“JTFGB has demonstrated to me the importance of tzedakah and that it’s not just billionaires who can cause change in a community,” says participant Adam Berk, a high school sophomore from Newton. “By experiencing the philanthropy process from start to finish, JTFGB has provided us with an education on Jewish values, the business side of philanthropy, and how to work effectively in a group, all while raising funds for great causes.”
This year, some 50 students participated in the unique program which has sites at Hebrew College in Newton and Gann Academy in Waltham. At each site, a JTFGB board runs the foundation from soup to nuts: they choose the year's focus area--the Hebrew College JTFGB board chose domestic violence and the Gann Academy board selected mental health— raise all of the money for the grants, issue the requests for proposals, vet the applicants, conduct site visits and finally, select which nonprofits will receive the financial support. JTFGB students hone their leadership skills, become educated about the needs of their community and are instilled with the habit of charitable giving.
Through the program, the teenagers learn about philanthropy through a Jewish lens, although the majority of nonprofits that have received grants are not affiliated with a religion. “Teaching teens how to give back, whether through volunteering their time or donating money, is one of the most important values we can impart to them,” says JTFGB Program Coordinator Leah Goldstein. “It’s beautiful to witness how these teenagers feel after they've completed the program.”
The nonprofits that received the JTFGB grants for their domestic violence work are: The Second Step, Jewish Family and Children’s Services Journey to Safety’s TeenSafe (a teen dating abuse prevention program), DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended), and the Denver-based National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The nonprofits that received grants for their mental health work are: Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Screening for Mental Health, and Brothers for Life, an Israeli organization that helps injured soldiers.
Adds Sarah Winn a high school junior from Natick: “JTFGB has been the most amazing, inspiring, and engaging experience. I know that I will use all of the resources, skills and learning I have been so blessed to take away from this experience in all of my future endeavors.”
The Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston is part of the Foundation Board Incubator, a project of the Jewish Teen Funders Network, that is generously funded by Laura Lauder and the Maimonides Fund.