The AVI CHAI Foundation was founded in 1984 by Zalman Chaim Bernstein z”l. Since then, the foundation’s mission has been and continues to be to strengthen Judaism, Jewish literacy, and Jewish tradition wherever his foundation was to operate—North America, Israel, and the former Soviet Union—and to sustain, enlarge, and enrich Jewish commitment to the State of Israel. As the foundation’s work grew and its geographic reach broadened, Trustees and staff developed strategies appropriate to the regions in which they worked.
In North America, the focus has been to foster and nurture the energizing nucleus of the American Jewish community, by which the foundation means American Jews who are Jewishly literate, who view their lives through the lens of the Jewish religion and feel a deep connection to the world-wide Jewish people, with its center in Israel. Believing that the most effective educational vehicles to achieve this energizing nucleus are Jewish day school and overnight summer camps, the foundation has invested significantly in both fields. Fifty percent of AVI CHAI’s spending is directed towards programs in North America.
AVI CHAI’s Israel grant-making strategy focuses on three distinct goals: encouraging: 1) mutual understanding between Jews of different commitments to Jewish traditions; 2) a new Jewish leadership, with deep knowledge and respect for others, who will guide and influence the various communities in which they participate; and 3) Jewish study and literacy among secular Israelis so that they can become more active and knowledgeable partners in shaping Jewish life in Israel. Forty percent of AVI CHAI’s grants budget is focused on its Israeli activities.
In 2001, AVI CHAI expanded its philanthropic reach into the former Soviet Union, where its central focus has been to encourage Jewish involvement. AVI CHAI-funded programs reach beyond conventional Jewish organizations to provide Jewish educational, academic and cultural offerings that capture the attention and interest of the widest and most diverse Jewish audiences. The foundation devotes ten percent of its grant-making budget to its work in the fomer Soviet Union.