“[The foundation] has demonstrated to me the importance of tzedakah,” said participant Adam Berk, a high school sophomore from Newton. “It’s not just billionaires who can cause change in a community.”
This year, 50 students participated in the program, which has sites at Hebrew College and Gann Academy in Waltham.
The Hebrew College board gave grants to three local groups for their domestic violence work: The Second Step; Jewish Family & Children’s Services’ Journey to Safety’s TeenSafe, a teen dating abuse prevention program; and DOVE, which stands for Domestic Violence Ended. The Denver-based National Coalition against Domestic Violence also received a grant.
The Gann Academy board gave grants to two local groups for their mental health work: Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program and Screening for Mental Health. Brothers for Life, an Israeli organization that helps injured soldiers, also received a grant.
Each group received an average of $6,667.
In each location, a board of teens made all the decisions and did all the work for the foundation, including choosing the year’s focus area, raising money, issuing requests for proposals, vetting applicants, conducting site visits and selecting which applicants will receive financial support.
The program’s goal is to teach teens about philanthropy through a Jewish lens, although a group need not be Jewish or have any kind of religious orientation to apply for or receive a grant.
“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,” said program coordinator Leah Goldstein. “It’s beautiful to witness how these teenagers feel after they’ve completed the program.”
“This has been the most amazing, inspiring, and engaging experience,” added Sarah Winn, a high school junior from Natick. “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 foundation is part of the Foundation Board Incubator, a project of the Jewish Teen Funders Network; Laura Lauder and the Maimonides Fund support the network. More information about the Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston is available from Goldstein at (617) 559-8803 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“By experiencing the philanthropy process from start to finish,” noted Berk, “[the foundation] 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.”