(Courtesy of Areyvut) Atara Troodler, a 2010 and 2011 H.O.P.E. participant, remarked, “Areyvut’s Teen Philanthropy program opened my eyes not just to the importance of doing chesed for others, but it gave me a real understanding, at a relatively young age, of just how important and meaningful it is to incorporate basic acts of kindness and tzedaka into my daily routine. Being given the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others, as a middle school student through my participation in H.O.P.E., gave me a unique hands-on experience that left a profound impression on me. H.O.P.E. is an amazing program, run by amazing people, that does amazing things!”
Areyvut, a Bergenfield-based non-profit organization, recently completed its 10th year of H.O.P.E. (Helping Organizations Provide Essentials), a Jewish Teen Philanthropy Program at Yeshivat Noam. Not only did the seventh-grade participants learn the importance of philanthropy and local communal needs, they served as the board of their own Teen Foundation. They developed a mission; met with representatives of local agencies; and solicited, reviewed and allocated grants. While the H.O.P.E. Teen Philanthropy program educates participants about giving, it has much more to offer. The program prepares and provides them with valuable leadership and team-building skills. Rabbi Chaim Hagler, head of school at Yeshivat Noam, has been an avid supporter of this program since its inception, and said, “Teaching our students the importance of giving back to their community is a critical part of Yeshiva Noam’s mission, and the H.O.P.E. program has brought that to our students in a meaningful, impactful way.”
The 2019 H.O.P.E. participants decided to focus their funding efforts on supporting children who have been neglected, fostered or abused. They allocated $800 grants to Breaking the Chain Through Education, a non-profit organization that eradicates child slavery in Ghana, Africa, and the Center for Hope and Safety, a non-profit agency in Bergen County that assists victims of domestic violence and their children with housing, programs and services. To extend the gift of giving, H.O.P.E. participants created colorful murals with encouraging messages that were given to the Center for Hope and Safety and to the Jerusalem Hills Therapeutic Centers.
When reflecting upon their experiences, H.O.P.E. participants considered how it has influenced them to partake in more philanthropic and communal involvement. They emphasized the change of perspective and understanding they gained from participating in H.O.P.E.
2019 participant Naomi Oshinsky commented, “The H.O.P.E. Program taught me that no matter how young you are, you can still make a difference in someone else’s life. By participating in H.O.P.E., I learned how to work with others, and how I can make this world a better place.”
“I want to make a difference in the community because if I don’t step up, no one will. I feel passionate about doing more chesed, and I hope to inspire others to do the same,” reflected Ilana Gilad. Reeva Belgrade learned that “every small contribution helps and can become something big.” Kayla Lowy proclaimed how H.O.P.E. has shifted her perspective: “I now feel inspired to always be ready to help.” Ruthie Israel shared, “My message to others is to always choose kindness and try to help the world as much as possible,”
The act of giving becomes natural and fluid when it begins at a young age. Since Areyvut’s Teen Philanthropy Program began at Yeshivat Noam in 2010, 168 program participants have allocated $17,700 to local, Israeli and national-based agencies. Throughout the 10 years of H.O.P.E., participants have reflected on how their experiences shaped their philanthropic behaviors. They have maintained these valuable lessons going forward, and have implemented them into their current, everyday lives.
Meital Fuksbrumer, a 2015 participant, stated, “Partaking in the H.O.P.E. program shifted my perspective by making charity work at the forefront of my mind. After completing the program and donating the money to our chosen organization, I felt a satisfaction that I can recall to this day. I highly recommend H.O.P.E. to any teenager interested in having a fulfilling experience.”
“The H.O.P.E. program at Yeshivat Noam was a great springboard for introducing our daughters to philanthropic leadership. It fostered a sense of responsibility to the community at a young age, and since then they have developed into lifelong givers. At the heart of all parenting goals is to raise children who are compassionate, empathetic and are sensitive to others’ needs. Yeshivat Noam and the H.O.P.E. program have enabled us to help them realize that you are never too young to make a difference,” observed Shira and Robbie Grunstein, parents of participants Kayla Grunstein (2014) and Lielle Grunstein (2017).
According to Daniel Rothner, Areyvut’s founder and director, a key message of H.O.P.E. is that “Donating money is just one of many ways that students can actively help others.” That is something that H.O.P.E. participants now know and something that Areyvut is prepared to help them with in the future.