The Covenant Grants

Jewish Civics Initiative

Organization: Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, Washington, WA

Grant Year: 1996

Project Director: Rabbi Sid Schwarz

Type of Grant: Signature

Grant Amount: $90,000 (3 years)

Community Connections
Informal Education
Social Justice

The Jewish Civics Initiative (JCI) was the first national program in Jewish service learning for Jewish teens. Created by PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values (which, at the time of the grant, was called The Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values) the program was based on a curriculum developed by PANIM called Jewish Civics: A Tikkun Olam/World Repair Manual.

Starting in 1997, three communities per year were chosen for participation. In most communities the host agency was the Board of Jewish Education or the community Hebrew High School. JESNA was a co-sponsor of JCI and helped to encourage participation. By 2004, 21 communities were participating in JCI with an average of 15 teens enrolled per community.

Each community offered a JCI course that included study of Jewish texts and values from the curriculum, a group community service project designed by the teens and implemented in their home community and a four-day retreat in Washington run by PANIM which looked at the connection between service and political advocacy. Teachers of the JCI curriculum were trained each summer prior to the start of the school year.

From “”Advancing Jewish Social Justice and Environmental Action: Lessons Learned from Covenant Grantees,””by Meredith Woocher, Ph.D. (February 2016):

“”In 2002, Covenant Award Winner Sidney Schwarz described how he founded PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values to involve teens in the “Jewish story” of balancing our communal self-interest with care for others, and Jewish learning with active engagement in the world:

What is the goal of Jewish civic education? It is the task of telling the Jewish story. This amounts to much more than teaching Jewish history. It is the story of Jewish commitment to the well-being of fellow Jews around the world and of the Jewish commitment to social justice for all of humanity. A people which understands the significance of the teaching that human beings are created b’tzelem elohim, in the image of God, cannot function in the political realm with a sole focus on group self-interest and self-preservation. My main objective in launching PANIM was both to teach young Jews to appreciate the Jewish story of survival, chesed, and justice and to challenge them to live up to that legacy.””