Entitled or Enlightened?

by Miriam Bader

3988728294_a0270ed42dThe launch of PresenTense Magazine Issue 9: Philanthropy initiated a stimulating conversation about young Jews and philanthropy at a panel Tuesday night titled “Entitled or Enlightened?”. Cosponsored by PresenTense, The Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel, and ROI Community, the event, which took place at the Samuel Bronfman Foundation offices in New York, featured panelists Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim, Gali Cooks of the Rita & Stanley Kaplan Family Foundation, and Rabbi Ari Weiss of Uri L’Tzedek. Their perspectives were as compelling as those shared by the audience, a group of largely young Jews in the nonprofit Jewish fundraising world. Expertly moderated by Tamar Snyder, a staff writer at The Jewish Week, the panel explored complex issues related to Jewish philanthropy. While few answers were provided, the questions posed are relevant to anyone concerned with the relationship of young Jews to philanthropy:

On definitions:

  • What exactly does it mean to be a young Jew? Is it defined by one’s age, or one’s self perception?
  • What is a social entrepreneur? Can there really be so many? Is the title earned, or self-proclaimed?
  • Does innovation really exist? Or is it execution and packaging that distinguishes new ideas from the old?

On free programming:

  • Has free programming created a generation with a culture of entitlement?
  • Is free sustainable? Does sustainability matter?
  • Does free signify that a product is not worth the price?

On volunteerism:

  • Is volunteerism a trend or a sustainable model?
  • Should volunteerism be ritualized and institutionalized within the Jewish community?
  • Does philanthropy encompass volunteerism or is it exclusively financial giving?

On giving:

  • Is it a cause for concern that many Jews give more to universal causes than to Jewish organizations?
  • How do we educate people to give?
  • What values are worth supporting?
  • What can we learn from historic philanthropic models? Do we look to the past often enough?

A spirit of questioning was a key aspect of the evening’s lively conversation. As Gali Cooks aptly stated, “I am not a cynic, but a skeptic.” Although the questions raised may not have easy answers, reflecting on them is critical.

Miriam Bader is Director of Education at the Museum at Eldridge Street, an ROI alumn, as well as a writer and editor at PresenTense Magazine.