The Ember Foundation is a charitable organization focused on funding, creating and expanding Jewish outreach and Torah education programs in our schools, businesses and homes — sharing this knowledge with others and leaving an intellectual legacy that passes on the gift of Judaism to every member of our community.
To that end, The Ember Foundation supports organizations that reach out to the segments of our community that are most in need of being connected to our traditions, including high school and college students with limited Jewish knowledge. Our greatest priority is to kindle an interest in our people through outreach and education that reignites a passion for Judaism.
Since our inception we have sponsored and are trying to sponsor these outstanding outreach programs. At the moment, besides Torahub, we have been focusing on teenager and young adults, because Once a young teenagers “graduates’ from the Jewish world after their Bar/Bat Mitzvah , if they were lucky enough to have one, they will most likely become practically unaffiliated, if they are not already completely disconnected from our people and their Jewish roots by the time they finish high school.
That’s why so many of our youth are not supporting Israel and don’t care whether they marry anyone Jewish.
Our sponsored programs are some of the most exciting programs in the state. Read more:
J-life has been a volunteer-run, not-for-profit, organization, which develops a resilient Jewish identity among young Russian Jewish professionals through dynamic adult education and exposure to authentic Jewish living.
This year they are finally expanding their program to hire a full-time rabbi. We hope to give them the seed money, as we have with several other successful programs to help this venture survive until they are on their feet as an independent organization.
The goal is to build a community of young Russian Jews capable of balancing demanding professional and academic lives with a consistent passionate pursuit of Jewish spiritual and intellectual ideals and authentic Jewish living, thereby, combating the inevitable slide towards assimilation and disappearance in today’s open and tolerant society.
It hosts year-round educational and social events, which facilitate rich Jewish intellectual and spiritual life its participants. J-life offers learning with highly qualified individuals, who maintain a flexible schedule for in-person or over the phone studies about any topic in Judaism.
Its calendar begins in the summer with a three-week ‘full immersion’ trip to Israel. The trip is subsidized, and the cost to each participant is only $750, making it attractive and affordable to a wide range of young Russian Jews.
In Israel the participants develop a connection to the Jewish homeland and Jewish history, along with an intensive education on the fundamentals of Judaism and the Jewish heritage.
After the trip the participants have access to a wide range of J-life events to quench their thirst for Jewish learning and living. J-life hosts weekly Torah learning programs in three locations (Downtown, Buffalo Grove, and Rogers Park) and conducts bi-monthly Shabbatons and Study Seminars. J-life also hosts a number of year-round social events.
Founded in 2007, J-life has conducted two Israel trips with a total participation of 60 Russian Jews, all from the Chicago area. To see pictures, hear audio files of J-life lectures and learn about J-life history and future plans please see: http://www.jlifegroup.org
Camp Nageela Midwest
Many studies have shown that a meaningful high quality Jewish camping experience has a greater impact on a child’s Jewish consciousness than everything else – even a solid day school education.
And Camp Nageela may be the best such camp. Its is a rare combination of the widest spectrum of the greatest attributes so it’s no surprise that it attracts the widest spectrum of Jewish campers -- from the Jewishly unaffiliated to the modern Orthodox.
The American Camping Association describes the 500-acre campus as one of the five greatest facilities in North America. There is a 1:3 staff to camper ratio, with an open minded college-age staff that has spent at least one year in Israel, while being personally inspired by the best higher Torah education.
The program brings this eclectic group of people and resources together to create an environment that will allow the campers to learn from one another and to strengthen and take responsibility for their Jewish identity and allegiance to the land of Israel.
Their motto is “Love for Judaism is caught – not taught.”
Nageela makes being Jewish cool, fun and exciting. It strives to instill the campers with our rich Jewish heritage that is their birthright, while making them strong links in the chain of our people. Nageela inspires children to become Jewish role models for their friends -- proof by example that being Jewish counts.
In order to ‘extend’ the summer camp experience, Camp Nageela is expanding its Judaic themed programming to North Shore children and their families on a monthly basis. The Ember Foundation is sponsoring this increased effort to inspire children to stay involved after their summer camp experience throughout the year.
233 campers last year -- over 350 expected this year
Campers come from the USA, Canada, Chile, and Mexico
The cost per camper $2795 but is subsidized to $1895 – that’s a $900 scholarship per camper
Only 94 pay the $1,895 asking price, the rest receive greater subsidies, which total well over $100,000.
Physical Plant Includes: carpeted air-conditioned cabins, private showers and bathrooms, a theater, indoor and outdoor gymnasiums, a regulation football field with real goal posts, regulation soccer and baseball fields, a newly built swimming pool. miles of trails in the forest, waterfalls, five bonfire pits, amphitheater and two newly designed paintball fields.
The Ember Foundation is founding – and funding – the single most significant outreach effort in the state of Illinois to date, two full-time outreach couples, dedicated to reaching non-observant and marginally affiliated Jews at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana with the goal of reaching hundreds of students per year.
The Ember Foundation is dedicated to giving them clear realistic target goals for success, such as:
80 students learning one-on-one per week
80 different students in group seminars
2 Weekly Seminars
100 students going on a Jewish roots trip each year
50 students at Shabbat weekly meals
The program will include Maimonides, a nationally recognized comprehensive ten-week course in basic Judaism. Maimonides includes two Shabbatons, one of them at an off campus site and stipends for those students who successfully complete the program and participate in all the assignments.
The program operates the proven internationally acclaimed Aish Café program that is an on- line learning program with six classes, plus two live personal classes on campus and a stipend for successfully finishing the program.
The coordinating organizations are Aish HaTorah and The Jewish Education Team. JET has a proven track record in Chicago having inspired hundreds of students by running exciting Maimonides programs and their warm and inviting ability to encourage students to go on Jewish roots trips., while Aish HaTorah is a proven international leader in campus outreach.
The Ember Foundation provided significant financial help to hire the perfect couples to reside on campus.
The program expanded quickly and JET purchased a building. Currently the budget constraints are severe and they need a lot of assistance.
Jewish Student Union
Today there are fantastic Jewish student clubs that are already in five public high schools around greater Chicago and the Northshore that are reaching about 300 hundred teenagers.
The coordinating organization is The Jewish Student Union. The JSU guides the local students in forming and operating official school recognized clubs with a faculty advisor, elected officers, and of course, a JSU advisor.
But the JSU needs more help.
Currently, all the guest speakers are volunteers, however, to attract and inspire more teens, JSU is hoping to use some exciting ‘”get them in the door” programs such as Krav Maga instructors. They estimate that innovative programming may increase attendance by 20%, allowing them to invite more students to learning opportunities. The Ember Foundation has sponsored these new exciting programs.
The Jewish Student Union (JSU) is a division of the National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY). Historically, NCSY is probably the single greatest national outreach program helping teens with the opportunity to build a strong connection to their Jewish roots through social, recreational and educational programs.
One of its core programs, JSU, is offered in a public school setting. The JSU clubs are accessible to teens who have had little or no connection toJudaism, and gives them opportunities to connect to being Jewish culturally, as generally the on-campus clubs are forbidden from bringing religion to campus. However, the club advisors use the meetings as opportunities to invite participants off-campus to learn more about their heritage and further their Jewish engagement.
Also, there are more high schools that aren’t being touched in greater Chicago and the current programs are becoming more expensive as they attract more students. The Evanston High School program is currently attracting over 150 students per week and they’re pushing for similar successes at all the schools they’re in, where another 150 students show up on average per week.
What is the secret for their success?
This is a broad-based community effort. Motivated and personable program directors guide the students down their own individual Jewish paths in a just plain fun environment where the education is generally informal, giving and encouraging a voice on the widest range of Jewish interests from the religious to the secular. From Passover to Israel advocacy. And everything in between.
From a traditional perspective, this program is at the cutting edge of Jewish outreach. Yes, we’ve seen a handful of students become Jewishly more educated, and more seriously observant, when they join additional JSU learning programs outside of their school-club program. But more importantly, hundreds have become committed to Israel and are making Jewishness the center of their life -- which means they’re much more likely to marry Jewish.
And the JSU helps the students stay involved Jewishly as they head to college by connecting them to Hillel Houses and similar programs wherever they go to school. In Illinois, they organize a trip for seniors to Hillel at the U of I at Urbana-Champaign campus.
With your help we can inspire and create a passion for our people in hundreds of young Jewish high school students in our state every year. You can make the difference.
Jewish Education Team
A leading force in Chicago Jewish education on college campuses is JET. Led by Rabbi Zev Kahn and Rabbi Shalom Garfinkel, JET has revolutionized outreach at the campus programs they’ve been running.
There are hundreds of Chicago area students interested in one-on-one learning and members of the Orthodox community who are eager to learn with them. JET has received funding from The Ember Foundation to organize programs, to match students with volunteer mentors and pay for supplies and food when they meet.
The Jewish Education Team, JET, is the premier college outreach program in Chicago; its mission to inspire, energize and educate young Jewish adults to develop a stronger connection to our heritage, to instill pride in the vitality of the Jewish mission, and to create leaders. The Ember Foundation also funded the hiring of its second staff member, Rabbi Garfinkel, about nine years ago, who now heads the JET Young Leadership Division.
Hundreds of students have graduated from their Maimonides Leaders Fellowship, a weekly crash course in Judaism, while even more have attended Shabbos on campus and at homes nearby, as well as attending classes and taking educational trips to Israel and within the US.
Rabbi Garfinkel is key figure in the rapid success and growth of JET, and The Ember Foundation played a key financial role in Garfinkel’s hire.
During the last decade, college outreach efforts in greater Chicago trickled to a standstill. Local operations began to direct their major efforts toward northshore communities and towards the 30-, 40- and 50- somethings capable of supporting their budgets.
Jewish institutions of higher learning have noted the marked decrease in Chicago students.
JET sends about 40 students on trips geared to inspire one’s Jewish roots per year.
And that’s just the beginning of their success. It has involved scores of students in their Maimonides and Aish Café programs (see the description on the Champaign/Urbana sheet).
But the secret to their continued success will depend, in part, on The Ember Foundation. JET is already finding that its outreach personnel are continually pulled off campus to fundraise for its programs. And that’s valuable time they could be spending with students.
With your help we can inspire and create a passion for our people in hundreds of young Jewish college students from the Chicago area every year.
Let’s keep The Jewish Educational Team on campus where they belong. You can make the difference.
Jewish Experience Of Madison (JEM)
Jewish Experience Of Madison (JEM), founded in 2005 by Rabbi Rocky Anton, is a non-profit organization providing quality programs to the 5,000 Jewish students on the University Of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Strategically located in the heart of the campus (544 State Street), students come to our walk in center to explore Judaism in a warm, accepting environment. Our students, who come from across the United States (WI, IL, NY, NJ, CA, MN) cherish their time in JEM, their “home away from home.”
The caring staff host Shabbat dinners, lectures, social events, Israel trips, and Leadership Fellowships. JEM has 250 students that participate on an annual basis. All JEM students become more committed to their Judaism.
Many JEM alumni end up settling in the Chicago area.
In June 2021, JEM hired Rabbi Adam Freedman as our Alumni Director.
JEM has a database with 1,400 former students and Rabbi Adam’s job is to connect the alumni with local Jewish programming in their area and retain their relationship with JEM.