Teen Philanthropy at its best

By Alan T. Domb-- When it comes to tzedakah and tikun olam (repairing the world), you’re never too young to get involved. Thanks to the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto’s B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy program, Toronto teens are doing just that.

Toronto’s Abrahami, Matlow, and Wolfond children are just a few of the teen philanthropists who are getting an early start when it comes to improving the lives of others through the Jewish Foundation.

“It is important for us to be involved in philanthropy because we are fortunate enough to be able to give to others who are less fortunate than we are,” explained Reuven Abrahami.

For their special project, the three older Abrahami children – Reuven, 19, Devin, 16, and Alissa, 13 – decided that they really wanted to see other children derive joy from an experience they themselves had shared. To that end, they came up with the idea of funding camp scholarships. “We wanted other children to have the opportunity to enjoy the experience of sleepover camp just like we have had,” explained Reuven. The two younger siblings, Arieh, 10 and Mati, 6, plan to follow in their brother and sisters’ footsteps in establishing their own B’nai Tzedek funds in the future. “We have learned about helping others and charity by watching our savta, Gabi Weisfeld, who has been honoured at various ceremonies over the years in recognition of her philanthropic involvement.”

The B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy program brings the world of tzedakah to those of bar or bat mitzvah age. “I think it is important to be involved, because it is our responsibility to give back to the community,” explained Maddie Wolfond, who established her fund in 2005. “It makes me feel happy to know I am helping others. I know how lucky I am and the idea of making someone else’s life a little bit better makes me feel like I’ve done my part to give back to the world.”

To become a B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropist, a minimum investment of $1,000 is made to establish a fund. A B’nai Tzedek teen obtains a unique learning opportunity where he/she not only gets to make decisions on how to spend the interest accumulated annually, but also experiences firsthand the impact the contributions make on lives throughout the community.

In addition to opening a fund, some B’nai Tzedek teen designate a portion of their gift to a specific philanthropic project, learning about needs in Toronto and in Israel through discussions with the Jewish Foundation, as was the case with Yael Matlow.

“We have always learned about derech eretz and tikun olam, being kind to others and repairing the world,” said Yael. “My teachers have always told me to do what you can to help others who are less fortunate and to give as much as you can.”

After weighing her options, Yael decided to fund a dance studio in Sderot for a number of reasons. “First of all, I love dance, tap, jazz, hip hop, lyrical and musical theatre,” said Yael. “When I was in Sderot, we saw many places that had been destroyed by missiles and I felt so bad. I wanted to make sure that the kids never had to stop dancing no matter what was going on outside.”

True to her word, Yael and her family traveled to Israel this past December with six duffle bags full of dance costumes and shoes collected from the community and from families she knows from the Toronto dance studio she attends. They were unable to visit Sderot, due to the Gaza war, but the Sderot dance students came to meet Yael’s family in Jerusalem.

“Knowing that I am helping others isn’t just a great feeling for me, but also for the children I am helping,” she said.

There are currently 80 B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy funds at the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto.


Clockwise From Bottom Left:  Maddie Wolfond, Reuven Abrahami, Yael Matlow, Alissa Abrahami, Arieh Abrahami and Mati Abrahami