Jewish Fund Teen Board

A bored teen? Not the best experience for anyone (yes, parents, I’m talking to you too.) A Teen Board? Well, that’s a different story, and by accounts, a great experience in learning to help others. 

Teen Board is an initiative of The Jewish Fund that aims to develop teens as “philanthropists” and engage them in hands-on grant-making. Established in 1997 from the sale proceeds of Sinai Hospital to the Detroit Medical Center, the Jewish Fund continues Sinai’s tradition of assuring quality and compassionate care for those in need by awarding grants to help vulnerable individuals.  

Each year, The Jewish Fund engages a diverse group of 25 Jewish high school students in grades 10 through 12 to be Teen Board members. At the end of the year, The Jewish Fund Teen Board members work together to grant $50,000 to both Jewish and secular charities in metro Detroit.   

So, what’s it like to participate in this special cohort that helps to change lives, including those of the board members themselves? We asked Teen Board participants, and the answers speak for themselves. 

What’s your favorite part about Teen Board? 

Nicolette Handler: My favorite part about Teen Board is that I get to make a big difference in certain charity organizations which allows them to start new programs or help more people. I also love the social aspect of Teen Board because I got to meet so many more Jewish teens in my area.  

Madison Charnas: I loved being able to connect with other Jewish teens and becoming more educated about the amazing organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, in the Metro Detroit area. Going on the different site visits was really interesting, and so was hearing about all the things these organizations do. 

Ella Fried: My favorite part about Teen Board was interviewing the different organizations because they shared exciting evidence of the change they were making in the community, and I felt empowered to be a part of that change. 

Tali Feingold: My favorite part is site visits with the non-profits. I had the opportunity to meet with the non-profit leaders to discuss their grant proposals. I heard firsthand stories of their accomplishments and their aspirations for the future. In all my site visits, the leaders’ passion was contagious, and I found myself discovering a deeper connection to their grant, goals, and to philanthropy as a whole. 

What lessons from Teen Board have or will shape your Jewish identity? 

Madison Charnas: Philanthropy is a large part of Judaism, and while I was on the Teen Board, I was able to learn more than just the basics of philanthropy. There is a large focus on helping the members of the community that need it, which is also a large part of Judaism that I would like to continue to focus on. 

Ella Fried: Judaism and passion for social justice are two major parts of my identity. Teen Board helped to combine these two parts of me, each one fueling and strengthening the other. 

Nicolette Handler: Teen Board has shaped my Jewish identity by strengthening my Tikkun Olam which, is a core Jewish value. 

Tali Feingold: When in Teen Board, I read about many Jewish non-profits, engaged in many discussions about Judaism and antisemitism, all surrounded by a community of Jewish teens and leaders. Throughout the year, I learned about the difficulties that being Jewish can sometimes bring. But what stuck with me more is the countless ways the Jewish community assists each other. I feel that this has led to an unwavering pride in the Jewish people and a strengthened Jewish identity. 

What lessons from your Teen Board experience do you think will shape your future? (career, volunteerism, social issues advocacy, non-profit involvement, etc.) 

Madison Charnas: I will continue to be involved with non-profits in the future, and through Teen Board, I was able to find many different non-profits in the Metro Detroit area that I am interested in volunteering with. 

Ella Fried: Knowledge about philanthropy has greatly bolstered my ability to act upon my passion for social justice. It will continue to allow my visions to become a reality in the future. Furthermore, collaborating with a group to create change has opened my eyes to the impact a group of people can have rather than acting alone. I have learned skills such as consensus that I will use in the future as well. 

Nicolette Handler: I think that lessons from my Teen Board experience taught me a lot about how important volunteering is.  There are so many small charities that are struggling to stay afloat, which is why it is important to volunteer/donate because every bit counts. 

Tali Feingold: Throughout Teen Board, I found that I had a greater awareness and eagerness to volunteer and participate in non-profits. I know that I have the power to help improve our community and society, and I want to utilize it as much as I can.  I found myself constantly discovering and growing passionate about many social issues. I’m excited to use that passion in my future and ensure that these issues are solved. 

If you could tell someone why they should do Teen Board what would you say? 

Ella Fried: Each one of us has the power to create a positive impact on the community. Teen Board ignites that passion for social action, giving teens the opportunity to share their voices and to work together to make real change. It equips teens with skills to continue philanthropy into the future, and it is the perfect way to activate your passion to create change now. 

Madison Charnas: It is an amazing experience that focuses both on learning about different organizations and learning more about philanthropy. You get to give your opinions for the group to hear, and together, everyone makes a decision about a mission statement that will act as a basis for the organizations that the group will get to fund. 

Nicolette Handler: If I could tell someone else why they should do Teen Board, I would tell them to do it because of how rewarding the experience is.  It’s rewarding because you get to give thousands of dollars to charity and then see it make a difference in people’s lives. 

Tali Feingold: If you are considering joining Teen Board, please do it! It is such a unique experience that I can’t imagine ever getting anywhere else. Going into Teen Board, I never would have imagined the immense number of skills I’ve gained. I’ve learned how to understand financial audits and forms, dissect grant proposals, learn how to interview, and reach consensus on difficult decisions. 

Know someone who might like to get onboard?  

Find out more about the Teen Board program, including eligibility requirements and how to apply at The Jewish Fund website today