Participants in the YoPhI Teen Board have spent the last eight months working in collaboration with the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and its Lake Institute on Faith & Giving towards a Certificate in Youth Philanthropic Leadership. Over the next few weeks, you’ll be able to read responses that YoPhI Teen Board members wrote in response to the question - What Does it Mean to Be a Jewish Teen Philanthropist?
To be a philanthropist means to see the world from alternate perspectives, and to realize there is always change that can be made. To be a Jewish philanthropist means to take your Jewish values and use them to make that change. I chose to join the YoPhI Teen Board after hearing that I would have the opportunity to raise money that could make a tangible change in my community. Growing up, I was exposed to philanthropy early in life; whether it was watching my parents giving, volunteering with friends, or giving tzedakah in Sunday school, I was taught from a young age the importance of giving back.
Having lived in Carmel Indiana my entire life, I have noticed it is easy to be naive to the problems that others face in lower-income areas. As a philanthropist I feel it is my responsibility to open the eyes of those who have become so distant from low income communities and the problems faced by those living there. Unfortunately, people who are struggling to pay rent or find healthy food, problems I have been fortunate enough to not have encountered, are often left behind. Our society has grown far too materialistic and individualistic as many of us neglect the importance of creating a society where people look out for one another and put others’ needs before their own. I am seventeen years old and have never been employed, when so many teens my age are forced to work in order to help support their families. This is why I give. This is why giving is important to me to show my gratitude and appreciation for the opportunities I have been given, but more importantly to ensure others can have similar opportunities and privileges.
Additionally, I give in order to fulfill the values of tikkun olam-repairing the world, gemilut hasadim-acts of loving kindness, and mitzvot-commandments or good deeds as my Judaism is grounded in these values. I’ve always been especially proud to be Jewish because it is such a peaceful religion, and many Jews are generous, hospitable and value these beliefs as well. I feel the greatest connection to Judaism through the cultural aspects more so than religious observances. Cultural aspects such as social action and tzedakah are what I focus on and desire to teach to others. These core values have guided the generations before me and it has become my responsibility to practice and spread these values myself, thus exemplifying the Jewish principle l’dor vador-from generation to generation. As a Jew, I give with hospitality by being welcoming. I give by donating, whether it be clothing, food, money (etc.) And while I don’t have a job and don’t have plenty of money to donate, I give by volunteering my time to assist in whatever ways I can. This is the best display of generosity in my opinion, because I can see the impact I am having. It is an excellent way to meet and get to know people you might have not otherwise met, and connect with people that live completely different lives but are not all that different from myself.
Ultimately, there are always going to be things in this world that need to be fixed, and as much as I wish this wasn’t the case, not everyone is going to be given equal opportunities or chances in life. The same people that taught me about philanthropy years ago, also taught me that life’s not fair. However, this is what motivates me to give, because if I can make someone’s chance just a little bit fairer, then I'll feel good about that.
The YoPhI Teen Board is an initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis and is part of the Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN) Foundation Board Incubator, an initiative funded by Laura Lauder and the Maimonides Fund. For more information please contact David Heilbron, Director of Youth Philanthropy & Connection at email@example.com.