Empowering the Next Generation of Jewish Leaders

By Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath

If you were given $10,000 as a teenager, what would you have done with it?

For nearly forty teens from across the Greater Washington Jewish community, the inspiring answer has been to spend their time and funds making the world a better place.

Through The Jewish Federation’s Jteen Philanthropy program, these high school students came together as giving circles, with each cohort responsible for allocating more than $10,000 to local, national and international non-profit organizations of their choosing. Using the principles of Jewish giving, intentional philanthropy and consensus-building, this next generation of Jewish communal leaders, philanthropists and change agents had the opportunity to put their values into practice as they worked together to determine the most effective and impactful way to use their funds.

Jewish teen philanthropy is a nationwide movement, and, The Jewish Federation and its United Jewish Endowment Fund have brought this powerful experience to local teens through Jteen Philanthropy. With second and third year options, Jteen offers local teens a multi-year opportunity to participate in giving, each year offering the participants even more autonomy in the giving process.

This year, teens in cohorts in Maryland and Northern Virginia heard from potential grantee organizations who applied for funds for projects impacting senior citizens as a vulnerable population and those that enhance Jewish identity. While reflecting on the process, Mira F., a junior at The Bullis School, said:

“Throughout my Jteen experience, I have not only learned how to be a philanthropist, but most importantly, I have also learned how our Jewish values can influence the way we help others. At Jteen, I was able to channel both my love for helping others with the love for Judaism I carry with me. As I strive to help others in any way possible and embrace my religion on a daily basis, it was not until I started going to JTeen when I thought to myself, ‘how can I show compassion to others while upholding my Jewish values?’ In the time we shared together, we were able to shape the way we performed mitzvot (good deeds) through the influence of Judaism.”

Jteen Philanthropy seeks to empower young leaders, emphasizing their own opportunities to influence the world at any age and stage. It models the idea that philanthropy is not something that should be limited to other people with more money or influence, but rather, that it is something that can be accessed at any level by those who choose to be intentional and mindful in their choices.

In the 2018 – 2019 academic year, there will once again be opportunities for teens in Maryland and Northern Virginia to participate in this transformational program. Information and applications for all four cohorts can be found at www.shalomdc.org/jteen.