How can we show that the Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony and celebration is the beginning (not the end) of living as a responsible, educated, concerned, interested, active, engaged Jew and human being?
Our B'nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy Program offers an engaging solution. By giving kids the opportunity to be philanthropists, we place into their hands the most valuable gift—we teach them how to give.
The B’nai Tzedek Fund gives parents and their B’nai Mitzvah teens the opportunity to create a philanthropic fund in the teen’s name. The teen’s congregation and KJCFF's Jeff and Nancy Becker Community Enrichment Fund will match the child’s contribution to help initially establish the fund. During the year, teens learn about what it means to be a philanthropist and that one does not need to be rich to make a difference. Joining with other teens, they start to identify areas of particular concern and start to develop their own unique way of getting involved in the work of tikkun olam (repairing the world).
More than 65 local post Bar/Bat Mitzvah age teens have created funds for themselves. They come together and learn about philanthropy and allocating their funds to charities in the Jewish world. These funds are the start of a permanent endowment fund that they can manage through the KJCFF for years to come. Didn't have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah? Didn't get around to creating one at that point in their lives? It is never too late to start a B'nai Tzedek fund. Contact program co-coordinators Mary Ann Merrell and Shannon Martindate at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the KJA at (865) 690-6343.
- from HaKol 1/2016
For nearly ten years, KJA, through the Jeff and Nancy Becker Community Enrichment Fund of the Knoxville Jewish Community Family of Funds (KJCFF), Temple Beth-El, and Heska Amuna Synagogue have joined in providing matching funds for teens to create their own philanthropic funds in concert with other teens and the KJCFF. Near the time of their b’nai mitzvah, teens are encouraged to open a fund of their own from which they can grant monies in the future to any Jewish nonprofit, local or global. Teens with funds in the B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy Program (B’nai Tzedek) meet annually to discuss the types of organizations and social causes they would like to financially support by granting monies accrued from the interest of their B’nai Tzedek funds. Currently, there is more than $50,000 in B’nai Tzedek teen-held funds which enables the teens, if they combine their interest on their individual funds, to award two $1,000 grants most years.
Over the past year, B’nai Tzedek fund-holder Arielle Rosen has guided the idea for giving a grant to a community in need of school supplies. Several communities were considered for this idea including supporting children in Hadera; Arielle also asked the teens to consider the needs of Jewish children in the U.S. by focusing on helping children who were impacted by the floods in Houston. Houston Jewish Family Services was the organization identified for this Knoxville B’nai Tzedek grant.
In addition to Houston JFS, teen fund holders Justen Bain, Ben Gibbons, Chris Hale, Jacob Messing, Sarah Siegel, and Arielle also wanted to provide a grant closer to home. Arielle summarized their vision stating that, “the B'nai Tzedek fundholders met this summer and recommended to give half our grant to local BBYO scholarships and half to the Jewish Family Services of Houston. We wanted half our grant to go to scholarships to local BBGs and AZAs, so that they can go to programs. We all love going to BBYO programs and we want every Jewish teen to have the opportunity to go to them. We wanted the other half of our grant to go towards supplying school supplies for Jewish kids in Houston that were hit by the horrible floods. We want all the children impacted by the floods to keep up their school work and especially increasing their knowledge.”
One organization that Arielle researched to learn more about the organization’s needs is the Jewish Children’s Regional Service (JCRS). JCRS is located in New Orleans and is the oldest Jewish children’s social services organization in America; JCRS has been actively supporting children and teens to provide access not only to services but also scholarships to college, camp, and other special programs. JCRS will be one of dozens of Jewish nonprofit organizations that will be considered for this year’s grants.
If you have an idea of an organization that you think the teens would be interested in granting, please let us know. Send your ideas for our teens to email@example.com.