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Genesis Philanthropy group to promote Jewish identity in Russian-speaking children through summers at camp

14.04.2009

NEW YORK, March 20, 2009: Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), a foundation dedicated to promoting Jewish identity for Russian-speaking Jews worldwide, has announced a $4.8 million grant to the Foundation for Jewish Camp for a national effort to dramatically increase the number of Russian-speaking Jewish youth who attend Jewish overnight camp in North America.

The five-year grant will create the Genesis Camp Initiative, a multi-pronged approach that will address the diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious preferences of Russian-speaking Jews living in North America. Launching with the summer 2009 camp season, it is the first major initiative in North America designed to attract this specific population to Jewish overnight camp.

Through the program, more than 2000 Russian-speaking Jewish youth will attend Jewish overnight camp by 2013.

Genesis Philanthropy Group is committed to ensuring that Jewish culture, heritage and values are preserved among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide, said Stan Polovets, CEO and board member of GPG. Our grant making strategy is to find institutions that share our values and invest in their capacity to have maximum impact on our target population. The Foundation for Jewish Camp has a track record of success in working with Jewish overnight camps and has established its commitment to a pluralistic and diverse Jewish community. We are delighted to partner with FJC to bring such a pivotal experience to Russian-speaking Jewish youth across North America.

A grant of this size and scope at a time when many in the philanthropic community are reducing their charitable allocations demonstrates both GPG's commitment to the Russian-speaking Jewish community and its understanding of the transformative power of Jewish summer camp. said Mark Charendoff, President of the Jewish Funders Network, which works with GPG on its grant making in North America.

Recent Jewish communal studies reveal that the Russian-speaking population accounts for up to 20% of all Jews both in North America and in major Jewish population centers such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Of this population, there are an estimated 50,000 children of camp age, many of whom, like their families in general, remain outside formal Jewish religious and educational frameworks and are increasingly alienated from the Jewish community.

At the same time, a recent survey indicated that while many Russian-speaking Jews are interested in exploring American Jewish life, others prefer distinct and focused programs and settings. Targeted and segmented marketing, specialized programming, and the development of unique educational models are therefore needed to engage Russian-speaking Jews in Jewish life and in the Jewish community.

The Genesis Camp Initiative will utilize a variety of strategies to create a holistic approach in reaching the Russian-speaking population.

Specialized recruitment strategies and programs, coupled with financial incentives to increase consumer demand in this growing market

In-depth market research and targeted curriculum components incorporated into all FJC programs, such as the signature Executive Leadership Institute for camp directors and the Cornerstone Fellowship for bunk counselors, to ensure that camp environments are welcoming to youth from Russian-speaking families

Targeted experiences such as Havurah, a camp program run in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel and Camp Tel Yehudah of Young Judaea that is exclusively for Russian-speaking Jewish teens and offers programming that relates to their uniquely Russian-Jewish experiences.

Research in the U.S., combined with on-the-ground experience in the Former Soviet Union, indicates that Jewish summer camp can be a transformative and engaging Jewish experience for Russian-speaking Jewish children and youth much as it has been for decades for North American Jewish children, says Jerry Silverman, Foundation for Jewish Camp CEO. Increasing the number of children from Russian-speaking Jewish families who attend Jewish summer camp is right in the bull's eye of the Foundation for Jewish Camp mission, and will contribute to a vibrant North American Jewish community in the future.

GPG believes that achieving meaningful progress in the engagement between Russian-speaking Jews and the broader Jewish community will require entering into strategic partnerships with established not-for-profits and foundations, said Alex Knaster, chairman of the board of GPG and one of its founders. Genesis seeks to work with the entities that share its mission and that can effectively engage Russian-speaking Jews.

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About the Foundation for Jewish Camp
The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is the only public organization dedicated solely to nonprofit Jewish overnight camps. FJC employs a variety of strategies toward a single goal: to increase the number of children in Jewish summer camps. To this end, the Foundation creates inspiring camp leaders, expands access to and intensifies demand for camp, and develops programs to strengthen camps across the Jewish spectrum in North America. Through strategic partnerships on local and national levels, FJC raises the profile of Jewish camp and serves as a central resource for parents and organizations alike. FJC works with more than 150 camps, 70,000 campers, and 10,000 counselors across North America to further its mission. www.jewishcamp.org

About the Genesis Philanthropy Group
The mission of Genesis Philanthropy Group is to develop and enhance Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide, with a particular emphasis on the former Soviet Union, North America, and Israel. GPG is committed to supporting and launching projects, programming, and institutions that are focused on ensuring that Jewish culture, heritage, and values are preserved in Russian-speaking Jewish communities across the globe. The foundation was established in the summer of 2007 by Mikhail Fridman, German Khan, Pyotr Aven, Alex Knaster, and Stan Polovets.

In the past 18 months, GPG has made over 30 grants, which included gifts to organizations such as Birthright Israel, Moscow State University, the IDF Education Department, Limmud, Maccabi, and the New York Jewish Museum. Its most recent grants include $2.775 million to The Wexner Foundation and $200,000 to Yad Vashem. www.gpg.org

About the Jewish Funders Network

The Jewish Funders Network (JFN) is an international organization dedicated to advancing the quality and growth of Jewish philanthropy. JFN's members include independent philanthropists, foundation trustees and foundation professionals. JFN is a unique community that seeks to transform the nature of Jewish giving in both thought and action. www.jfunders.org

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