JCL Announces Restructuring of B’nai Tzedek Progam

[by Emily Levin]

For a decade, the Jewish Community of Louisville’s B’nai Tzedek has been one of the prime programs to help candidates for bar and bat mitzvah learn to become philanthropists. Today, it is managed by the JCL’s Jewish Foundation of Louisville, and changes are coming to update it and make it more relevant to future and past participants.

The basic program allows teens to contribute a portion of the money they receive as gifts when they celebrate their b’nai mitzvah (a minimum of $300) into a B’nai Tzedek Fund. Up to $200 of those donations are then matched by the Jewish Community of Louisville through the Lewis D. Cole B’nai Tzedek Fund.

Every year, the funds are invested and accumulate interest. Each teen is able to recommend which charities will receive a portion of the allocable dollars from their fund. The program teaches teens about philanthropy and allows them to support causes that they find important.

There are many who have taken an active role in this program, but some B’nai Tzedek funds remain inactive. Money that could be helping other charitable organizations remains sitting in wait. In fact, more than $12,000 is available right now in 107 existing B’nai Tzedek funds. The planned changes will increase the likelihood that these funds will be made available to support the community in a more philanthropic way.

What Changes Are Occurring?
The new plan for the program is modeled after the Jewish Youth Philanthropy Institute in Washington, D.C. Through this organization, thousands of teens have come together to award over $725,000 in grants to nonprofits in their community.

The changes planned for the B’nai Tzedek program may involve the combination of some of the existing funds into one larger fund, and making the B’nai Tzedek program operate as a grant-giving nonprofit organization that allocates funds to other nonprofits in the community. Those with B’nai Tzedek funds will have the option to keep their funds separate from the new combined fund if requested.

The upgrading of the program will revitalize and renew B’nai Tzedek, get people more actively involved in a philanthropic experience, and more effectively use B’nai Tzedek Fund donations throughout Louisville and the Jewish community. The Jewish Community of Louisville also hopes to partner with a corporate donor who will contribute a “two-for-one” match of any new donations received thereby providing even more funding for philanthropic purposes.

Will Those in the Program Still Have Input as to Where Their Money Goes?
Yes! Those involved in the B’nai Tzedek program are crucial to the selection process and alongside staff advisors, will determine the criteria used to choose which projects from nonprofits will be eligible to receive grants from the B’nai Tzedek fund. These non-profit organizations will receive a Request for Proposal (RFP) alerting them of the availability of $2,000-$5,000 grants from the B’nai Tzedek group, and will be asked to forward a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) if interested in participating.

Those in the program will also join committees and boards to look at proposals and choose organizations where they believe donations will have the greatest impact. Organizations in the final round of consideration may be asked to present their project ideas in front of a review committee or to host a site visit for the teens to observe the organization or program requesting funding. The review committee will choose a few nonprofit organizations each year to receive funds.

Those involved in the updated B’nai Tzedek program will work together to allocate funds in the form of grants to nonprofit organizations that provide programs and services throughout the Louisville community. Together, B’nai Tzedek participants will have a great impact on the community.

For more information on the changes occurring or how to take part in the B’nai Tzedek program, please contact David Siskin at 238-2701 or dsiskin@jewishlouisville.org.

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