Jewish Vocational Service Donors Step Up to Help Fund More Scholarships for Jewish Students in Need



(LOS ANGELES) On July 14, the JVS Scholarship Program awarded 160 scholarships to local Jewish students in financial need at a special ceremony held at Sinai Temple in front of families, alumni donors, JVS board members and friends.

Student speaker Amos Nadler nearly dropped out of his PhD program when his funding ran out. Thanks to the JVS Scholarship Program, he will be graduating in 2012 with a degree in Neuroeconomics from Claremont College. “The path has not yet come full circle,” said Amos. “Winston Churchill said that we ‘make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ Therefore, only when I am able to give back to the parents who helped raise me, the friends who supported me along the way, and the organizations like JVS that funded me, will I feel that the circle is complete.”

Longtime JVS Scholarship donor Gloria Baran fully understands that concept. She wanted to do something to illustrate the meaning of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and make it possible for the students, alumni and other first time donors to begin giving back, no matter the size of the gift. So she initiated the Tzedakah Box Project, utilizing an old tradition in an innovative way. Tzedakah is translated to mean righteous and just action and it was her hope that enough money would be raised in small, first time gifts, to fund one or possibly two $1800 annual scholarships. A stunning $18,835 was placed in the Tzedakah Box that night, including checks and pledges, as well as $135 in small cash gifts.

“When people work together - each doing their own small part to achieve something - truly wonderful things can happen,” said JVS CEO Vivian Seigel. “I am also delighted to announce that a deeply committed donor stepped up to offer a match that doubles the impact of these generous and meaningful gifts to $37,670. The Tzedakah Box Project allowed everyone to participate together in this mitzvah (act of kindness), creating a significant impact. As a result, we will be able to expand our reach next year and award 20 Tikkun Olam Scholarships to deserving Jewish students in the amount of $1800 each.”

JVS also presented its first annual Innovative Fundraiser Award to JVS Scholarship Committee member Scott Diamond, who conducted an email-based fundraising campaign among his friends and family last spring and raised $9,000. Abby Hess, one of the recipients of the brand new Diamond Family & Friends Scholarship said, “A year ago my father succumbed after a long battle with cancer, six weeks before I entered law school. My dad’s final gift to me was to pay for my first year of textbooks. This year, your scholarship will cover my books and transportation and allow me to have more balanced meals. It was very exciting for me to put a donor name to a face and learn about all the people who supported you in putting together this scholarship. I operate on a ‘people are basically good and want to help each other’ assumption, and to both see it in action and be a recipient of such kindness just means the world to me.”

In addition, inspired by the spirit of the evening, three previous JVS Scholarship Endowment donors renewed their gifts with an additional $25,000 each.

This year marks JVS’ 80th Anniversary, a milestone for any agency, and a remarkable achievement for an organization that was founded during the Great Depression to fight workplace discrimination and help the unemployed. Since the 1940s, JVS has maintained innovative youth programs and in the 1960s, fought against legislation that would have cut funding to California colleges. This led to the founding of the JVS Scholarship Program in 1972.

Since its founding, the program has awarded over $5 million to more than 3,500 deserving Jewish students. Of the total scholarships awarded for the 2011 academic year, 56% were for graduate students working towards advanced degrees in a variety of areas including medicine, law, and dentistry. Thanks to the generosity of the agency’s donors, JVS was able to increase the amount awarded, with most students receiving over $2,500.

JVS Los Angeles has been helping people overcome barriers to employment since 1931. With more than 30 programs throughout Southern California targeting a diverse range of clients, including the long term unemployed, people with disabilities, at risk, foster and probation youth, refugees and immigrants, and women in transition, JVS is empowering people to become economically self-sufficient and enhancing the quality of life for individuals and families in our community. For more information, please visit