02/15/2016

Making Tough Decisions

Tags: Federation, Teens, Philanthropy, Blog

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Blogs from the 2015-2016 Saltzman Youth Panel

Sophie Ruttenberg (far right) with fellow Saltzman Youth Panelists.

by Sophie Ruttenberg

Saltzman Youth Panel is a truly unique experience. Working as a group, Jewish Cleveland teens are given the opportunity to allocate funds to the Jewish community and beyond. Recently, my fellow panelists and I were truly able to experience this unique aspect of Saltzman.

Of the $50,000 in grants that we have to allocate, $7,500 is earmarked to help us fulfill grant proposals presented to us by agencies of United Way. A representative name Katie from the United Way came to speak to us about the organization’s role in the community and the important projects and work they do. Katie helped us recognize how these programs are helping to improve the community, and how we are an important part of it through the grants we provide. While all the projects presented to us by agencies of the United Way are incredibly worthy, the $7,500 we have to grant is not enough to completely fund all 6 project proposals, so some tough decisions had to be made.

To begin our discussion, we split up into smaller groups. I thought this would make it easier to discuss where the money should go, but I was wrong. When you form a personal opinion of something especially when it is based off of your moral conscience, it is hard to believe that there are views that are different than yours.

But this was our challenge and we were able to come to a conclusion of what organizations to fund and how much they would receive.

Each small group presented to each other and as a 40 person panel, we made final decisions based on the recommendations of the smaller groups. I never thought that in a room of 40 people I would hear 100 different opinions but somehow that is exactly what happened. Eventually after a lively discussion, we came to a consensus.

Going into this I had an assumption that everyone would be content with the outcome of how much of/whom the money would be allocated to. However, speaking from personal experience I know that is not the case. Opposition is not always a bad thing; I believe it pushes those to speak their mind in order to fight for their beliefs.

As someone who talks a lot, I tend to notice those who do not do so. However, I do not believe that anyone kept silent. We had to make our voices heard and build up a moral foundation that we can stand upon when the time comes to make more tough choices.


Sophie Ruttenberg is a junior at Laurel School and a member of The Temple-Tifereth Israel. She is an active member of the Ohio Northern Region BBYO, and served as an officer in the Federation's High School Division of the 2016 Campaign for Jewish Needs. As an emerging young leader, Sophie explains that, "Leadership is not a destination. The road to becoming a leader is long and exciting. It is full of new ideas, new connections and learning to earn trust and respect." 


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