Reflections on a Philanthropist’s Journey

By Hallie Goldstein, Alumni Council, Marin/San Francisco Jewish Teen Foundation

Reflecting back on my seventh grade self, I feel as if I did not have nearly as much philanthropic knowledge as I do today. When I was in seventh grade, I knew that giving tzedakah was a wonderful thing to do, but I did not know much beyond that. Frankly, my seventh grade concerns had more to do with my social life than tzedakah.

As high school neared, I developed a passion for tzedakah as I had come to the realization through my family’s involvement that tzedakah is an extraordinary mitzvah, and that if I am fortunate enough to help other people, then it is a privilege to do so.

I joined the Marin/San Francisco Jewish Teen Foundation (MSFJTF) when I was a freshman in high school. My time spent on the board was an extraordinarily enlightening process. As a first year board member, I really got a taste for how the process goes. I recall meeting our program director, Sara Nesson, at the teen involvement fair at my synagogue. Moments after I was told what the Teen Foundation was, I knew that it was for me. Although the eventual goal of fundraising thousands and thousands of dollars seemed extraordinarily far off, when the time came and we did in fact meet our goal, the feelings of incredible accomplishment were so very powerful. As a Leadership Council (LC) member in my second year, I assumed a leadership position, planning and leading the meetings with my fellow LC’s.  What struck me as most extraordinary was the fact that just one year after I had been a beginner and entered the fundraising and philanthropic process, I was already teaching others about the significance of giving.

Now that I am on the Alumni Council, I get to embark on my own project in relation to MSFJTF. Our job as alumni is to take part in our own projects, coming up with some way to bring our knowledge and experience to the broader community. Ryan Werth, a fellow Alumni Council member and I decided that we wanted to contribute to the larger community by teaching a three-class series on tzedakah to seventh graders at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.

At our first session on a Thursday afternoon in January, we joined the school for tefillah (prayer) before teaching.  At first, Ryan and I exchanged confused glances, as we observed how seventh graders had seemed to shrink since we were in their shoes just a few years ago. We then realized that tefillah was a combination of 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th graders, and continue to laugh about our misunderstanding!

Our class has about 10 students, full of youthful energy and spirit. A highlight of my experience has been watching the seventh graders speak passionately about their individual interests in doing mitzvot and tzedakah. A few of the kids mentioned their involvement in Friendship Circle, which I got a kick out of because I had also been involved with Friendship Circle when I was in middle school. Memories of my seventh grade self started to resurface in my mind. Despite only having been in seventh grade four short years ago, it almost feels as if a lifetime has passed. I have come to realize that I have come a long way in these past few years.

Something that was particularly meaningful about this experience was seeing that the seventh graders look up to Ryan and me and fully trust our teachings. As teens and new teachers who are proud to be Jewish and to participate in tzedakah, that was a wonderful feeling!  We both look forward to going back in the near future for the rest of our teaching series.

Hallie (R) and Ryan (L) teaching at Emanu-El



June 11, 2013


The Federation