Community Blog Teens Take Action: Learning the Importance of Giving Back
When Jeffrey Drucker learned about Hebrew College’s Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston (JTFGB) five years ago, he knew he wanted his children to be involved.
The Hebrew College program, launched in 2015, teaches teenagers about fundraising, civic leadership, grant-making, consensus building, and collective giving; and helps them to partner with nonprofits – both Jewish and non-Jewish – to make a difference. Drucker, a real estate professional and board chair at Hebrew SeniorLife, wanted his children to learn about the importance of giving back. He also wanted them to be part of a community of Jewish teens.
“I’m very active both in the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds, and I wanted to pass that down to the next generation,” Drucker said. “Modeling philanthropy is incredibly important, whether it’s writing a check or learning about cause areas that are important to you, and I wanted my kids to see philanthropy in action, from start to finish.”
Drucker’s eldest, Emily, who graduated from the Windsor School, was involved for the first three years of JTFGB. His second child, Matthew, who is a senior at Belmont Hill, spent a year in the program. His family has now returned to the program with his youngest, Daniel, a freshman at Belmont Hill. And next week, Drucker, a member of the JTFGB Advisory Board, will share a parent’s perspective on the program at JTFGB’s Teens Take Action Open House, an evening for parents and community members to learn what JTFGB teens have done over the past five years to make a difference in our community.
Each year, the teens divide into three or more groups — or boards — and work together to pick an issue area. Then they look for nonprofits that connect to that issue area, do site visits to organizations throughout Boston, and discuss the merits of various grant recipients. The teens learn from development professionals, make solicitations, and raise hundreds or thousands of dollars each before coming to consensus as a board about which organizations will receive their grants. And throughout the process, the teens learn about philanthropy through a Jewish lens, including Jewish texts, ideas, and values, including tzedakah and tikkun olam, while helping them develop their Jewish identities and connection to the Jewish community.
This year’s groups, which include high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors from communities including Arlington, Braintree, Brookline, Chestnut Hill, Framingham, Franklin, Hollis, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton, Needham, Sharon, Stoughton, Sudbury, Wellesley, and West Roxbury, are focused on fundraising for organizations committed to education and equity, environmental justice, substance use disorder, and gun violence.
Drucker said his daughter, currently a student at Northwestern University, gained a great deal from the program, writing her college essay on “consensus building,” which she learned at JTFGB. Next quarter at college, she’s signed up to take a class titled, “Leadership, Ethics and You,” — a class only open to juniors and seniors. Her experience, passion for the topic, and persistence as a developing leader, all honed at JTFGB, helped her persuade the teacher to let her into the course as a sophomore.
“My daughter was challenged by the program, and enjoyed it,” Drucker said. “She learned to be a leader, she learned about consensus building, she learned what a good team looks like. I think the program provided so much to Emily in terms of shaping who she is as a student and a young adult, and that’s been a really important part of her mindset as she starts thinking about a career choice.”
JTFGB launched in 2015 as a Foundation Board Incubator program with the Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN), which works with educators and professionals around the country to create, connect, and support Jewish teen philanthropy programs as forms of experiential education for Jewish teens. As an incubator, the program received three years of funding from Laura Lauder and The Maimonides Fund. The program is now doing its own fundraising as a self-sustaining Hebrew College program.
During the first four years of the program, the teens have raised and donated more than $200,000 to various organizations that help address sexual assault, mental health, and substance abuse, among other issues. Last year, the teens raised $60,265 for eight nonprofits focused on immigration, child abuse and trafficking, and the environment. Students will announce their 2020 grant recipients at a ceremony in May.
Hebrew College’s Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston’s Open House will take place on March 3, from 7 to 8:30 pm, at Hebrew College. Join us for an evening of learning what teen activism and youth philanthropy looks like in 2020. Come and be inspired as you will get to see what our JTFGB teens are doing to make a difference in our community. Register here.