Fifty teens participate in local Philanthropy Bootcamp

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In collaboration with the BBYO Panim Summer of IMPACT program, JUF Israel Experiences & Youth Initiatives staff held their first-ever Philanthropy Bootcamp for a group of 50 high school-aged teens from all across the country on July 25. Based at the University of Chicago Newberger Hillel, IMPACT teens spent 12 days volunteering at local non-profits, engaged in leadership development, and participated in intensive seminars on tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedakah (righteous giving).

In order to intensify the philanthropy education portion of the program, BBYO partnered with JUF staff and planned, organized, and implemented the Philanthropy Bootcamp. The curriculum was developed as an off-shoot from the JUF's teen philanthropy program called Voices: The Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation which is now in its ninth year of grant making. According to program staff member Stephanie Goldfarb, "I essentially boiled down the Voices curriculum to its fundamentals. What Voices teens explore during the first half of their year, IMPACT students learned in five and a half hours."

This fast-paced program incorporated a competitive scavenger hunt in Millennium Park during which participants had to identify all of the philanthropists who donated to the park; an interactive game of "Philanthropy Price is Right"; Jewish philanthropy values clarification activities; discussions about the difference between philanthropy and tzedakah; the value of empathy in Jewish philanthropy; and an allocation activity during which small groups of students organized themselves into their own philanthropic foundations, established their own mission statements, and allocated large sums of (pretend) money to the non-profits that most fell in line with their grant guidelines. The session was rounded out by visits from JUF Chairman-elect and BBYO alumni David T. Brown, and JUF board member and BBYO alumni Debbie Berman.

Though having fun and providing information about the function of the JUF were certainly important goals of Philanthropy Bootcamp, the main objective was to challenge teens to start thinking not just like philanthropists, but like Jewish philanthropists. While the teens spent the afternoon defining for themselves what this means to them, specific Jewish values like kavod (honor) and chesed (loving kindness) were interwoven in each activity. Ultimately, the teens discovered that although what makes a Jewish philanthropist varies from individual to individual, the very act of debating, conferring, and challenging themselves and each other is an inherently Jewish process. By the end of the day, each participant had to make decisions such as whether to fund Jewish or secular charities, local or Israeli programs, pilot or already-established programs; such struggles and challenges that our very own JUF Board of Directors faces on a regular basis. The point of the Bootcamp was not to teach the "right" decisions to make. Rather, the goal was to convey the significant responsibility philanthropists have to be strategic and thoughtful in their processes.

Applications are currently being accepted for the 2012-2013 Voices: Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation grant making cycle! For more information, contact Stephanie Goldfarb at 312-444-2802 or by writing

For more information about how to get involved with the BBYO Panim Summer of IMPACT program, contact Ben Kozberg at

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