By Alana Hollander
It seems a rather simple equation. Parents who give will have children who give. A key finding of Women Give 2018, a study produced by IUPUI at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, was that “adult children (both sons and daughters) whose parents give to charity are more likely to give to charity.”
So how do we as Jewish educators add context and meaning to this finding? How do we create an environment that will allow children to thrive, absorbing the understanding that giving tzedakah is an expression of Jewish tradition, their own identity, and their family legacy?
The Jewish Teen Funders Network aims to answer these questions in new and innovative ways as they aspire to create generations of engaged, empowered and experienced Jewish changemakers and givers.
In January 2019, working in partnership with the Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN), Natan piloted NatanFamily, a unique and independent giving experience for members’ children and their friends. JTFN worked closely with the team at Natan in order to deliver a new, specially designed curriculum that would enable participants have similar philanthropic experiences as their parents while exploring their identity as givers. In turn, parents were encouraged to talk with their children about their work with Natan and other organizations, fostering new conversations at home about why, where and how they give.
According to Felicia Herman, Executive Director of the Natan Fund, “Being a ‘philanthropist’ – or even a ‘giver’ – is an identity. It takes a while for many people to understand that they too, can be philanthropists and to integrate this into how they understand their place and role in the world. The earlier you can bring people into this work, then, the better. Natan started with people in their 20s and 30s (and now 40s and 50s), and we’ve seen the ways that an ongoing engagement with thoughtful giving has changed people’s lives. It absolutely makes sense to give kids and teens this kind of experience – it is as empowering, inspiring, and thought-provoking as it is for adults.”
Natan, which is a version of the Hebrew verb “to give,” has a long understanding of the power of giving together. Its mission is to inspire emerging philanthropists to become actively engaged in building the Jewish future by giving collaboratively to cutting-edge initiatives in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world. Natan believes that educated, engaged, and entrepreneurial philanthropy can transform both givers and grant recipients. While Natan started with members who joined in their 20s and 30s, it now engages people in their 20s through 50s. New people join every year, and the experience has been so meaningful that many members have stayed for years.
It seems fitting that an organization that aims to inspire new and younger philanthropists would be interested in engaging the “next generation” by focusing on the children of members. Freddie Zises, a NatanFamily participant and the daughter of Natan board and grant committee members, shared that:
“Participating in NatanFamily was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. As a person who feels strong ties to my religious background, and a proud Jew, giving back to my people is so important to me. I know this will only be the first of so many opportunities to do more to help the Jewish community. I will never forget this amazing experience.”
Looking ahead, Natan plans to offer new opportunities to the next generation of their children and friends. With programs such as NatanFamily and other intergenerational programing for parents and grandparents, there are many emerging opportunities to help the next generation understand and embrace their role as givers. With continued support from JTFN, the second cohort of NatanFamily is set to launch in the 2019-2020 school year.
Alana Hollander is Community and Special Projects Manager at Jewish Teen Funders Network.