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B’nai Tzedek Students Participate in Collective Grant Making

by JCPConnect-
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Juliana Kaitibi, Camp, Youth, & Family Services Director at the Memphis Jewish Community Center, speaks about her grant application for an inclusive summer camp program in hopes that the B’nai Tzedek students will provide funding. 

“Will this program happen without our funding?” “How many people would benefit from our grant money?” These are the questions Memphis teenagers, who are part of the B’nai Tzedek program, asked local Jewish non-profit leaders who applied for a B’nai Tzedek 2022 Co-Op Fund grant.

January through March is granting season for over fifty students enrolled in B’nai Tzedek, the teen philanthropy program at the Jewish Foundation of Memphis, led by Sarah VanderWalde, Director of Foundation Programs. Over the course of three meetings, B’nai Tzedek teens reviewed eleven applications from seven local Jewish organizations – Baron Hirsch Congregation, Beth Sholom Synagogue, Bornblum Jewish Community School, Memphis Jewish Community Center, Memphis Jewish Federation, Plough Towers, and Temple Israel. The total amount requested was over $14,000, however the teens are tasked with allocating $10,000, money generously provided by the Teen Philanthropy Co-Op Endowment Fund, created by an anonymous donor family in 2012.

“Due to the generous family who created the B’nai Tzedek Co-Op Fund, our B’nai Tzedek teens get to participate in the collective grantmaking experience, something most adults don’t get a chance to do,” said Sarah.

The teens ranked each application on a variety of criteria including consistency with Jewish values, creativity and clarity, whether the project is needed in the community, and whether it will change the lives of those it serves. Then the seven Memphis organizations who applied for grants met with the students – some on Zoom and some in person.

“This program enables our students to learn about the Memphis Jewish community. At each meeting, we look at Jewish values collectively,” said Sarah. “And for the final grant making experience, the students make strategic decisions, and ultimately allocate money that will change people’s lives.”

After listening to the grant applicants present, the students continued discussing what to do. “Is this truly needed or is it nice to have?” “If we partially fund the program, will they get money from somewhere else?” “I don’t see how this will help the Jewish community.” “Can we give them more money than they asked for?” “I am so excited for this program because Memphis really needs it.”

The students made their final decisions on how to allocate $10,000. They will present grant awards on Monday, March 21. More information can be found online at https://jcpmemphis.org/teen-philanthropy.

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