by Gaby Baum
Participant, United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford Youth Philanthopy Board
This past June, Gaby attended the Youth Philanthropy Connect NYC Regional Gathering along with other local participants and program leaders in Jewish teen philanthropy programs that are part of the Jewish Teen Funders Network. Gaby is the recipient of the 2015 Helen S. and Isadore Mark Teen Leadership Award, granted by the UJF to one teen in the Greater Stamford community who has taken a leadership position in school, synagogue, youth group, or as a volunteer. Gaby has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about food allergies - by fundraising for research, combatting bullying with education, and serving on the junior advisory board for Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).
My first memory of philanthropy was receiving a Tzedakah box at four years old, and the idea of giving to others opened my eyes forever.
Growing up I was always taught to give back, and from a very early age I remember sorting through my abundance of birthday gifts and putting several aside to be donated to those less fortunate than I. As I grew older, I became capable of doing more for the community around me. I discovered philanthropy work through my summer camp (NJY Camps). There I became part of a philanthropy board where as a group we were given $1,000 in grant money to allocate through Jewish Teen Funders Network Camp Philanthropy program. Learning the basis of Jewish philanthropy through tikkun olam presented the groundwork for my philanthropy efforts. As an individual, I wanted to make sure that the money was going to a place that was sustainable, allowing it to make the biggest impact with the donation that could be made. I returned from camp inspired and joined the UJF and its Youth Philanthropy Board. Here I would find my home and further advance Jewish philanthropy through reading parshas and finding the resemblance through the societies of past and present. This revelation inspired me and led me to believe so strongly in doing this work.
Attending the Youth Philanthropy Connect conference in New York this past June and meeting people in the field who are educating and inspiring youth to help and aid in philanthropy work may well have changed my path for the future, or at least convinced me that this is the direction I should take. Entering the conference while only having had experience in Jewish philanthropy, I was interested in meeting people from different backgrounds and organizations with one common goal – that of giving. Youth philanthropy is growing and with that comes new and different views on the work that must be done. Here, together and united, we brought different ideas to the table, exposing each other to new ideas and opportunities. This collective process, involving a multitude of backgrounds, experiences, and tactics helped us create a new one that would help us all make the most informed decision possible for our current task. Working together we were able to come to an informed decision in regards to the $5,000 grant we were given to allocate. This decision was not taken lightly and as a group we discussed and debated at length. Knowing that these funds would be going to a place where they will be greatly appreciated, correctly distributed and truly meaningful is so important. Knowing that we are really making a difference transcends any of the challenges and brings us all together. We worked for a common cause and did what we all thought was best.
I was given the honor of making the phone call that day to advise the recipient of the donation, and even in the short amount of time since the YPC conference has passed, I feel that moment has paved the way for my future. I know that my future involves philanthropy and inspiring other youth to get involved in the same way that others have inspired me.
Philanthropy is a growing area in the young community today. By giving young members of the community the responsibility and honor to give back, they are changing the face of philanthropy and the future of many.