A Teen’s Perspective on Philanthropy

By Scott Rubenstein

Recently, the Jewish Teen Funders Network released a report detailing the grants that participating youth philanthropy programs awarded during the last school year. In total, Jewish teen philanthropists granted nearly $1 million to nonprofit organizations in their local communities, nationally, and internationally, with a special focus on Israel. This is extremely impressive. In what other setting can Jewish teens have THIS big an impact?

There were 1,810 participants across North America, including teen groups from 8 URJ Camps, who awarded these 362 different grants, and I am proud to say that I am one of them. I have been participating in the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix’s B’nai Tzedek Youth Philanthropy program since my Bar Mitzvah. I have my own donor-advised fund, from which I have the opportunity to grant money every year, and I am also finishing my fourth and final year on the youth philanthropy board. Through participating in a year-long grant making cycle, my board as well as 70 other Jewish Teen Funders Network-affiliated boards have funded both Jewish and secular programs across our local communities. The impact I have helped make has been tremendous, but I would argue the most important impact has been the one made on me by the process.

My involvement in NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement, has not only had a profound impact on my own development and commitment to the Jewish community, but has also inspired a passion and commitment to ensuring a Jewish future. Through NFTY, I found a home in the Jewish community, and I want others to find a home here in the future. That requires, of course, a Jewish future! My involvement in youth philanthropy is only a first step, and engagement is only complete when we give back.

Engaging in thoughtful, intentional Jewish philanthropy is, I believe, one of the best ways to ensure a Jewish future and make a difference in the world. Throughout my four years of involvement with the Jewish Community Foundation, I have helped grant to a whole host of Jewish organizations, both locally and in Israel. These organizations, have, with the help of our funding, put on programs involving Jews in Jewish activities, helping Jews in need, and educating Jews to be the best Jews they can be.

Jewish life can only continue when there is accessible Jewish programming and services. NFTY would not be here to touch my life and allow me to lead the organization to touch others’ lives if it were not for funding. I would even venture to say that I would not be as committed to my Judaism if it were not for funding of Jewish programs and services.

Organizations like the Jewish Teen Funders Network play such a key role in ensuring a Jewish future because not only are they engaging teens in a meaningful Jewish experience, they are also using those experiences to ensure other Jewish organizations do the exact same thing. It’s a big domino effect of Jewish engagement, and each domino is a philanthropic grant.

I am proud to be one of the 1,810 Jewish teens who participated in such an important process last year. I will continue to be philanthropic as I get older because I know that that is how to ensure a Jewish future. Jewish Teen Funders Network-affiliated programs like the B’nai Tzedek program in Phoenix do more than make than impact on their community with money. They make an impact on young philanthropists like me who were part of the process.

Scott Rubenstein, a high school senior, serves on the NFTY North American board as the Programming Vice President. Scott is a member of Temple Chai in Phoenix, Arizona and has served on the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix Grants Committee and the Youth Philanthropy Board. He is proud alum of the URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, New York.