Suggested Ways to Use Jewish Wisdom in Jewish Teen Philanthropy Programs

Posted on January 10, 2011

I am continuing to share some of the ideas and resources that I will present later this week in my lunch and learn for JTFN on “Beyond Rambam’s Ladder: Incorporating Jewish Wisdom in Jewish Teen Philanthropy Programs” and hope that you are able join me.

There are a variety of ways you can use Jewish texts to enhance your Jewish Teen Philanthropy Program. The resources in my presentation will provide you with concrete sources and ways to address each of the below mentioned ideas. Please note that while incorporating Jewish content and sources into your program is essential I suggest that only select a few areas to focus on and that you do not implement all of these suggestions for any one cohort.

Application- Ask applicants for a Jewish quote or source that informs their approach to philanthropy and giving

Interview- Ask the applicants why they selected that quote, what it means to them and how they apply it to their lives

Chavruta- Select a text and have participants study in pairs and share back to the group what they learned. You can either have everyone study the same text or better yet you can have each group and pair study a different text.

Ice Breakers- Incorporate Jewish text into your ice breakers. This way participants will learn core Jewish values connected to the program while meeting the other participants.

Meeting Agendas- Select a quote to frame the meeting and to put the teen foundations work in a Jewish context. You can just put it on the printed agenda, informally ask the participants what this source has to be with the agenda and/or can incorporate it formally into the session.

Opening Program- Address the Jewish component of your program. This can be done in a variety of ways including with an ice breaker, text study and simply asking them what about this program makes it Jewish and following up on their answers. Alternatively, you can devote an entire session at the beginning of the program to engaging with Jewish texts on philanthropy.

Open Session- You can open each session by doing an activity related to a text without actually using the text.

Mission Exercise- Are you focusing on local needs? Israel? Education? Hunger and poverty? Regardless of your issue or whether the program leadership or participants select the area of focus you can use Jewish sources to explore and guide you as to what topic or area to select and/or to learn more about the topic you are addressing.

Jewish vs. General- Does your program mandate that you give a central percentage to Jewish causes or that you support non-sectarian agencies? Use sources to address these critical issues with participants.

Meeting with Philanthropists or Lay Leaders- This is a great opportunity to ask philanthropists and lay leaders about how their Judaism informs their giving, leadership and involvement.

Key Words- Use key Hebrew words from related texts as part of your regular program related vocabulary.

Session with Parents- Do you meet with the participant’s parents? Instead of simply reviewing the rules and schedule address the Jewish aspects of the program with them. Ask them to bring their favorite Jewish quote to the meeting, do a text study or discuss a scenario. This will help them see firsthand the issues their children will address and how important and unique this program is and may encourage them to discuss the program with their child. You can also plan a participant/parent program or session that involves text study or a related activity.

Binder- If you provide your participants with a binder or resource material include texts for participants to explore on their own and to serve as a frame of reference.

Guest Speaker- Bring in a guest speaker to talk about Judaism and Giving. You may want to invite rabbis from the different movements and have each of them teach the same text or answer the same questions.

RFP’s- This may be a good time to reinforce for the participants the centrality of the Jewish portion of the program and to select a relevant text to get them to focus on the important task at hand.

Reflection- Use texts as prompts for reflections as they arrive, leave, in journals, in pairs, on their own or aloud. You can provide a text for participants to reflect on and discuss with their family or blog about in between sessions.

Site Visits- For the site visits the sources and resources you use can be specific to the agencies you are considering and visiting or can be general about the importance of learning about communal needs and being engaged in the community.

Allocations- Before they allocate select an inspirational source to illustrate the power and importance of what they are about to do. After the allocation you can use another source that talks about partnership, the impact of giving, etc. You can also study texts related to each potential grantee’s area of focus.

Volunteering- For those that build a volunteer component into their program be sure to connect this experience with a source and explain the connection to your participants.

A Kindness a Day Calendar– Use this as a way to get participants to connect action items to Jewish texts and to see how Jewish sources relate to their lives.

Banquet- When explaining why they selected the agencies they did participants can include a Jewish source or perhaps you want to invite a participant to give a Dvar Torah at the banquet. They could address the centrality philanthropy and tzedakah play in Judaism and what they learned about that from the program.

Board or Committee: Does your program have a group of participants that serves as a board or committee that meets with staff and serve as leaders within the program? If so ask them what they think and incorporate their suggestions into the program and invite them to lead and facilitate the activity.

Exit Interviews- At the exit interview ask participants what they learned about Judaism and giving. This will help you see if you achieved your goals in this area and provide you feedback to help improve your program. You can also incorporate this into your mid-program evaluations.

I hope that these ideas are helpful and ask that when implementing these activities and utilizing these materials to please include appropriate recognition.

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