Six educators stand along an imaginary line in the carpet, each position representing how much they agree or disagree with a definition of "Jewish Giving." They are participating in hands-on training for three new Jewish Youth Philanthropy programs that will launch in the coming months, bringing together dozens of teens to explore important social justice issues in the Chicago community-hunger, homelessness, and youth at risk-and address those issues through the vehicle of Jewish philanthropy.
The programs will premiere this fall and winter at Anshe Emet Synagogue's Tikkun Chicago high school program; Congregation B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim Congregation; and the Teen Midrasha Co-op, a partnership of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah, and Moriah Congregation.
Fueled by a generous $250,000 gift to the Fund for the Future from David and Susie Sherman, these congregational partnerships are part of a major expansion of JUF programming that could quadruple the number of local teens engaged in Jewish philanthropy projects.
Each of the three cohorts will get incomparable hands-on experience, learning the fundamentals of grant-making, researching critical needs-and ultimately being provided with $40,000 to allocate to local organizations. The Shermans' gift will enable the congregations to build up and strengthen their programs in partnership with JUF while bolstering deserving local social justice organizations with more than $210,000 in new grants.
"Jewish philanthropy programs are an exciting way for teens to express their values and make an impact on the community," said Susie Sherman. "We're especially excited about teens helping to direct Jewish communal dollars toward organizations that the Jewish community doesn't often support [because they aren't Jewish organizations] but which are doing incredible work."
Chicago is already home to one of the oldest Jewish youth philanthropy programs in the country; Voices: the Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation began its 16th cohort in September. Voices participants have allocated more than $640,000 over the last 15 years, thanks to the generous donor who endowed the program at its inception, providing a base of $25,000 per year to which the teens add their own contributions.
The Shermans' gift also will fund two additional cohorts of teens exploring concepts of social justice through the lens of philanthropy.
Tikkun Olam with Tivnu , a partnership between Beth Emet Synagogue, TOV Teens, and Springboard, will bring teens on a social justice-oriented school break to Portland, Ore. over Veterans Day weekend; the program will culminate in a "philanthropy boot camp" enabling participants to allocate funds to local organizations when they return to Chicago.
The final cohort will take part in Camp Tzedek, a week-long "philanthropy day camp" modeled on Camp TOV, to run in the summer of 2020, that will offer a unique opportunity for high school students to combine volunteering and philanthropy. Teens will spend half of each day volunteering and half the day learning about equity issues in the Chicago area. At the end of the week, the teens will make a grant to one of the organizations they volunteered at during the week.
The new expansion will also include leadership training for teens who have already participated in youth philanthropy programs.
"This gift will create a thriving ecosystem of Jewish teen philanthropy programs," said Hallie Shapiro Devir, JUF Senior Associate Vice President of Family and Teen Engagement. "Teens will be able to move from shorter, more focused programs to the longer, more intense experience of Voices, and then return to their congregations as assistant teachers, leading a cohort of their peers and younger students.
"This is an incredible way to invest in teens' growth and development while connecting them to the Jewish community and giving them the power to address real issues they see all around them."