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Teens in tzedakah program grant $25,000

Read this story in San Diego Jewish World

SAN DIEGO (Press Release) – The first Jewish Teen Foundation (JTF) board granted a total of $25,000 to nonprofits working to secure human rights for women and children following a year-long experiential learning program about philanthropy. Twenty-eight San Diego Jewish high school teens collaborated to assess community needs, learn about nonprofit organizations, and identify opportunities to effect change through strategic philanthropy. After this process, they awarded grants to American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Casa de Amparo, Friends of Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel, Hadassah of San Diego, the San Diego LGBT Center, Promises2Kids and Voices for Children.

JTF is a program of the Jewish Community Foundation, which has an 18-year history of providing philanthropy education programs designed uniquely for teens. In 2014, the Jewish Community Foundation was given an opportunity to expand this experience as part of an international initiative with Jewish Teen Funders Network, Laura Lauder and the Maimonides Fund. This expanded model provides a more comprehensive and impactful experience for the teens.

In the fall, teen participants were empowered as program officers to take a deep dive into the philanthropic process, embracing the Jewish value of tzedakah – a Hebrew word uniquely defined as both charity and justice. They developed a mission statement, researched nonprofit organizations and reviewed grant applications requesting funding. Throughout the year, nonprofit professionals and community philanthropists served as an informal faculty who met with the teens, sharing specific expertise and best practices. Teens were also engaged in numerous nonprofit site visits, assessing organizational leadership, approach to service delivery, and evaluation methods. In their final meeting, the teen participants were entrusted with significant grantmaking funds and asked to make grant allocations drawing from what they learned throughout the program.

Ultimately, teens left this program with a greater knowledge of needs in their community and how they can be changemakers through charitable giving.

“Supporting organizations together this way means we are able to achieve our mission statement even more,” said Jordan Hankin, a Canyon Crest Academy student. “Giving away money isn’t just handing someone a check. You have to do your research, understand the programs and make sure they fit the goal you are trying to achieve.”

Emma Voit, a University City High School student shared, “I was impressed by all of the organizations’ work and grant proposals. We selected the seven we did because their work most closely aligned with our mission statement – to secure human rights for women and children.”

Additional support for the program was made available through the Foundation’s Endowment for Youth Philanthropy Fund, the Chortek Family Foundation, Galinson Family Foundation, Laura Galinson, Viterbi Family Foundation, Larry Pidgeon Endowment Fund for Young Philanthropists and nearly 100 individual contributors in the community, including the participants themselves. JTF hosted a Community Check Presentation Ceremony celebrating the 2014-15 grantees and the teen participants on May 20.