By Joel Magalnick, Editor, The Jewish Sound
Sometimes a kid just needs a place to unwind.
“It’s an overwhelming, stimulating world,” said Shoshana Bilavsky, head of school at the Seattle Jewish Community School. “The new generation is more and more stimulated, and you see more excitement and sensory issues with more kids.”
That’s why SJCS submitted a grant request to the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle to build what they’re calling its K–5 Sensory Support Services on its North Seattle campus. The $25,000 the school will receive from the Federation will go toward construction, staff and consultation to build a space, believed to be the first of its kind in the area, for children who need 10 or 15 minutes away from class to “minimize disruption for an entire class, while maximizing the potential and well-being of the sensory-deprived or overloaded students themselves,” according to the grant request.
The service “is intended as an expansion of a curriculum clearly targeting highly capable students as well as teacher training, and most importantly, the creation of a sensory/tactile room that is pedagogically proven to assist students with sensory deficits overcome their challenges and maximize their learning opportunities.”
“The goal is to align them to allow them to meet their sensory needs and to allow them to go back into the classroom,” Bilavsky said.
The SJCS grant is one of 46 given to local and overseas Jewish agencies based on the Federation’s community fundraising campaign of $4.4 million. That number is down by about $300,000 from last year’s campaign.
The past year has seen a lot of change within the Jewish Federation, the community’s central fundraising and granting agency: The addition of a new CEO, the loss of key fundraising staff members, and a year-long look (so far) into how the agency fits into the fabric of Seattle’s Jewish community. As such, “we expected that it would be a slightly down campaign,” said Keith Dvorchik, the Federation’s CEO and president. “[There were] too many moving parts, too much new to really expect anything else.”
But reduced fundraising has consequences: The Federation, which for the past three years has allocated grants on a per-project basis, awarded a mix of new initiatives and continuations of previous programs, though not always at the same level as in previous years.
Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, executive director of the Friendship Circle, which offers services to kids with special needs and their families, as well as volunteer opportunities to teenagers, received $7,000 for a newly launched program. Teen Scene is “a program especially created for skill enhancement for teens with special needs,” Bogomilsky said. “Young kids are turning into teens, and this is that crucial stage where they’re changing from childhood to young adulthood.”
In addition to providing friendship and inclusion from their peers, the program “provides them with life-skill enhancements that make a direct impact on the way they live their life,” Bogomilsky said. “This is very, very powerful for them, and we’ve seen great success in it.”
The Friendship Circle received three other grants for ongoing programs, totaling $58,000, that were somewhat smaller than last year. But for a program that has grown more than 30 percent in the past year and now has a wait list, “these funds make the difference of a successful program versus just straggling along,” Bogomilsky said. “Every time you get funding toward a program that you’re trying to help someone, it’s crucial.”
That’s a sentiment Rabbi Will Berkovitz
would agree with, but the CEO of Jewish Family Service expressed disappointment that the $258,000 his agency received this year was a decrease when its community-wide food bank, for example, saw the most clients in its history.
“‘I need a toothbrush,’ but we can’t afford to give you a toothbrush. ‘I need soap,’ but we can’t afford to give you soap,” Berkovitz said of his agency’s clients.
“We have to stretch ourselves thinner and thinner. It’s very important to keep in mind that this is the agency in the community
that supports those folks who are really struggling.”
The food bank saw a $5,000 cut while
JFS’s domestic violence support program Project DVORA and the Seattle Association for Jews with Disabilities also received reduced funding.
“I’m hoping that the folks who are making the decisions really understand deeply what it is that the initiatives that we’re applying for do,” Berkovitz said.
Dvorchik said that JFS was not alone in not receiving its full grant requests.
“There were plenty of organizations that didn’t get what they asked for, or that didn’t get as much as they did last year,” he said. “But then there were other organizations that got more because they made really compelling grant requests or had really compelling ideas.”
Some of those ideas include:
• Two grants to Temple De Hirsch Sinai, one to offer preschool scholarships to Eastside parents, and the other to offer Rosh Hashanah services for young adults. “We’re looking to go outside the synagogue walls and meet young people where they are and start the New Year off right,” said Lisa Horowitz, TDHS’s executive director. “We’ve got some innovative outreach methods we’ll be using.”
• Caroline Kline Galland and Affiliates,
Seattle’s Jewish senior care facilities, received two grants worth $90,000, one for its chaplaincy program and the other to get its new palliative care program off the ground.
• A renewed grant to the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center for its “Continuing Generations” program that brings Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren to pass along the survivors’ stories.
Dvorchik also noted that the Federation brings funding and support to many local agencies that don’t show up as allocations. The government affairs department, for example, provides lobbying services in Olympia and has helped secure Department of Homeland Security grants that have provided security enhancements to local agencies and synagogues. Overhead costs, he said, account for about 24 percent of the Federation’s budget.
“I’m a big believer that every dollar that we spend, we need to be very proud of how we spend it,” he said. “Everybody who’s working here is doing more than a full-time job, and the things we’re able to accomplish are pretty significant.”