Teens Making A Difference: Saltzman Youth Panel

Tags: Federation, Teens

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The Jewish Federation of Cleveland's Saltzman Youth Panel program educates Jewish Cleveland students about the philanthropic process. The panelists, made up of high school juniors and seniors, work together to understand various community needs and then make a formal recommendation to the Federation’s Board of Trustees on how to distribute up to $45,000 in grant funding. Through this program, the 38 participants develop their leadership and group consensus building skills as they learn about community decision-making and tzedakah.

Hear about their experience by reading the panelists' blog posts below:

Charlie Greene is a senior at Beachwood High School. Aside from being a member of Saltzman Youth Panel, she is a member of icnext, Speech and Debate Club, Israeli Culture Club, American Sign Language Club, Beachwood Girls Tennis, Junior Achievement Marketing Program, National Honors Society, and an avid babysitter in her community.

On October 15, following an orientation and volunteer hours at Super Sunday, the Saltzman Youth Panel had our first official meeting. When the meeting was scheduled, we didn’t know it would end up being an opportunity for us to come together as a group to have an open discussion about the current situation in Israel.

Federation’s Ilanit Gerblich Kalir helped guide the discussion with the goal of providing historical facts, an in-depth explanation about the events taking place, and to answer any questions. Ilanit helped us to sift through some of the noise to better understand how we could help advocate for Israel. Following this discussion, panel members were given the opportunity to write letters to Israeli soldiers. It was really comforting to be able to write to the Shinshinim from last year, especially because we knew that Amnon would make sure they got our letters. Having a direct line to our friends in Israel was really comforting and gave us the opportunity to feel like we were doing something even though we are so far away.

This past weekend, we had our second meeting, and we really jumped in. We met at Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau, where Maurice Saltzman, who created the endowment for Saltzman Youth Panel, grew up. We were lucky to be joined by Leora; now she is Bellefaire’s Director of Development, but she actually ran Saltzman Youth Panel when she worked at Federation.

At this meeting, panelists were taught about philanthropy and the ways that Jewish philanthropy is different from other types of charitable giving. We began by drafting a contract stating panelists should always be mindful of how their opinions and reactions make other people feel and be willing to compromise or sacrifice for the greater good of the community. We know that sometimes we’ll disagree, but being able to keep the disagreements civil and productive will help to make sure we’re able to accomplish our goal: allocating about $50,000 to Federation and United Way agencies. Following this, we stood up and walked around the room to different posters on the wall, tallying whether or not we agreed with financial statements. Some of these statements included “Money can’t buy happiness” and “People are more likely to like/respect you if you have more money.” After everyone had looked at each poster and anonymously tallied if we had heard or believed this statement, we had a discussion about some of the statements and debated our perspectives. There are so many ways to look at the important role money plays in our lives, and we know that understanding and empathizing with grant recipients will help us be even more effective in our conversations.

Next, we participated in an activity comparing the necessities for a Jewish community hundreds of years ago vs. what a Jewish community thrives on today. We concluded by creating a list including the most imperative needs of a community that will go onto the request form proposal. Surprisingly, even though there are almost 40 students on the Panel, and each one of us comes from different backgrounds and understandings of philanthropy and Jewish needs, it feels important knowing that in a time when antisemitism and anti-Zionism are on the rise, we can make a difference within the Jewish community.

Becoming Community Partners Through Saltzman Youth Panel

by Charlie Greene

Last month at our Saltzman Youth Panel meeting, panelists were divided into groups of two or three partners for our agency interview project. Each group would need to interview one of Jewish Cleveland’s many partner agencies.

My group was assigned to Bellefaire, where Saltzman Youth Panel benefactor Maurice Saltzman grew up. The following weekend, my group met at the Beachwood Library to write down questions we would ask Bellefaire and decide who would ask which question. Additionally, we used this time to email the Executive Director, Jeffery Lox, and the Director of Organizational Advancement, Beth Cohen-Pollack whom we would be interviewing.

Within a few days, my group was dressed in professional outfits, waiting in the front office of Bellefaire. Mr. Lox and Mrs. Cohen-Pollack came to greet us and led us to Mr. Lox’s office. We began our interview by asking the questions we prepared and accurately writing down the responses. After the interview, our next step was creating a slideshow presentation highlighting the information we learned about our organization and the positive impact Bellefaire has on the community, including that Bellefaire’s new psychiatric division increased local hospital beds by 50-percent, something especially important as mental health continues to be a very serious issue for teens and young people.

Hibuki dolls are given to children who have dealt with trauma. Their most important feature is that unlike most stuffed animals, they are not smiling. Children relate to these dolls to show them it's okay to not be okay.

On Sunday, January 28, the Saltzman Youth Panel met once again, so each group could present their slideshow and share the amazing work the organization they interviewed is doing. In addition to presenting about our agency, we learned about some of our international partners, like the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the “global Jewish 911.” We found one of their most interesting initiatives to be the hibuki dolls, which have been given to children who experienced trauma in the October 7 terror attacks and their aftermath. Tami Caplan, one of our Federation supervisors, was even able to show us a hibuki doll that the JDC sent to Cleveland.

Overall, the purpose of this project was to provide panelists with experience in a professional environment and to gain insight into the Tikkun Olam programs around Cleveland. Not only will these interviews help us when the time comes to allocate the money that the Jewish Federation of Cleveland has set aside for the Saltzman Youth Panel, but they also showed us all of the ways that Jewish Cleveland really is Here for Good.

Check back soon for more blog posts from the Saltzman Youth Panel. 

Learn More: Federation, Teens