There are so many things to look forward to in a new year and 2018 has a lot of opportunities for them. For me, it is an opportunity for more education as I develop the skills of leadership and philanthropy. In 2017 my involvement with the Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston (JTFGB) gave me the understanding of what it means to actually make a difference.
Now, in addition to participating in JTFGB for a second year and serving on its Leadership Council, I was also nominated to become involved on a larger scale with the Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN). JTFN is a national organization that provides resources and some funding for us. I am now a part of the Youth Ambassador Council (YAC) of JTFN, which is a group of fellow teen philanthropists from all across the country meeting (virtually) together once a month to discuss various topics relating to anything that has to do with fundraising strategies to the importance of donating to Jewish nonprofits.
My work with the YAC has opened my eyes to the growth and expansiveness of teen philanthropy in America, which isn’t something I had ever really thought too much about before. Through these monthly meetings, I realized that Jewish teen philanthropy has the ability to bring teens together from completely different backgrounds and geographic locations who may not have ever met otherwise. The YAC allows teens to relate to one another and embrace their differences while acknowledging our shared Jewish values of tzedakah and tikkun olam, which fuel our need to support relief for various local and global issues. The YAC is also focused on expanding leadership capabilities and helping to mold prominent young Jewish leaders in communities throughout North America, which I can personally attest to as it has already greatly impacted my leadership role within my own JTFGB board this year.
After such a rewarding and successful first year of participating in the program, I thought, “Why do it again? What else can I possibly learn or change?” The answer is that there is always and will always be room for growth. Each year all of the JTFGB boards come to a consensus and choose an issue area to focus on for the entire year. This year, my board is focusing on supporting mental health (there are three boards this year—one of the other boards also chose mental health and the other is focusing on sexual assault). Mental health is a critical issue across the world; while that is a sad reality, it represents a significant opportunity for our board to do our job as we make a difference and positively influence the world. The various skills gained by many of my fellow board members from last year who are also participating on this year’s Leadership Council enable us to achieve immense success by utilizing all that we have learned. In and out of the meetings, we act as true leaders and mentors with the first-year board members and I know that it has already been a very empowering experience for all of us.
However, I am definitely not done learning. I chose to do this program for a second year for a reason. The new year represents the possibility for personal growth not only for myself, but also my peers. These programs—all across the country, work to instill Jewish values into the lives of Jewish teens. They have been revolutionary in both my life and the lives of others, fostering a deep reflection on the obligations of Jewish teens in our respective communities. The new year also offers the opportunity to continue our work and create the same type of thing for our peers all across the map. A few months into the program, the participants of the three JTFGB boards are currently in the process of the same growth I went through last year. As a member of the YAC and Leadership Council, I am going to make sure that it’s just as much of a successful year and transformative experience as it was for me; I know that they will learn so much over the course of the program—some of the most important things like how to incorporate Judaism into their daily lives while increasing their philanthropic endeavors.
JTFGB, Leadership Council and YAC have helped me embrace a deep desire to help others, which has clearly increased my involvement within my own board this year. As we transition into 2018, I know that these amazing feelings of impact will only continue. With this tremendous development I have seen in myself as a leader from the different programs and initiatives above, I can only hope that in this new year the other JTFGB board members can take something away from me. I hope to help them embrace all of the same important Jewish philanthropic lessons that I did over time—especially through the eyes of a fellow teenager.
I look forward to the growth not only of us as individuals in this program, but also of JTFGB as a whole. Taking what we are learning in the meetings and in between them each month, we are really making a difference over time. I am excited to be part of the expansion of this program as it has an incredible philanthropic influence both in the Greater Boston Jewish community and around the world. There is still so much to be done—the other board members and I are here and chose to become part of JTFGB to help make a difference so we can expand our impact. It’s a new year for the world; a new year for change and making a positive difference. It’s a new year for us; a new year to continue to grow as leaders and be on the forefront of youth philanthropy.
Samson Cantor is a graduate of The Rashi School and a sophomore at Newton South High School. He is involved with BBYO, JTFGB and Camp Tevya, and enjoys playing lacrosse and spending time with his friends and family.
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