Saltzman Youth Panel Allocates $42,500

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Article reprinted with permission from the Cleveland Jewish News.

By Amanda Koehn

Jewish teenagers made up the Saltzman Youth Panel to decide on grants for community needs.

Jewish high school juniors and seniors recommended $42,500 in grants for local community organizations May 4, as part of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Saltzman Youth Panel.

The 40 panelists were selected via an application process and funds allocated came from a gift from the late Shirley Saltzman, in memory of her husband, Maurice. The purpose of the panel is to educate youth on Jewish community leadership, engage them in making difficult decisions about philanthropic causes and to fund local community needs.

Organizations receiving top grants, each $6,000, were the Hebrew Shelter Home, to provide transportation assistance to homeless clients; Jewish Family Service Association, to provide services to older adults; and the Mandel Jewish Community Center, to support one-one-one aides for children with special needs participating in summer camps.

Natalie Korach, a junior at Shaker Heights High School, said participating in the panel helped her learn which causes were important to her.

“I learned how to kind of align my personal values with the causes and organizations locally,” she said.

The panel process includes seven meetings among the students, where they determine shared values and community needs, meet with agency leaders requesting the grants, review details of proposals and finally, allocate grants.

Korach also said that the experience helped her decipher between causes where funds would have a direct impact, versus those where grant proposals are for a less concrete cause or have less potential. She said visiting the Hebrew Shelter Home spoke to her because of the importance of their work – providing housing for homeless community members, some of whom are fleeing an abusive family member – and the potential for the direct impact funds could make on families.

“We were seeing specifically where the balance was going,” she said.

For the panel, a program that began in 1998, 85 percent of funds are awarded to Jewish community causes while the remaining 15 percent can go to nonprofits serving the general community.

Stephanie Kahn, associate director of the panel and community planning and allocations associate at the Federation, said students asked sophisticated questions about allocations, such as considering the depth versus the breadth of impact grants could make on organizations. She also said it’s interesting to hear student perspectives vary from year to year and to see how they take ownership over community needs.

“A lot of questions they have are ‘how is this sustainable?’ Which is a very sophisticated question,” she said.

Panelists also reflected on the experience for a recognition program May 4 at the Federation in Beachwood, where they presented recommendations to the Federation’s board of trustees.

In a written reflection, Lilly Rothschild, a junior at Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, said the experience helped her learn about the “power of discussion.”

“Both what we had in common and what we didn’t helped us make meaningful and well thought out decisions that fit our common mission,” she wrote.

Jamie Guggenheim, a Solon High School junior, wrote that coming to an agreement on allocations was challenging, but the group rallied around goals to improve the community.

“Going through a process like this also helps a person who can be relativity indecisive (like me) learn how to become more decisive, and more importantly, I learned how to express myself and communicate my feelings verbally to others,” Jamie wrote in a reflection.

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