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B’nai Tzedek Program introduces changes

New format includes hands-on opportunity for participants to request and evaluate proposals and make allocations

by Shiela Steinman Wallace, Editor

How do you teach a young person the value of tzedakah and the skills he/she will need to become a philanthropist? The Jewish Federation of Louisville’s B’nai Tzedek program is designed to do just that, and now the program has been totally reworked to make it relevant and engaging for today’s young people.

Today’s B’nai Tzedek keeps the best aspects of the original program while introducing an entirely new format that will enable young people to experience what it means to be philanthropists, including taking them through the process of evaluating projects and choosing which to fund.

As in the past, b’nai mizvah candidates who participate in B’nai Tzedek will donate some of the money they receive as gifts for their milestone celebration, and that money will be matched, creating principle for an endowment. Some of the funding from the match will come from the Lewis D. Cole Youth Initiative and some from other donors, to be named later.

What’s new, is B’nai Tzedek is now truly a group project where participants will pool their funds and work together to decide how available dollars should be allocated. Rachel Lipkin will direct the program.

Using a curriculum developed by the Jewish Teen Funders Network, participants will have meaningful discussions and hands-on experiences. They will develop a mission statement and answer questions including what’s the purpose of being a Jewish group and what values are important. Once they have determined what they want to accomplish, they will solicit proposals from groups seeking funding for projects or programs that match the B’nai Tzedekers goals.

As those proposals come in, the participants will review the proposals, ask questions and, in some cases, even make site visits. Once all the information has been gathered, the participants will hold discussions, build a consensus and decide which proposals they can fund.

The participants will be the decision makers. They will decide what kinds of projects or programs they want to fund, will craft the RFP (request for proposal), evaluate the submissions, ask the tough questions and make the final choices. Once they complete the program, they will have the skills they will need to make informed decisions about their charitable giving throughout their lives.

Since their funds will be pooled, a larger amount will be available for allocation than would have been available had each participant established his/her own fund.

In addition, there are 106 participants in the original B’nai Tzedek program with total assets of approximately $73,000. Many of these participants have not made recommendations for allocations, and $13,000 from those funds is available for allocation.

A letter has been sent to those B’nai Tzedek participants explaining the new program and inviting them to participate in the new program by making the interest available to be allocated through the new process. To date, 10 past participants have rolled their accounts over into the new program.

Lipkin is excited about the new program and will be working closely with the congregations and Hebrew schools to contact 7th and 8th graders and their families across the community, encouraging them to participate in the B’nai Tzedek program.

For additional information, to enroll or to roll your original B’nai Tzedek account over into the new program, contact Rachel Lipkin at rlipkin@jewishlouisville.org or 238-2787.

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