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Samantha Caminker, a sophomore at Frankel Jewish Academy, writes how she presented $5,000 in grant money to two nonprofits as part of the Morris J. & Betty Kaplun Foundation Youth Board.

This year, I was fortunate to be included in a very rewarding Jewish program. As part of the Morris J. & Betty Kaplun Foundation Youth Board, I recently presented $5,000 in grant money to two incredible nonprofits. The board, composed of passionate students from around the country, spent several months learning the grant-making process and eventually applied that knowledge to fund some amazing organizations.

First, we learned about consensus; we often broke into smaller groups, in which we could each share our own perspectives and opinions, then reconvened to report our findings and make decisions together. Using consensus, the board chose two main Jewish values to help us determine which organizations to fund: justice (tzedek) and lovingkindness (gemilut chasadim).

Next, we began the grant-making process by writing our mission statement: “Guided by the Jewish values of lovingkindness and justice, the 2021-22 Morris J. & Betty Kaplun Foundation Youth Board seeks to support organizations that promote education and literacy for youth. The board’s goal is to help young people from any background connect to and learn about community-based social justice needs, and gain access to resources and opportunities to promote career development.”

We then sent out our RFP (Request for Proposal). When we received proposals, we split into groups to study and create presentations on each application.

Samantha Caminker
Samantha Caminker

The next step in our process was, in my opinion, the most gratifying: site visits. Over the course of a week, we joined various virtual calls and connected with the people behind the proposals. Diving deeper than our initial research, we got up close and personal with our applicants, asking questions and getting to hear more about these projects from the most enthusiastic, driven people.

The most exciting part of this experience, however, was getting to lead these meetings ourselves. During meetings, the board members asked all the questions and directed the interview. For teenagers to have the opportunity to not only meet with prominent figures in nationwide organizations but also to lead those meetings was truly exceptional.

Choosing Charities

Finally, the board decided on two nonprofits to fund: the Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI), which works through seminars to educate teachers on Holocaust education, spreading awareness to teachers’ students, schools, and communities; and C.B. Community Schools, which provides classes on school subjects and life skills to vulnerable students in the child welfare or juvenile justice system.

Both of these organizations are truly outstanding, and I am so grateful that the Kaplun Foundation provided our board with the resources necessary to connect with and support these projects.

This program as a whole was just about the most meaningful and impactful journey I’ve ever experienced. Not only did we learn such crucial skills as conducting research, creating proposals, directing meetings and making difficult decisions, but we all got to partake in real philanthropy with the most compassionate people.

Our journey to granting this money was such an exciting and educational process and one that I will never forget, and I am so looking forward to taking this experience with me and continuing this rewarding path of Jewish philanthropy. 

Samantha Caminker is a sophomore at Frankel Jewish Academy.

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