ON JUNE 11, the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey held its graduation ceremony for the J Team Teen Philanthropy Program. The program, which has engaged and educated teenagers since 2009, distributed a total of $6,000 this year.
The teens provided grants to Elijah’s Promise, JBI (Jewish Braille Institute) International, Friends of Kishinev Jewry, and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
Throughout the last year, 16 J Team members gathered monthly to learn about various non-profits, research and propose specific organizations to their peers, and decide collectively where to allocate funds. The funds are comprised of donations from participants; their collective funding is matched by the Karma Foundation.
At the graduation ceremony, the teens talked of what they had learned throughout the year and their pride in being able to support selected organizations.
Two of the teens felt personal connections to the organizations they supported. Sophie Ostrove, a student in a Jewish day school, expressed her gratitude to JBI for the services they provided which allowed her to “fully participate in my lessons in a comfortable, fully accessible way.”
Jacob Jasser described the effects on his whole family when his brother was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and how grateful he was to the teens for supporting a grant to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, an organization “which is so close to my heart.”
Many of the teens in the program, both this year and in previous years, have talked about how the emotional descriptions of their peers’ personal connections influenced their decisions to support those organizations.
Several of the teens are hoping to sustain their commitment to Elijah’s Promise by reuniting the group to volunteer at its Community Garden and Soup Kitchen throughout the summer.
Parent reactions were equally enthusiastic about the long-term effects of the J-Team program. One mother described how she was thrilled her teen was able to branch out into the community and make good friends with Jewish teens from all backgrounds and from so many different communities.
For information about next year’s program, contact Linda Benish at the Jewish Federation at 732-588-1816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.