at all the wonderful classes, events, and programs we’ve got for you and your family. 

Download the SJCC fall magazine.



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Putting their money where their values are

So many of us start to figure out who we are and what we believe in during our teen years. We discover we have strong opinions and a voice that’s worth listening to. As the participants of the Stroum Jewish Community Center’s Giving Initiative for Teens discovered, that can be a powerful feeling.

“It’s important to use your voice,” said 17-year-old Boaz Malakoff. “You can’t be afraid to be the lone voice advocating for what you believe in.”

Malakoff, a junior at Mercer Island High School, was one of 34 high schoolers participating in the J’s new philanthropy program, the Giving Initiative for Teens (GIFT). It’s part of a national program that teaches teens about grant-making, non-profit management, fundraising, and Jewish values. It encourages engagement in the community and empowers teens to be part of the grant-making process from start to finish, as they work together to raise and allocate funds to distribute to local non-profits.

The results of the inaugural year? More than $21,000 in grants and a group of engaged and energized teens who are confident in standing up for what they believe in.

Guided by the Jewish values of “compassion” and “do not stand idly by,” the teens selected two funding priorities for the year: domestic violence and mental health.

They conducted site visits of the applicant organizations, which inspired 16-year-old Danielle Lavitt, because it brought their priorities into focus. “I don’t have to face these challenges in my daily life, so it was good to get insight into the issues that exist and what people really need,” she said.

Taking the things they learned during the site visits and making decisions that would have measurable impact was important to Matt Feldman, 16. “It’s about helping people and seeing the impact our values can have on others.”

When it came time to decide which organizations to award grants to, Malakoff said the discussions were always lively and passionate, and helped him realize his belief system can be applied outside of synagogue. “It showed me that Judaism can have a real-world impact beyond the spiritual aspect,” he said. “GIFT helped me figure out how to use Jewish values to make a difference.”

Not only did the program get the teens to explore their Jewish values, it also connected them to Jewish teens from across the community. Although the participants all come from Jewish backgrounds—attending Jewish summer camps, having a bar/bat mitzvah, or participating in youth groups—Lavitt noted that it can be hard to stay connected when they’re pulled in so many different directions. “It’s hard to get to temple as often as I used to, but my monthly GIFT meetings helped me stay connected to the community and to other Jewish teens,” she said.

The first year of GIFT wrapped up on May 22 with a Grant Ceremony to award the money they had raised to six local organizations: Eastside Legal Assistance Program, Jewish Family Service, Kent Youth and Family Services, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, Mary’s Place, and Sound Mental Health.

Applications are now open for the 2019-20 school year. Mentors and teachers can also nominate students. Details and application forms can be found here. Application deadline is May 31.

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Giving Initiative for Teens Request for Proposal

The Giving Initiative For Teens (GIFT) is a teen-led foundation board that engages Jewish high school students in philanthropy, community needs, and Jewish values around giving. At the end of the 2018-2019 academic year, GIFT boards will allocate funds for micro-grants in the community. For the academic year, there are two GIFT boards with each board focusing on a different funding priority. Throughout the year, the GIFT board members have used consensus in their respective boards to come together on Jewish values that will guide their work, their funding priorities, and, ultimately, where the grants will be distributed.

The GIFT Boards have selected the following missions to support in 2019:

  • Domestic Violence: Guided by the Jewish values of compassion and not standing idly by, the Giving Initiative For Teens is committed to funding programs in Puget Sound Region that support and protect domestic violence victims and educate the community on domestic violence prevention.
  • Mental Health Issues: Through the guidance of the Jewish values of compassion and not standing idly by, the Giving Initiative For Teens will support organizations improving the lives of those affected by mental health issues in the Puget Sound Region.


Application Criteria

  • Must complete and submit the grant application by Monday, January 28, 2019, at 12:00 PST
  • Must be a non-profit organization with a 501 (c)(3) status
  • Must support people in the Puget Sound Region
  • Must directly address one of two funding priorities
    1. Provide services for victims of domestic violence and/or domestic violence prevention education
    2. Provide services for mental health illnesses and issues
  • Grants requests up to $4,000 will be considered
  • Include projected budget for the program. You may use the template provided or attach your own.
  • Awardees will be expected to complete a report following the execution of the project.


Application Review Process

  • All applications must be emailed to Jessica Ost, Program Manager, by Monday, January 28, 2019 at 12:00 PST, at
  • Non-profit organizations that GIFT chooses to move forward to site visits/having a representative meet with GIFT teens will be contacted the week of February 11, 2019
  • Site visits will take place the following dates and times:
    • Domestic Violence: March 4-8, 4:30 pm
    • Mental Health: March 11-15, 4:30 pm
  • If your organization is chosen for a site visit/meeting, Jessica Ost will contact you the week of February 11 to organize a date and time during that week.
  • If your organization’s location is confidential and visitors may not come to the location, representatives must be available come to the GIFT board meeting on Sunday, March 3.
  • Recipients must be available to receive check at Grant Ceremony on Wednesday, May 22 from 7-9 pm at the Stroum Jewish Community Center.
  • All applicants will be informed of their status by April 5.


View RFP

Budget Worksheet

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