Posted on September 18th, 2016

Training Teen Philanthropists

On a late Sunday afternoon, the argument gets heated. “I’ve been looking at Organization A’s budget and it really seems like we will make a big impact.”

“Impact is important, but Organization B’s work helps people in our community learn a skill. Don’t you remember what Maimonides said?!”

The eye roll is audible because, of course they remembered what Maimonides said. This group of teens has studied and refers to this classic prioritization of giving, along with other Jewish texts frequently.

The volume rises in the room, as does the passion, the pride, and the confidence … but as voices raise and excitement grows, anger is absent. These teens are too busy making a difference. Having already explored their own individual and shared Jewish values, this group of teens is well underway digging into the details of grant proposals for projects that address need ijftb-detroitn their local community. They had visited a local hospital and asked thoughtful but challenging questions of their Jewish food pantry; they poured over budgets and program details; constantly, they revisit the words of the mission statement that guide their work, and the Jewish texts that just so happen to speak about the very question they are debating. With limited resources, how do I give Jewishly, with impact?

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It doesn’t take much to create that experience. The Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN) is a central resource for Jewish teen philanthropy programs, in all types of Jewish organizations. We work to strengthen, through professional development, and grow, through new program initiatives, the field of Jewish teen philanthropy.  Around the world, organizations have turned to Jewish teen philanthropy programs as a form of empowering teens, teaching philanthropy as a practical tool for engaging in tzedakah and tikkun olam, and creating a structure for not only learning about, but living Jewish values.

Jewish teen philanthropy gives teens the tools they need, the training ground for using them, and the opportunity to make real change. It is real responsibility and it is real engagement. Teens step into the role of philanthropist, working to align their giving with their values. While many URJ synagogues and summer programs have already watched this scene play out in classrooms and youth lounges, bunks and boardrooms, we know that so many more have not. Are you already doing this, or maybe something similar? We want to hear from you! JTFN is a network field building organization; you don’t need to have a “JTFN” program to be a part of the field, but we do work hard to learn about what is happening on jtfn-export-40-of-85the ground, connect educators, and share the global story.

Not doing Jewish teen philanthropy yet? The JTFN team is excited to share resources (including a curriculum designed with the URJ) and connect to explore how Jewish teen philanthropy might fit for you. If you’re interested in learning more about getting your start with Jewish teen philanthropy, join us for our fall kickoff webinar or email to set up a time to chat!

Briana Holtzman is the director of the Jewish Teen Funders Network and can be found exploring New York City in search of coffee that rivals Seattle’s. Say hi at Briana@jtfn.org