Jewish learning JTFGB Teens To Direct Philanthropy to Housing & Mental Health, with a Special Focus on Israel
When teens in Hebrew College’s Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston (JTFGB) held their first meetings on Sunday, October 15, Israel was on their minds. Typically, the teens break into two boards and select issues each board will focus on during the 2023-24 school year. As they wrestled with which issues to address this year, it quickly became clear that the recent terror attacks and current war in Israel was a topic of deep concern for both teen boards.
Board 1 decided to focus on the issue of housing, while committing to allocate at least one grant to an organization based in Israel. “I’m excited to help Israel during this hard time they are going through,” said Ariana Amaral, a freshman at Needham High. “I also appreciate the approach of addressing housing alongside immigration,” added Amanda Davis, a sophomore at Newton South, “as they are interconnected issues, and solving one can positively impact the other.” Zack Leibman, a sophomore at Needham High, agreed that the issue of housing is one that is related “to a lot of useful and important issues that are significant in the world right now.”
Board 2 chose to focus on the issue of mental health, also committing to the allocation of at least one grant to an Israeli nonprofit organization. Matthew Brayer, a senior at Needham High, said, “I am a very strong advocate for mental health at my own high school through a local initiative, so I am thrilled with the issue our board chose to focus on. I feel we can make a sizable impact with our donations on easing the trauma in Israel for both Jews living in the country and for Jews back at home.” Ellie Gish, a senior at Newton South, added, “I think that we can change —and possibly save— a lot of people’s lives through the organizations we will fund this year.”
JTFGB, now in its ninth year, has collectively raised over $414,245 and allocated 62 grants to nonprofit organizations addressing Poverty, Education, Access to Healthcare, Disaster Relief, and Domestic Violence, among many other issues.
Participating teens, who are ninth through twelfth graders from throughout the Greater Boston area, use a consensus process to make decisions as a group. Each teen board’s first major decision of the school year is to choose an issue area of focus for their board. The consensus process includes voting, discussion, and creative solutions to incorporate different perspectives that arise in the group. “To me consensus is a process where everyone is working together and sharing all of their ideas and opinions to solve a problem or come up with a common idea,” said Siona Sigel, a sophomore at Brookline High School. “I felt our consensus process went very well…and we all contributed to every conversation and topic.”
The next step for JTFGB’s teen boards will be to learn about their chosen issues and how they manifest in Israel and around the world. They will begin fundraising efforts for their grant pools in early 2024.
“It is inspiring to witness the thoughtful, pragmatic approach of JTFGB teens in a situation that can feel overwhelmingly distressing,” said the program’s director, Bridget Connor-Feldbaum. “JTFGB attracts teens who not only want to learn and think deeply about issues, but also to make a significant impact. I’m excited to see what they will accomplish this year.”
Learn more about JTFGB here.