The Los Angeles Jewish population tripled in size from the 1930s to the 1950s. As a result, in 1954 the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles helped establish the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles to serve as a permanent resource for the community.
It started with the commitment of 14 dedicated Jewish leaders who had the wisdom to plan for the community's future needs in a time of prosperity. The organization's main objective was to develop a substantial fund for capital needs as well as for special needs as they arose.
The Foundation has evolved with changing times, but remains dedicated to the values that inspired its creation. Today we are a multi-faceted institution helping philanthropists with all aspects of charitable giving, in the Jewish community and beyond.
Learn more about our history and some of the initiatives we have supported over the years:
In 1962, Sarah Federman Hersh Kuttnauer's bequest of more than $1 million was, at the time, the largest single gift ever made to the fledgling Jewish Community Foundation.
Kuttnauer was part of an incredibly generous family. Her father, Samuel Federman, helped establish Cedars of Lebanon Hospital and the Jewish Free Loan Association. Her husband, Sam Hersh, was a founder of Los Angeles' oldest Reform synagogue Temple Emanuel.
In keeping with Kuttnauer's wishes, The Foundation's Capital Grants Committee has used the income from her gift to support Jewish community buildings. In fact, her gift helped make possible the purchase, construction, renovation or expansion of more than 25 schools including:
The Foundation's funding of capital projects literally created space for the entire spectrum of Jewish activity in Los Angeles. These projects included:
Bet Tzedek Legal Services: The early years.
In the late 1960s, affordable legal services barely existed in Los Angeles. A small group of lawyers, rabbis and community activists responded with a plan to offer free legal assistance to poor residents.
The Jewish Community Foundation provided seed funding to help these organizers lay the groundwork for what would eventually become Bet Tzedek Legal Services, the "House of Justice."
In 2007, The Foundation made a $33,000 matching grant award to Bet Tzedek for its Kehilla Connection Service Corps. With this subsequent funding to help it grow, the one-night-a-week storefront opened by volunteers in 1974 is today a thriving poverty law center with a 55-person staff and more than 400 volunteers.
Bet Tzedek advocates on behalf of workers and tenants, protects the rights of consumers, elderly and the disabled, and pursues justice for Holocaust survivors.
In 2002, The Foundation also provided seed funding for the Jewish Community Justice Project (JCJP). As part of the "restorative justice" movement, the project seeks to facilitate t'shuvah, a process of repentance and reconciliation, through direct meetings between non-violent juvenile offenders and their victims.
JCJP is a joint project of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, Centinela Valley Juvenille Diversion Project and Beit T'Shuvah.
The Jewish community is concerned with similar issues faced by the community at large. For many years, the Jewish Community Foundation has led the way in seed funding community responses to gang violence, AIDS, special needs, divorce, and drug abuse, including the following:
"Making Marriage Work" was developed in 1975 at Temple Adat Ari El to provide premarital and newlywed counseling to young synagogue members. With a Foundation seed grant, the successful program expanded and moved in 1980 to the American Jewish University, where thousands of couples have learned skills to help strengthen their relationships and create successful families. More than 90 percent of graduates have remained married, and the program has been replicated around the country.
Nechama: A Jewish Response to AIDS, the first Jewish AIDS program in America, began in 1986 in Los Angeles with a Foundation seed grant to Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim to educate the Jewish community about AIDS. Nechama-Hebrew for "comfort" or "compassion"-soon expanded to deliver services to people with AIDS and their families and caregivers. The program ultimately became part of Jewish Family Service in the 1990s and continues in its role today.
The Jewish Family Service's Orthodox Counseling Program, created in the mid 1980's with Foundation support, offers counseling by licensed mental health professionals and interns who are Orthodox, to help clients dealing with domestic violence and other issues. The Gindi Family, with the assistance of the Center for Designed Philanthropy, developed and funded a pilot project called At-Risk Youth Prevention and Intervention Program through the Orthodox Counseling Program. It proved so effective in decreasing high-risk behaviors in students at several Orthodox high schools that it is now being subsidized by the schools themselves and replicated elsewhere.
Thirteen year-old Neal Katz (center) reads from the Torah at his bar mitzvah celebration as part of Vista del Mar's Nes Gadol program. Neal was joined on the bima by (l-r) his stepfather Jeff Frymer, his mom, Elaine Hall, and family friend, Aron Wolf.
Nes Gadol, a community-wide program of Vista Del Mar Child & Family Services, provides Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation for special needs children using expressive art therapies to promote learning. With The Foundation's support, Nes Gadol expanded their pilot program curriculum to include more children and train them in religious studies. They also developed a training program for synagogues and Jewish educators and leaders so they can run successful programs to support special needs children in the community.
The Advancement Project, a nonprofit policy and legal action organization, received a $25,000 Foundation grant in 2008 to create a consortium of mothers called Alliance of Mothers of Murdered Children. The group of mothers, whose children have been victims of gang violence developed membership criteria, action items and policy priorities for an advocacy group that works for solutions to gangs and violence. The Advancement Project provides technical assistance and coordination, enabling the mothers to form a strong, unifying voice in the community and the policy-making process.
Koret Israel Economic Development Funds
In 2006, The Foundation enhanced its Israel Grants program to fulfill the wishes of Ellen and Werner Lange, the now-deceased couple who created a multi-million dollar endowment fund at The Foundation to support Jewish communities in Los Angeles and Israel. Through this endowment, The Foundation’s Israel Grants expanded to offer more funding for multi-year projects and allow for collaborations with other funding entities.
That same year, The Foundation awarded $1 million in grants to Israel. Of the total, it designated $750,000, in collaboration with other funding partners, to support programs in Israel such as early education, economic development and geriatric care. The Foundation also awarded $250,000 to the Israel in Crisis Fund to support Israel’s emergency needs during the war in Lebanon.
In 2007, The Foundation awarded grants to three Israel-based initiatives totaling $600,000. The grants of $200,000 each went to the America-Israel Friendship League, Israel Venture Network/Sacta-Rashi Foundation and Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. These grants will support programs that include bringing Jewish studies to public schools, reducing violence through teaching sportsmanship, and improving municipal government management.
The Foundation is often called upon in times of crisis to provide resources for urgent needs locally, in Israel and around the world, including for such occurrences as natural disasters, political upheavals, the impact of wars and economic downturn. Fortunately, The Foundation and its donors are ready, willing and able to respond with generous support.
To help alleviate the impact of the economic crisis on members of the Greater Los Angeles Jewish community, in March 2009, the Jewish Community Foundation seeded the Jewish Family Relief Network. The Foundation is distributing $750,000 emergency funding to five local Jewish social service agencies that comprise the Relief Network - Jewish Family Service (JFS), Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA), Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) and Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters (JBBBS)
The agencies in this collaboration will coordinate their efforts to refer and deliver services to first-time clients who have been recently affected by layoffs, reduction of hours, changes in family finances or other situations directly related to the economic downturn.
In addition to providing funding to the agencies, The Foundation has awarded $250,000 to the Emergency Cash Grants Initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Clients in need work directly with Jewish community social service providers and Board of Rabbis’ members to apply for cash grants that can be used for healthcare, household expenses and shelter, employment support and emergency childcare.
American Red Cross
In 2008, The Foundation awarded a $25,000 grant to the American Red Cross for its Major Disaster Readiness program. This funding helps develop comprehensive relief services in Los Angeles for a minimum of five days following major catastrophic events such as earthquakes, terrorism, pandemic flu or region-wide wildfires. This includes volunteer recruitment and training, shelters for displaced residents, purchase and storage of equipment and supplies, a public awareness campaign, and information technology systems to support communications during disaster relief.
In the 1980s, The Foundation responded to the emergency resettlement of Jews from other countries, including Ethiopian Jews, who suffered persecution and torture after the demise of Haile Salassie; tragically, 2,500 were killed and 7,000 rendered homeless. The Foundation was the first organization to respond to the Los Angeles Jewish Federation's call for financial assistance by providing a $1.5 million grant.
The Foundation also worked with the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to respond to the urgent need during the war in Lebanon in 2006. The Foundation awarded $250,000 to the Israel in Crisis Fund, which was established in the summer of 2006 by the Los Angeles Jewish Federation in collaboration with United Jewish Communities and all Jewish Federations around the country. The Foundation’s support enabled the Federation to provide immediate response to the crisis in Israel. It enabled the orderly evacuation of children and the elderly to safe havens during missile attacks, provided critical human services, and provided assistance to individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress.
Additionally, over the years, The Foundation has provided emergency grants to help victims of natural disasters around the world, including:
Myanmar Emergency Relief to provide immediate assistance to Federation agencies working on the ground in Myanmar following the spring 2008 cyclone.
Fire Relief Fund in the wake of the Southern California wildfires in 2007.
India Earthquake Relief set up to provide relief to earthquake victims in India through the Joint Distribution Committee in 2001.
Since its earliest days, Los Angeles has been home to a diverse population including immigrants from around the world. While culturally vibrant, many neighborhoods and public schools face disparities in resources and infrastructure that greatly limit residents' economic and educational opportunities. The Foundation has been instrumental in supporting community-wide efforts to address these challenges.
Los Angeles Urban Funders (LAUF) began in 1996 as a direct result of the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest. This comprehensive initiative was supported through pooled funds from more than 30 institutional partners including the Jewish Community Foundation. LAUF supported multi-year projects in three disadvantaged communities—Pacoima, Vermont/Manchester, and Hyde Park. Initiated by the communities themselves, projects included economic development, job training, family health and afterschool programs, and substance abuse prevention and treatment. Some of our partners in LAUF have included Bank of America, California Community Foundation, The California Endowment, The James Irvine Foundation, Liberty Hill Foundation, The Prudential Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation and Sony Pictures Entertainment.
JQ International was founded in 2004 to provide programs aimed at Jewish gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals between the ages of 20 and 40. The Foundation provided a Cutting Edge Grant of $120,000 in 2007 to help the organization advance Jewish identity and inclusion in the Los Angeles Community. Foundation funding helped JQ International expand and diversify its membership, including outreach to women, and develop web-based services that appeal to its young, tech-savvy demographic.
Jewish Student Leadership for a Diverse World is the newest youth program of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance, which offers a new model for leadership development for Jewish high school and college students. The program aims to build cross-cultural skills, reinforce Jewish values, and prepare students for living, working and representing the Jewish people in a diverse world. The Foundation’s Cutting Edge Grant of $250,000 in 2008 is funding the development and implementation of course content focusing on outreach to Los Angeles’s Latino communities. At the conclusion of the course work, students plan a special outreach project to the Latino community.
In 2006, The Foundation and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission announced the launch of a collaborative effort to provide funding for over 150 arts residency programs in Los Angeles County public schools.
The Foundation initiated an Arts in Schools! Giving Circle, which provides funding for artist-in-residence programs. Approximately 4,000 students in grades K through 12 in 14 school districts are expected to benefit from 158 residency programs offered by arts education service providers hired through the County's online arts education directory, during one school year.
In 2007, The Foundation continued its support of education by awarding $10,000 to the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools' Math and Science Teaching Programs.
The program, conducted in partnership with the Loyola Marymount University School of Education, provides training for math faculty employing a comprehensive and pre-tested mathematics curriculum. Training helps teachers design instruction that better engages students and increases their understanding and retention, as well as encourages motivation and personal accountability for learning.
To support high school students, in 2008 The Foundation awarded $30,000 to Southern California College Access Network's Youth Ambassadors of College Knowledge program to increase college access and success rates for low-income, disadvantaged high school youth. The Network will coordinate activities that encourage and prepare low-income 8th-10th graders in Los Angeles to pursue higher education. SoCalCAN will create an active presence of youth ambassadors at participating high school campuses, train a minimum of 100 youth ambassadors to speak to groups of high school students, and collaborate with college counselors.