The Jewish Fund commemorates 25 years of improving community health
The Jewish Fund has helped provide health care to uninsured low-income Jewish community members, paid for eyeglasses for immigrant children attending public schools in Hamtramck, and funded mental health counseling for Jewish teenagers.
FFor 44 years, Detroit’s Sinai Hospital has been a central institution to the Jewish community and to Metro Detroit’s health care system. The hospital evolved from the North End Clinic, which provided outpatient medical care to the Jewish community from the 1920s. The Sinai Hospital was established in 1953, in part because Jewish doctors were struggling to obtain staff privileges in most local hospitals, but also to provide kosher food and a Jewish atmosphere for Jewish patients.
The Sinai was renowned for its medical care, the training of many interns and residents, and its innovative medical research. But over the years, the healthcare field has changed, making it difficult for small, independent hospitals to thrive. Additionally, most of Detroit’s Jewish community had moved from northwest Detroit, the location of Sinai, to nearby suburbs which had their own hospitals.
In 1997 Sinai was sold to Detroit Medical Center. As the acquisition was Being finalized, a group of local Jewish leaders brainstormed how best to use the $63 million in proceeds from the sale to benefit the community. This group included members of the Sinai Hospital Board of Trustees, the Sinai Health Care Foundation Board of Trustees, and the staff and board of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
Mark Schlussel, former president of the Sinai Health Care Foundation, was one of two founding co-chairs of the new Jewish Fund, along with the late Robert Sosnick. According to Mark Davidoff, then the Jewish Federation’s chief financial officer, the group developed a mission statement, bylaws and other requirements for the new foundation. He was the first Treasurer/Secretary of the Jewish Fund.
“The goal was to continue the good works of Sinai Hospital and North End Clinic. We took an asset that had diminishing value and turned it into a separate organization for the benefit of all Jewish communities. This was a singular achievement for the Jewish community – a remarkable result of the sale of the hospital,” Schlussel said.
25 years later
Twenty-five years after its founding, the Jewish Fund has distributed more than $70 million in grants, says Margo Pernick, executive director for 13 years. Most of the grants were used for programs in three priority areas: improving the health and well-being of vulnerable local Jewish residents; early health intervention for babies and young children; and expanding access to health care for underserved Detroit-area residents.
The Jewish Fund has helped provide health care to uninsured low-income Jewish community members, paid for eyeglasses for immigrant children attending public schools in Hamtramck, and funded mental health counseling for Jewish teenagers. Pernick says about 80 percent of the Fund’s annual grants benefit the Jewish community and 20 percent go to the community at large.
“The Jewish Fund is an excellent example of the value and importance of endowments. It strikes a good balance between the needs of the Jewish community and those of the community at large,” says Nancy Grosfeld, board member and former president.
The Jewish Fund also supports collaboration between Jewish and Detroit-based organizations focused on quality of life in the region. Additionally, the grants provide professional development to nonprofit service organizations, and some funds are used for emergency assistance to families and nonprofit organizations. The Jewish Fund also operates two restricted funds – one for medical research and the other for low vision services for children.
According to Pernick, grant seekers may hear about the Jewish Fund through a board member or another agency. Sometimes Pernick discovers an organization whose mission matches the Jewish Fund and she contacts them. The grant application process begins with a conversation with Pernick, followed by a proposal, site visit, and review by the entire Jewish Fund Board. She says about 45 applications are received each year and about 40 are approved through a consensus process.
“Visits to programs are a way to engage the board. The Jewish Fund is a great link between the Jewish and general communities,” says Bob Aronson, who was CEO of the Jewish Federation and among the leadership group that created the Jewish Fund.
One of the grants that benefited the community at large was awarded to Authority Health, a Detroit-based nonprofit, for its nurse-family partnership. The grant provided holistic prenatal and postnatal care to 100 high-risk pregnant women in Wayne County, resulting in improved health for babies and mothers, as well as improved parenting skills.
Dennis Archambault, vice president/public affairs at the health authority, was a primary contact with the Jewish Fund. He was impressed by the personal involvement of some Jewish Fund board members, who accompanied and spoke with clients of the Nurse-Family Partnership on their weekly walks on the Detroit River to encourage physical activity.
“One of the great things about the program is the annual luncheon where the scholarship awards are announced. You get a sense of the community of recipients, including past and present recipients,” he explains.
Michael Eizelman, current president, points out that the Jewish Fund has partnerships with other foundations, especially small ones, and offers them the opportunity to piggyback on their grants. “We share our due diligence and can leverage grants,” he says.
Board members of Pernick and the Jewish Fund are particularly proud of the Teen Board, which is a group of local young people who volunteer to learn about community needs and allocate grants to help non-profit organizations. worthy of the name. This is the seventh year of its operation. “It gets young people excited about the community,” says Karen Sosnick Schoenberg, Jewish Fund board member and former president.
To have an impact
Jewish Fund board members, past and present, have identified some grants that have had a particularly significant impact:
The Jewish Fund and Jewish Family Service created Project Chesed to provide free health care to low-income Jewish people before the Affordable Care Act was passed. Local doctors, dentists and hospitals donated their services. “It was really innovative and impactful,” says Karen Sosnick Schoenberg.
Teen mental health
Michael Eizelman says a Federation survey initiated and funded by the Jewish Fund of local Jewish teenagers indicated a need for more resources to help with mental health issues. “It was an eye opener – the stress the kids were going through, some of whom were suicidal. I thought, ‘How did we not know that?
Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network—Life Enrichment Program
The Jewish Fund provided a grant for expanding quality of life services, including music, pet therapy and art therapy for palliative care and hospice patients. This program received a Robert Sosnick Award of Excellence from the Jewish Fund.
Funeral services for the indigent
When Mark Davidoff learned there were approximately 200 unclaimed bodies at the Wayne County morgue, he quickly contacted David Techner, funeral director at the Ira Kaufman Chapel, to find a solution. They met with Wayne County officials and enlisted help from local Catholic cemeteries for burial grounds and the Michigan Funeral Association to cover burial costs. The Jewish Fund paid for coffins for these needy people.
Fund for a Jewish Federation Grant Writer
In 2011, a two-year scholarship allowed the Jewish Federation to pay a scholarship editor. According to Pernick, this capacity-building effort has now brought in $25 million in grants to help numerous Jewish agencies and congregations since its initial development.