We identify visionaries, institutions and unsung heroes doing groundbreaking work, and we amplify their impact by providing financial and strategic support. We invest in areas that reflect our founder's passions and perspective, including diabetes care and research, Israel's cultural and economic vitality, interfaith bridge-building, elevating the profession of sales and strengthening community in New Jersey.
Russell Berrie, founder, chairman and CEO of the celebrated gift company bearing his name, was one of the most innovative philanthropists of his generation. He approached philanthropy as a social investment, seeking out energetic leaders with a sense of urgency around their missions and infusing The Russell Berrie Foundation with an entrepreneurial spirit that continues to inspire our work.
This year’s John Paul II Lecture on Interfaith Understanding, which took place on June 20 at the Jewish Theological Seminary, was distinctly different from previous events, which have featured talks by leaders such as Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee and Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan. This year’s event, co-sponsored by the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, took a musical turn — with clergy, vocalists and musicians from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions presenting “Songs for the Holy City: An Interfaith Evening of Music and Prayer.”
New Jersey's most inspiring unsung heroes were recognized for their outstanding work on behalf of others when they were named as recipients of the 2018 Russ Berrie Making a Difference Awards. The top prize, of $50,000, went to Pino Rodriguez of Camden, who has worked with residents to transform some of the city’s most blighted neighborhoods by planting flowers, cleaning up debris and, in the process, reducing crime. The 22nd annual awards, accompanied by cash prizes ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, were announced at a ceremony at Ramapo College on May 4.
A highlight of the recent Jewish Funders Network conference was a two-day immersion in Jerusalem to understand the challenges of, and opportunities to transform, a multicultural city that is central to the aspirations of multiple faiths. To read Russell Berrie Foundation CEO Ruth Salzman's reflections on the conference, and announcement of the first major initiative under our Jerusalem strategy (our grant will support a totally new approach for bringing Haredi women and Arabs into the high tech workforce), please click here.