April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Seniors and IDEA School Students Convene For ‘Better Together’ Philanthropy Program

For the past two months, every Wednesday over a shared meal, the students of the IDEA School and the seniors of the Senior Adult Services at the Kaplen JCC have gathered together to decide upon an organization to which to donate a sum of $8,000 allocated by JCC donors.

Our first meeting, in late October, consisted of establishing what exactly we were doing together, introducing ourselves to one another, and sharing any personal engagement we have had in philanthropy.

At our second meeting, we discussed the differences and similarities between charity and tzedakah, clarifying that while both involve giving back and helping those indigent, tzedakah is, as is described in Jewish law, one’s religious obligation to perform good deeds—it is being righteous and doing justice—and charity is an act of benevolence and an expression of unfeigned kindness and compassion.

During the third meeting, we began to address what sort of causes we wanted to invest in and what kind of organizations we wanted to support. We identified our values, preferences and priorities: What is important to us? Education, hunger, poverty, healthcare, animal welfare, the environment? We questioned if we wanted to donate to a charity more local, regional, national or even international, as well as if we wanted to ration our funds amongst multiple organizations as opposed to contributing everything to an individual organization. And finally, we deliberated about whether we wanted to donate to a Jewish organization, an organization that was founded on and maintained Jewish principles or an organization that has absolutely no relation to Judaism and Jewish principles. We decided that we wanted to donate more locally, to no more than two organizations—seeing as otherwise, our dispersed $8,000 would not make that great of an impact on any one organization—and to an organization that at the least respected Judaism and was administered with common Jewish morals in mind.

Throughout our most recent meeting, we reviewed a number of different organizations that had received the most votes in a survey we were assigned to complete between this meeting and the last. These organizations included the Center for Food Action (CFA), the Community FoodBank of New Jersey and Eva’s Village (an anti-poverty organization). We even briefly considered instituting our own organization, one similar to Knock Knock Give a Sock, for example. We explored these different organizations’ mission statements and their visions for the future, the statistical success of each organization, each organization’s offered programs and generally how each organization operates and how people become involved. We also had to examine the feasibility and promise of these organizations’ aspirations. We then started to compose our own mission statement and Request for Proposal (RFP) describing what we are pursuing in an organization so that those interested can make an appeal to us.

During our next meetings, our objective is to begin evaluating charities we deem qualified, eliminating organizations that don’t meet our criteria and, lastly, verifying each organization’s legitimacy through visitations, volunteer work and correspondence with the overseers of that organization.

As an activity, as a project for both us students and seniors, this intergenerational program is extremely beneficial to fostering an understanding of each other amongst ourselves. We each have much to learn from the other about our own experiences regarding philanthropy, about certain organizations and charities we are familiar with or participate in, about both the history and the current climate of outstanding issues and conflicts in the world and simply about each other. This newfound knowledge is rewarding in itself.

For myself, spending time with the seniors and doing something constructive and gratifying with them has been not merely enlightening, but also sincerely joyful and fun.


Sarah Gorbatov is a sophomore at the IDEA School in Tenafly, New Jersey. She is a staff writer for the Jewish Week’s Fresh Ink for Teens.

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