Jewish Teen Funders Network and B’nai Tzedek join to facilitate networking and share resources

The two largest Jewish youth philanthropy programs in North America, the Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN) and B’nai Tzedek, are merging under the umbrella of the Jewish Teen Funders Network. The merger will serve to centralize the field of Jewish youth philanthropy and streamline national support to the growing number of local programs.

JTFN was launched in August 2006 as a project of the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) with leadership and support from JFN members Julie Fisher Cummings, Barbara Gervis Lubran, and Ricky Shechtel. B’nai Tzedek was created by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) over 10 years ago. Stefanie Zelkind, Director of JTFN, will be the director of the now-combined project that will be called the Jewish Teen Funders Network.

Regarding the merger of B’nai Tzedek National with the Jewish Teen Funders Network, Harold Grinspoon, the Western Massachusetts-based philanthropist and the founder of B’nai Tzedek says:

“I am so thrilled that the Jewish Teen Funders Network, which has helped to grow and expand the field of Jewish youth philanthropy, will now be the central address for teen philanthropy. Many of the B’nai Tzedek communities where teens have individual endowment funds are now engaging teens in youth foundations. Merging B’nai Tzedek with JTFN is a natural outgrowth of years of collaboration and mutual respect between the leadership of both of our organizations. I am inspired that future generations of teens are learning to give tzedakah and will be involved in nonprofit organizations in their local communities and beyond.”

Ricky Shechtel, one of the co-founders of JTFN, adds:

“Especially during these challenging times, it is essential that we teach our children the value of giving. We believe that the foundation provided by Jewish youth philanthropy programs will strengthen the teens’ insight and commitment to the Jewish community, and that the alumni of these programs will engage in lifelong giving within the framework of Jewish values.

JTFN, as part of its mission to grow and strengthen the field of Jewish youth philanthropy, provided grants to eight local programs and two national initiatives to launch Jewish teen foundations. The teen foundation program model brings together a group of 18-22 teens to engage in collective grantmaking, enriched by Jewish content. Currently, 32 programs follow some variation of this model. The primary educational goals are teaching basic philanthropic principles and giving with Jewish values, developing teen leadership, and teaching group decision-making.

Currently there are 41 B’nai Tzedek programs throughout North America (plus another in London, England), with over 4,000 teens engaged. These programs are based on a model where each teen has an individual fund from which they make donations. HGF will continue to honor all commitments to BT communities, which will run their course over the next 3 years.

Jewish teen foundations and B’nai Tzedek programs have collectively served over 4,000 teens ages 13 to 18. The newly merged program will serve all Jewish youth philanthropy programs under one umbrella, facilitating networking, information exchange, and sharing of resources (see JTFN’s Online Resource Center for curricular and programmatic materials, a compilation of “best practices” in Jewish youth philanthropy, and a directory of local programs).

Next week (June 17-19), over 35 local program leaders from across the country will gather for JTFN’s annual seminar, “Developing a Pedagogy of Philanthropy for Jewish Teen Foundations,” at the Pearlstone Retreat and Conference Center outside of Baltimore, MD. The seminar is one component of JTFN’s ongoing efforts in field-building, networking-building, and training for professional and lay leaders of Jewish youth philanthropy programs.