Each year Jewish teens in Nashville gain some real-world experience in philanthropic giving through the B’nai Tzedek program. Youth between the ages of 13 and 18 come together in an event designed to help them explore their values and interests, as well as developing advocacy skills. Through brainstorming activities, study, and group discussion, the teens can determine where their passions lie and develop an action plan for giving that will extend throughout the years. This year’s program is scheduled for February 27th, in person at the Gordon JCC. Beginning at age 13, B’nai Tzedek members each create their own fund into which they can make annual donations with the goal of reaching a full donor advised fund of $5,000 by age 33. Initial donations are matched by gifts from the Feldman/Hassenfeld Fund for the B’nai Tzedek Program and the Al Feldman Memorial Fund housed at the Jewish Foundation of Nashville. Each year, the teens have an opportunity to donate from their funds to a Jewish charity of their choosing.
There is a seven-member Board that will choose two organizations for an annual group gift using money gathered from individual funds. This year’s Board consists of: Celia Wiston, Abby Landa, Ethan Bengelsdorf, Dustin Averbuch, Max Lapidus, Batya Coleman, and Carson Pounds. Abby Landa, a senior at Franklin High School, has participated in B’nai Tzedek since she was 13. She credits her parents, who are themselves very involved in Jewish philanthropy, with being role models. “I have really enjoyed giving back through this program and love its mission to promote philanthropy in Jewish teens. I am proud and happy I could participate in this program.” Abby says the Board is still deciding which charities to choose for this year, but she has a special interest in the ACLU. “I am very passionate about their work helping fight hate, in particular social and environmental hate, racism, and their advocacy for women’s rights.”
This year’s program is also adding a hands-on experience. During the February 27th program, the teens will create “Mitzvah Bags” for healthcare workers from a local hospital and will also write cards for the patients. Abby Landa says, “It’s gratifying to have something specific to do where we can actually see a product.” Board member Carson Pounds is in the 8th grade at Jewish Middle School. This is his first year with the program. He says healthcare is definitely an area of interest for his giving. “I feel like it's a great thing to help the healthcare workers and that is definitely one of my interests as to where the donations will go.”
The B’nai Tzedek program is available to any Jewish teen in the Nashville area who is 13 or over. The B’nai Tzedek program is sponsored by the Al Feldman Memorial Fund and the Feldman/Hassenfeld Fund for the B’nai Tzedek Program. For more information about the program, contact Shannon Small, Assistant Financial Resource Director and Foundation Director, at email@example.com