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UJA-Federation of New York's Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal Celebrates 20 Years of Helping to Strengthen Jewish Life

NEW YORK, May 23, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Over the past 20 years, UJA-Federation of New York's Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal (COJIR) has been at the forefront of inspiring a passion for Jewish life and learning in the Jewish community. But its creation in 1993 represented more than a new approach to the area of Jewish education and identity. It fundamentally changed how UJA-Federation as an organization responded to emerging needs within the Jewish community.

Before COJIR was established, UJA-Federation fulfilled its mission to help people in need through allocations to its network of agencies. The release of the National Jewish Population Survey in 1991, which found high rates of intermarriage, spurred federations to begin to find ways to better engage the Jewish community and create connections to Jewish life. In establishing the Jewish Continuity Commission (COJIR's predecessor), UJA-Federation began, for the first time, to fund organizations outside of its network of agencies.

"The creation of the Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal reflected the recognition that UJA-Federation had to elevate the broad area of Jewish education and identity to a higher priority. New partners had to be included and UJA-Federation had to explore new strategies to maximize Jewish identity in the open society," said John S. Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation. "The creation of COJIR had a huge impact at UJA-Federation both in terms of priorities and how we engage the Jewish community. While the twentieth anniversary provides an opportunity for reflection, it remains a work in progress."

Since its founding, COJIR has funded hundreds of organizations in the field of Jewish education and identity-building. From the Teva Learning Center, an outdoor Jewish environmental program, to AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps to Kveller.com, COJIR has helped ensure that the next generations are engaged in a dynamic Jewish community that is both open and welcoming.

"COJIR has played an important role in working with local organizations to create a more compelling and vibrant Jewish community," said Alisa Rubin Kurshan, senior vice president of strategic planning and organizational resources at UJA-Federation. "We live in an era of enormous Jewish creativity, and COJIR has, for the last 20 years, helped fuel this revolution in Jewish education and engagement. As we celebrate the past, we also look to the future to develop new areas where we can continue to inspire deep and abiding connections to Jewish life."

"The real glory belongs to the hundreds of grantees — the schools, the synagogues, the community-based organizations — that provide access to an array of Jewish experiences," said Deborah Joselow, COJIR's managing director. "It is on their shoulders that our aspirations for a vital Jewish future have been carried."

About UJA-Federation of New York

For more than 90 years, UJA-Federation has been a central force for communal planning and philanthropy in the New York Jewish community. Through UJA-Federation, almost 60,000 donors pool their resources to help people in need, inspire a passion for Jewish life and learning, and strengthen Jewish communities around the world — to address the issues that matter to us most as Jews and as New Yorkers. Working with nearly 100 network beneficiary agencies, synagogues, and other Jewish organizations, our reach spans from New York to Israel to more than 70 other countries around the world, touching 4.5 million people each year. Because we do the most good when we do it together. For more information on how to donate or how to volunteer, please visit our website at http://www.ujafedny.org.

CONTACT: Levi Fishman 1.212.836.1513 fishmanl@ujafedny.org

Source: UJA-Federation ofNew York