Jonelle shares her love of dance and camp with the less fortunate

jonelle and family

Jonelle celebrates at a family l’chaim held by B’nai Tzedek
in honour of her commitment to tzedakah

By Jody Kamen-- Jonelle Grossman knew she didn’t need a lot of gifts at the time of her bat mitzvah, and decided that she would take this opportunity to instead, give to others. So, she asked her guests to donate to her Tzedakah Fund, which she established at the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto through the B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy program, in lieu of presents.

“I’m very proud that Jonelle appreciates her good fortune – that she is getting a great Jewish education, has the emotional support she needs from caring parents and siblings,” says Wendy Eisen, the proud grandmother that Jonelle attributes to her early start at philanthropy. Jonelle explains that growing up, she and her siblings were encouraged to be charitable on Chanukah. Her Nana would give them a gift with specific instructions to spend a third, save a third and give the rest to the charity of their choice.

In honour of her bat mitzvah, and after assessing the gifts she received from family and friends to her fund, Jonelle chose to support some things near and dear to her heart: dance and camp. Jonelle agrees that dance teaches self-discipline, improves self esteem and demonstrates that the harder the work the more you can achieve. She is following in the footsteps of other B’nai Tzedek teens, including her cousin, by funding the dance program for Ethiopian immigrants and vulnerable Israelis at the Zipori Elementary school and the Habonim JCC in Bat Yam, Israel. This program was introduced just a few years ago by girls just like Jonelle through the B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy program, and requires funding at the start of every school year to run. 

This summer, Jonelle will be helping send underprivileged kids to camp. “Camp has been a life changing experience for me. Aside from making great friendships, I have learned a lot about myself at camp, particularly that I don’t need to rely on my parents for everything,” says a mature Jonelle.

Through her fund, Jonelle will continue to make distributions every year to the causes she feels passionate about.

When we asked Jonelle to offer words of wisdom to other teens looking to make a difference, she said: “This program is a really great way to help other people – help them have the same experiences that I get to enjoy with my friends in Toronto.”

Mazel Tov Jonelle on your commitment to tzedakah and tikkun olam!

Up-close & personal with Jonelle

B’nai Tzedek: What inspired you to incorporate tzedakah into your bat mitzvah?
Jonelle Grossman: I realized I don’t need a lot of things. I am very fortunate to already have all the things I want – so I decided to give back.

BT: Where did you learn about tzedakah?
JG: I learned about tzedakah from Nana, and the rest of my family. I also learn about tzedakah at the Leo Baeck Day School and Camp Manitou where I have participated in programs like "Project Give Back" and "The Manitou Cares Program".

BT: How does it feel to be making such a difference in the community?
JG: I have benefitted so much from dance, and it is really great to be able to let others have the same experience. Camp is something else that I really love and has helped shape who I am. You make lots of friends. It makes you more independent. I have learned how to do a lot of things myself and don’t need to rely on everything from my parents. I hope to give others the same opportunities.

BT: Do you have any words of wisdom to offer other teens?
JG: This program is a really great way to help other people – help them have the same experiences that I get to enjoy with my friends in Toronto.