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Teens allocate grants to help Jewish organizations respond to COVID-19 crisis

WEST HARTFORD – Teens participants in JTConnect’s Teen Leadership and Philanthropy Initiative (TLPI) wrapped up their year by awarding three grants totalling $3,800 to local Jewish organizations. 

“Through TLPI, we have been learning about how to build community and create positive change by raising money and allocating grants to nonprofit organizations in the Greater Hartford Jewish community,” says Zach Berkowitz, a rising senior at William Hall High School in West Hartford. “We decided to pivot our focus to allocating to organizations in our community that are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We will be funding meaningful projects that will enable our local Jewish organizations to respond to the evolving situation.”  

After publishing their Request for Proposal (RFP), the TLPI teens learned to analyze grant proposals, prioritize need and select meaningful projects to fund. 

This year ,TLPI chose to award grants to three Jewish agencies impacted by COVID-19: 

Hebrew Senior Care, an agency that provides care to more than 90 individuals at Hoffman Summerwood Senior Living Community in West Hartford, was granted funds for the purchase of six iPads to enable their elderly residents to connect with family and friends while they were isolated as a result of the pandemic. West Hartford teen Talia Greenspoon was passionate about supporting this project. “These hard times being connected to family can make a huge impact on a person’s happiness and well-being,” she says. 

The Jewish Association for Community Living (JCL) helps those with developmental disabilities participate in community life as independently and safely as possible. During COVID-19, JCL clients are remaining home with their staff to ensure their safety. With more than 35 residents in their group homes, JCL used the TLPI grant to purchase Judaic crafts, books and DVDs to transform this time of isolation into a time of meaningful activity. West Hartford teen Ryan Howe was “really impressed with JCL’s work to help out those in our community who struggle with developmental disabilities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. … I hope our grant can help the JCL residents stay occupied during these hard times and help them maintain their Jewish identity,” he says.

Voices of Hope (VOH) raises social consciousness by providing quality educational and community programming that ensure future generations never forget the horrors of the Holocaust and other genocides. Because it is unlikely that students and others will be able to visit the Holocaust exhibit at the University of Hartford this fall, VOH plans to use its TLPI grant to make the exhibit available via an interactive website that will provide students and the community with the necessary tools to combat hatred and bigotry. The website will include survivor testimony, school curricula for teachers, educational resources and activities for students. “Being the grandson of a survivor, I feel that it is enormously important to educate others about the danger of hate and silence,” says West Hartford teen Zachary Berkowitz. “I hope that by helping Voices of Hope, other students in the greater Hartford community continue the message of ‘never again.’” 

To find out how you or your teen can join JTConnect’s Teen Leadership and Philanthropy Initiative – and start making a tangible difference in the world right now – visit www.jtconnect.org/tlpi or contact Eric Maurer at eric@jtconnect.org.

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