The Covenant Grants

Cultivating Communities of Care: The Shtiebel Adult Learning Initiative

Organization: South Philadelphia Shtiebel, Philadelphia, PA

Grant Year: 2021

Project Director: Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter

Type of Grant: Signature

Grant Amount: $125,000 (3 years)


Adult Education
Community Connections
Curriculum Development and Training

South Philadelphia Shtiebel – To train peer facilitators to lead small learning clusters in order to create a whole person-centered Jewish education program rooted in caring relationships and deep Torah learning.

What’s a specific experience in your work that has stuck with you?

There is nothing quite like watching a group of strangers become a community through learning Torah. One of the facilitators of our peer-led small groups, Estee Ellis, has put together one of our most vibrant learning cohorts, the Art Beit Midrash. Every week, they gather not only to discuss text but to put pen to paper and paint to canvas. They spend 45 minutes in studio time allowing the sacred words and wisdom to emerge in their art. The people in the room are of different backgrounds and ages, and they bond together as a community through these regular gatherings. After each meeting, there is a sacred energy in the space, of possibility, of connection, and of caring.

What was your inspiration for founding the Shtiebel? What makes the Shtiebel unique?

In 2019, I founded the Shtiebel alongside a group of passionate community members in historic South Philadelphia. Initially, the inspiration for the Shtiebel’s founding was to put orthodox women on the map as solo spiritual leaders. The dream for the Shtiebel, however, grew to join the mission of startup spiritual communities responding to the rapidly changing needs of our Jewish community. Like them, I found myself driven to create a space with all of the trappings of a warm and intentional synagogue (prayer and intensive study) but with the spirit of creativity, love, and experimentation necessary to meet the complexity of this moment.

How will this project deepen already established community connections?

We can only get so far in connecting with someone over some whitefish over kiddush. While we might share a conversation or two, there is often a hunger for deeper relationships. Our project allows us to take the kiddush conversation to the next level, rooting relationships in sacred text. The Shtiebel can nurture these small communities of care while simultaneously helping participants find their grounding in the excitement, connection, and resources of a vibrant, engaged Jewish community. The way we will raise up, train, and support our facilitators will create a community of passionate, kind, and thoughtful connectors.

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