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.
B’nai mitzvah candidates who participate in B’nai Tzedek 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.
The money that all B’nai Tzedek participants contribute to the fund along with the matching funds are pooled, and the participants work together to decide how available dollars should be allocated. Rachel Lipkin is the program director.
Using a curriculum developed by the Jewish Teen Funders Network, participants engage in meaningful discussions and have hands-on experiences. They develop a mission statement and answer questions including what’s the purpose of being a Jewish group and what values are important. Once they determined what they want to accomplish, they solicit proposals from not for profit organizations seeking funding for projects or programs that match their goals.
As those proposals come in, the participants review them, ask questions and, in some cases, even make site visits. Once all the information has been gathered, the participants hold discussions, build a consensus and decide which proposals they can fund.
The participants are the decision makers. They decide what kinds of projects or programs they want to fund, 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 personal charitable giving throughout their lives.
When the B’nai Tzedek program was established, participants established individual funds bearing their names. Those earlier participants have the option of maintaining their funds as originally established or adding their funds to the pool and increasing the amount available to today’s program participants to allocate.
If you own a B’nai Tzedek fund and want to make a distribution recommendation for your available funds contact the Jewish Foundation of Louisville at 502-238-2739.
Many teens have pledged to set up funds when they became Bar/Bat Mitzvah
Tiffany J. Goldsmith
Naomi Mae Penner