Hoping to engage younger generations in supporting Jewish organizations, the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest is seeking to expand its year-old commitment to what it calls multigenerational family philanthropy.
JCF volunteers and staffers have enrolled in a training program with 21/64, a consulting firm run by the Bronfman Philanthropies in New York. Funded with a $100,000 grant by the Jewish Federations of North America, the program trains federation leaders to advise families on Jewish values and engage their children in giving to Jewish causes or under Jewish auspices.
MetroWest contributed $2,500 for staff training and follow-up consultations with JFNA experts, said JCF director Joshua Rednik.
“This program is designed to get us as professionals more comfortable at having much deeper conversations with people who have funds here at JCF — what they want their fund to be about — a mission statement, values orientation, bringing their kids into the fold,” said Rednik. “It is about where the grants from the investments should go and what kind of impact they want their fund to have.”
Enlisting the next generation was high on the agenda of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ at its Major Gifts Event on Oct. 4 in Livingston. The JCF is the federation’s planned giving and endowment arm.
Foundation president Kenneth R. Heyman outlined the challenge in a presentation at the gathering held at the Crystal Plaza.
“Many parents want their children to be engaged in philanthropy, but the children have different interests than their parents and different ways of approaching charity,” he told NJJN in an Oct. 6 telephone interview. “They talk on two different wavelengths, so to be able to carry on a conversation with two generations is good for them and good for us. It enables us to broaden our conversation with families.”
A number of Jewish organizations have been addressing concerns over the giving habits of wealthy young people.
“[I]n many cases the children feel less obligated to Jewish causes and may have different approaches and expectations than their parents,” wrote Lisa Eisen, national director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, in a 2011 report.
Up until now, most of the family funds organized under JCF — which manages foundations formed with a minimum investment of $10,000 — have involved philanthropists age 50 and above.
“It can be natural for an 80-year-old in our community to be thinking of Daughters of Israel nursing home and the JCC,” said Heyman. “But a younger person may be thinking about broader Jewish experiences, forget about whether they are even going to give to something Jewish. They might have never belonged to a JCC because they belong to a fitness center, but there might be other Jewish causes that have to do with their children. We want to be a resource for young people to find new opportunities from giving.”
Rednik said conversations with families must surround the nature of Jewish philanthropy itself.
“Do they give to Jewish organizations or to organizations that are important to each member of a family? How do we engage the next generation in Jewish philanthropic work? This is not a cure-all, but it is one way we can be reaching out to the next generation and hear what they want to do — not necessarily what their parents want to do,” Rednik said.
“Thus far we are only working with a handful of families but we expect that to grow as we move forward. This is a new area for us,” he said.
Rednik said he hopes to eventually hold conversations with 10 or 20 families.
“This is a way to provide a new level of service to the people who have funds with us so that we are not just seen as a bank,” he said. “We are out there consulting.”
Those wishing more information can contact Rednik at firstname.lastname@example.org.