Chapter 1: Introduction to Jewish Youth Philanthropy
In a period of just a few years, the field of Jewish youth philanthropy has blossomed – and today, there are over 60 local Jewish youth philanthropy programs operating throughout the United States and Canada. While the programs are based in different types of organizations and follow varied program models, they share common goals:
- To provide teens with an opportunity to engage in hands-on philanthropy
- To educate teens about the Jewish values of tzedakah, gemilut chasadim, and tikkun olam
- To engage teens in self-exploration about their passions and interests
- To challenge teens to wrestle with tough choices, and ultimately make collective grantmaking decisions with a shared pool of funds.
The following are four program models that are currently being used:
Youth foundations bring together teens interested in learning about philanthropy from a Jewish perspective. Teens contribute money to a collective philanthropic pool, and then these funds are leveraged through a match provided by a local donor. At the end of the process, the teens donate the collected funds to organizations of their choice.
Examples of Youth Foundations:
- The Jewish Youth Philanthropy Institute of Greater Washington
A program of the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning (a central education agency), that operates youth programs for high school age teens in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. JYPI also serves as a national resource and a model by providing workshops, technical assistance and curricula materials to other communities seeking to implement youth philanthropy initiatives.
- Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego
The Community Youth Foundation encourages young people aged 13-15 to become philanthropists by empowering them with skills to give effectively. Since establishment in 1997, the program has involved more than 223 students from different denominations and affiliations throughout the region. Their complete how-to manual can be found here.
- No Small Change, a project of Ma'yan, the Jewish Women's Project of the JCC in Manhattan
No Small Change: A Tzedakah Collective for Women and Teenage Girls, was designed to be an environment for the exploration of issues surrounding money, gender, social change, leadership, community and philanthropy. The link above documents their first year of operation.
SEVENTH GRADE FUND
Seventh grade funds, typically run by day schools or supplemental religious schools, engage teens during their Bar/Bat Mitzvah year. Rather than exchanging gifts with each other for their B’nai Mitzvah celebrations, the teens contribute the money they would have spent on gifts to support issues close to their hearts.
An example of a Seventh Grade Fund:
Tzedakah in Action
Tzedakah in Action is the name of the Temple Isaiah Seventh Grade Fund, the Jewish Youth Foundation of Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, California. Since 1998, the Temple Isaiah Seventh Grade Fund has awarded
nearly $75,000 to 18 different non-profit organizations. The description above is part of a larger document called "Tzedakah in Action: A Teacher's Guide to Creating and Managing Jewish Youth Foundations".
A community foundation invites teens to sit on a youth board and make decisions about where to allocate a portion of its funds. While the funds are not usually collected directly from the teens, the teens do make the decisions about where this money is granted.
An Example of a Youth Board:
Rose Youth - What Teens Need to Know (PDF document 165Kb)
Rose Youth Foundation
A Foundation for youth in grades 9 through 12 from all types of
Jewish backgrounds, from all parts of metro Denver, from different educational
systems, and from all different kinds of families. It provides an opportunity
for Jewish teens to get involved--to meet new people, to learn about
and practice the Jewish traditions of tikkun olam and tzedakah,
and to learn about responsible grantmaking by deciding how to give away
$50,000 in grants to Denver-area organizations. Below is an excerpt from "Jewish Youth Philanthropy: What Teens Need to Know," by Lisa Farber Miller, Senior Program Officer, Rose Community Foundation.
INDIVIDUAL ENDOWMENT FUNDS
Individual endowment funds enable teens to create endowments in their own names. The fund advisors collect funds from the teens, which are often matched by outside funds. At the end of each year, the teens are able to donate the interest earned on their accounts to organizations of their choice.
An example of an Individual Endowment Fund:
B'nai Tzedek: Teen Philanthropy Program, a project of The Harold Grinspoon Foundation of Western Massachusetts. The "B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy Start-Up Manual" can be downloaded here.