Toronto teens help make computers in Bat Yam a reality

By Daniel Horowitz-- Despite the fact that Jonathan and Jake Grammer celebrated their respective bar mitzvahs two years apart, the brothers had one common goal: to see other youngsters benefit from their good fortune.

Through the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto’s B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy initiative, Jonathan, whose bar mitzvah was in 2007, and Jake who celebrated his in 2009, decided to donate their cash gifts to a unique and important project in the Israeli city of Bat Yam.

Bat Yam is home to the fastest growing Ethiopian-Israeli community in Israel. It is also the most vulnerable and the poorest.

Of the Ethiopian immigrants in Bat Yam today, more than 70% live below the poverty line; nearly 50% are clients of welfare services, and more than half the men between the ages of 18 – 64 are unemployed.

To make matter worse, statistics show that without assistance from the Diaspora, one in every four Ethiopian teenagers will drop out of school, perpetuating that cycle of poverty.

That’s where the Jewish Foundation - UJA Federation’s endowment arm - is making a real difference.

Through the A Computer for Every Child program, the social and educational inequalities in Bat Yam are being reduced by providing computers to disadvantaged families.

The program, funded in part by the Jewish Foundation, sees young people being provided with not only the computers themselves, but computer and internet skill courses, all of which motivates youngsters to stay in school.

“We made the right choice in choosing the computer program because by giving computers, we are giving to the entire families and giving them knowledge of technology and that promotes attention,” explains Jonathan.

“It’s important to help other people that don’t have as much as us growing up, and hopefully they can use the knowledge that comes with the programs that we are funding,” explains Jake. “We are interested in helping others become integrated into the society they live in.”

Teen philanthropy seems to be in the Grammer’s DNA, as their cousins, Kellie and Lauren, recently donated their bat mitzvah money to a project in Sderot through the Jewish Foundation.

“We are so proud to have Jake and Jonathan as partners in this endeavour,” says Jewish Foundation chair, Honey Sherman. “They are young adults who are committed to our Jewish community. Their leadership is exemplary and it’s clear to me that they are well on their way to becoming active, dedicated community leaders.”