Philanthropic Lessons from Mapping Jewish Education

By Amy L. Sales

Fisher-Bernstein Institute for Jewish Philanthropy and Leadership, August 22, 2006


The Jewish educational system in the United States is a quintessentially American invention that reflects the diversity of the Jewish population and the American context in which it lives. The system has a vast infrastructure and is, perhaps, a “system” in name only. Though impressive, its size and structure point to an impulse to proliferate programs, create new organizations, and build facilities without tackling the community’s fundamental educational challenges. There is little empirical evidence that the system is effective in meeting the challenges entailed in preparing a new generation of engaged Jews.

Chief among these challenges is the difficulty of capturing the imagination of young American Jews. The world has changed since the main pieces of the infrastructure were built, and the methods and content that the system produces appear not to work in the current context. Today’s youth are accustomed to diversity in all of its forms. They are well-assimilated, sophisticated, and technologically savvy. As one national educator remarked, making a map of Israel out of ice cream no longer thrills them. The need for more effective Jewish education is as great, if not greater than ever. The route to effective Jewish education, however, has changed. It is not a case of simply doing more of what has been done in the past. Something new is needed.

The present analysis focuses on the educational infrastructure because wise funding requires an understanding of the existing system—its bright spots and its shortcomings. The analysis is based on three sources:  (1) a map of the field that currently includes some 2,400 organizations, foundations, and programs concerned with Jewish education for children and youth; (2) qualitative community studies exploring how education is thought about and delivered at the local level; (3) interviews with top executives of national Jewish organizations and foundations.


Topic: Philanthropy and Fundraising, Development, Youth, Allocations, Foundations, Informal Education, Education, Fundraising and Philanthropy, Research

Funder: Jim Joseph Foundation

Genre: Report

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Sales, Amy L. Philanthropic Lessons from Mapping Jewish Education. Fisher-Bernstein Institute for Jewish Philanthropy and Leadership. 22 August 2006:


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