The Next Generation of Jewish Philanthropists
Written By David Heilbron
The Jewish High Holy Days season began in earnest a week and a half ago on Sunday evening, September 30 with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Leading up to Rosh Hashanah, Jews traditionally spend the month of Elul in deep introspection, contemplating the past year in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah and ten days later Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. As Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso noted in a previous issue of this newsletter, “[Yom Kippur] marks a time of deep personal introspection…the twenty-four hour [Yom Kippur] fast is a period of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.”
Introspection is a core element of the Jewish fall holidays and remains central throughout the year in my work with teens. A core part of the YoPhI Teen Board, a grantmaking program for Jewish 11th and 12th graders in the Greater Indianapolis area, focuses on introspection for the Teen Board members and their peers in the broader community. Adolescence is a time of intense growth and identity-building and no matter the forum in which they are participating, teenagers are sorting through a flurry of opinions, emotions, and connections.
While engaging teenagers through the lens of grantmaking and philanthropy, there is an incredible opportunity to develop and inspire a next generation of philanthropists. The 13 members of the inaugural 2018 – 2019 YoPhI Teen Board cohort explored the world of philanthropy through an immersive experience: developing a mission statement to support the youth of greater Indianapolis through education, soliciting and reviewing proposals from a wide array of local organizations, and allocating nearly $5,000 to support their mission. As part of the program’s collaboration with Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Jewish Teen Funders Network, all 13 teen board members earned Certificates in Youth Philanthropic Leadership, identifying these youth as the next generation of leaders and changemakers in the community.
Much of the feedback received through surveys from teen participants highlights the importance of recognizing that the process of philanthropic decision-making impacts not only the broader community but also the individual teen participant. These comments reinforce the findings of an extensive study by the Jewish Education Project called Generation Now, a broad study of Jewish teen engagement programs, in which researchers identified four core questions that adolescents are attempting to answer in any forum in which they are participating:
- Who Am I? – developing a strong sense of self and pride
- With whom and what am I connected? – experiencing learning that is challenging and enables active participation in their community
- To whom and for what am I responsible in this world? – developing significant relationships with family, peers, mentors and values
- How can I bring about change in this world? – inspiring and empowering the ability to make a positive impact in the world in which they live
These four questions offer a tool through which leaders can assess the impact of their programs and relationships. Through our philanthropic work, are we expressing our sense of self while also challenging ourselves? Are we working to deepen connections between individuals, communities and personal values? Are we empowering philanthropists that feel connected to their various communities and have the tools to stay engaged? Are we creating opportunities for philanthropists to make a measurable impact in world in which they live? While these core questions connect to the development of adolescents, they can serve as a guide for all philanthropists as they assess their own impact. As young people are more connected to the broader world than ever, the work of philanthropy must do just that – provide an avenue through which teens and young adults can deepen connections to their various communities and to their own sense of self.
Throughout the period of the Jewish High Holy Days, a recurring theme is teshuva, a word which is often translated as repentance but is more appropriately translated as returning since linguistically it is based on the word “return.” Returning provides an opportunity to reflect on past actions and also think about how those actions can be changed moving forward. As this New Year begins, take the opportunity to return to the core questions that philanthropists can ask themselves. Use a period of introspection to reflect on how our institutions, organizations, and structures are working to create not just the next generation of knowledgeable philanthropists, but the next generation of connected and empowered humans, ready to make a positive impact on their communities in the world.
Shana Tova! (Happy New Year)
Written By Anne Brock
The longer I was in youth ministry, the more I saw the flaws in short-term mission trips. We raised large amounts of money to transport youth and volunteers to a different state, sometimes a different country. That money could have been used to help support and grow assets already present in the location we traveled to “help.” We showed up for a week, maybe ten days, to do work that probably should have been done by professionals, work that I’d be surprised to see maintained five or ten years down the road. Yes, I struggled with these trips.
And then several years later I saw a young woman who traveled to Kenya on a youth trip become an advocate for vulnerable children. I saw her go back and care for those that were dying, offering warmth and compassion during their final days.
Another young woman is working to cure AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria globally. Still another is fighting to end solitary confinement in prisons. They are raising money for Riley Children’s Hospital at dance marathons and taking pilgrimages to DC to speak out against inequality.
I’ve seen former youth become nurses and educators and activists. I’ve seen them come home after college, return to their childhood church and volunteer in the very room where they once sat as teens.
While I didn’t have Generation Now to reference, I did have resources like this about exploring one’s calling, which gets at many of the same questions David lifts up in his article.
Teens don’t often have the resources to make financial contributions toward the causes for which they are passionate. However, they have something even better they money – they have passion! As they are discovering who they are and how they want to make an impact in the world, they inspire others to help them reach a goal or accomplish a dream.
Giving youth opportunities to learn, grow and explore helps them discover the answers to these vital questions. Is traveling to a distant community to repair a roof worth the money we invest in the trip? If it means youth are gaining necessary experiences to help them discover their place in this world…maybe. I’m still not completely convinced but when I see all the ways those former youth are making an impact on today’s world, I think it may have been the right choice after all.
Insights, a bi-weekly e-newsletter, is a resource for the religious community and fundraisers of faith-based organizations that provides:
- Reflections on important developments in the field of faith and giving
- Recommended books, studies and articles
- Upcoming Lake Institute events