Comprehensive Plan Amendment Update

As mentioned in previous blogs, we applied for a new land use designation through the City of Mercer Island with our neighbors, the French American School of Puget Sound and Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation. This step would ultimately lead to a new zone with building and use standards more consistent with the programs and services our organizations deliver. It would also allow us to work toward our future development with an eye on master planning, key elements of modern development, and continued respect for our neighborhood.

The first step of this process was completed on November 21, 2018, when the City Council approved the Community Facilities land use designation. On December 13, the City of MI hosted a community meeting to capture neighbor and broader-MI resident concerns and interests related to this land use designation and subsequent zone. On January 23, 2019, the city issued the first draft of the code and hosted another community meeting on January 24, to capture responses to that draft. The broader effort is still marching toward a reading of the zone guidelines at the April City Council meeting. Discussion and an approval/rejection voting process will follow that.

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JResponse: Coming Together for Pittsburgh

By Shoshanah Horne, J Camp Director

As I sit in the airport waiting for my now 5-hour delayed flight I have some time to reflect on my experience being in Pittsburgh for the past 6 days. 

The Pittsburgh community is welcoming, honest, and warm. You feel it as soon as you enter the airport. Every person from the greater Pittsburgh community I interacted with was incredibly kind and genuine. In my LYFT from the airport to my hotel at 12:30 am I was exhausted knowing I had to wake up at 6 am to shower and get ready to go to the JCC. With a three-hour time difference I was feeling nervous I wouldn’t perform the way I knew I could, contribute all I could, or even ask the right questions. But what I learned from this experience was that there is no right question, no task too small, and no one who isn’t deeply hurting beneath the surface. 

I arrived on Friday to the JCC of Pittsburgh and sheepishly walked in the door and was directed to the hall where the J hosts community lunch for seniors each day. There, a team from all across the US arrived to be prepped on the events of October 27, 2018, and where they are at this very moment. I was introduced to colleagues from around the country who all had the same intention. Just be present. Take deep breaths. Be thankful for what we have and most importantly, listen. 

I was assigned to a project in the Center for Loving Kindness which is where I met Melissa. She is a creator, innovator, curator, enthusiastic spirit, and deeply caring woman. She had been working with the rabbi for the past year on a program bringing interfaith leaders together to have crucial conversations. She asked me to clean up a data series to ensure that the relationships they have been nourishing stay strong in the years to come. But without a doubt as soon as we started talking about “her” Pittsburgh, her vision for art as an entry point to Jewish connection, and the ever-changing demographic of the Jewish people in cities around the country I was hooked on her. 

It was already 11 am and I was off to the J Cafe to serve community lunch. All the JResponders gathered by the regular volunteers to get the low down and I was assigned to serve beef stew. About 85 seniors came through that day for lunch but the one I loved the most was Bella. It happened to be her 84th birthday and I insisted we sing to her. Bella is an immigrant from Russia who made a home and raised her family in Pittsburgh. She lives alone and her stoic presence is felt and loved. She calls every senior in the room her friend as each person came up and wished her a happy birthday. They had collected a couple dollars as a gift and even handed her their milk cartons (Bella uses them to make kosher cheese). Bella would ask me questions. “Are you religious?” “Do you keep kosher?” “Where are you from?” “Do you like children?” “How old are you?” “What do you do for the JCC?” and the kicker… “Why aren’t you married?” I knew where she was going with all of this. She gave me a hug and then grabbed her cane and sauntered over to the other ladies asking if I could be her lunch partner on Monday. 

Over the weekend I was able to explore Pittsburgh. I met up with Melissa from the JCC for famous Mineo’s pizza and discussed how to engage young adults in Jewish life, wandered a cool downtown district with a new San Diego JCC colleague, and got lost walking around the cultural district. I kept telling myself to visit Tree of Life Synagogue but for some reason I couldn’t. I had the time and no schedule stopping me but I just couldn’t walk up the block. 

I remember what I was doing on October 27, 2018. The night before I was in Seattle and had an urge to attend my local synagogue. I hadn’t felt that urge in a long time but something told me I needed to go. As I woke up on October 27 my heart sank and I cried for hours on end. I replayed the day I went to camp after the shooting at the Los Angeles JCC when I was a kid, the day after the bomb threat at our own SJCC, and the first time someone had called me a “dirty jew.” We as Jews carry a collective trauma. We wear it like armor on our bodies collecting all of the years of anti-Semitism. And when things like this happen, wherever they are around the world, to whichever Jewish community, it is as if it happened to us.

On Monday I continued to work on my project and then headed to community lunch at 11 am. There was Bella waiting for me. I donned by baseball cap and apron and served broccoli and rice. Bella also had a surprise for me. She brought her favorite nephew with her. She had told all of the regular volunteers before I had arrived from the office upstairs that he was waiting to meet me. I can’t help but laugh at her good intention.

Monday was the last day for JResponse but I decided to come in the next day because my flight wasn’t until much later. I headed into the office where the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh had taken over the whole JCC for Mitzvah Day. Families running though the building excitedly making birthday bags and PB&J sandwiches. And at 11 am I served my last meal with Bella, this time without her nephew (though she did mention he was picking her up at 1:15 pm if I wanted to stick around and say hello).

To all the staff at the Pittsburgh JCC: you are amazing. You don your name badge like a badge of honor to work in a beautiful community serving those who benefit greatly from your services. Take some much-needed time to rest. As horrible as the reason why, I am so glad I was able to meet you. You will always be a part of me and I hope to visit soon. 

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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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Comprehensive Plan Amendment Moving Forward

On November 20, 2018, the Mercer Island City Council approved a set of Comprehensive Plan Amendments, including Amendment #8, creating a new land use designation, “Community Facilities,” for the City of Mercer Island. This event marks the first step in a process to rezone the Stroum Jewish Community Center’s property. The SJCC is pursuing this as it presents an opportunity to create design and building regulations that align with current and expected facility uses in concert with community interests. Now the detailed work starts.

In the coming months, the city, neighbors and our organizations (the French American School of Puget Sound, Herzl-Ner Tamid, and the SJCC) will collaborate to capture stakeholder interests that the city will use to draft building regulations. The first public meeting for this phase of the process will be this Thursday, December 13 at 6 pm at the Community Center at Mercer View.

As part of this process, the City will also be posting public notice signs on the property, marking the beginning of the code amendment and rezone process. Notices were also recently mailed to neighbors within a designated radius of these properties.

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