Giving Jewishly

Adventures with Federation Fellows

Each month, our Federation Fellows cohort comes together to meet with and learn from different nonprofit thought leaders. In August, we were joined by Sue Schwartzman, an educator, expert in multi-generational philanthropy, and Federation alumna. Sue is a philanthropic advisor who helps families discover opportunities to give charitably in ways that are personally meaningful.

With a background in teaching and a specialty in creating giving-centric curricula, it’s no surprise that Sue came prepared with a fun exercise to get things kicked off. We opened envelopes containing nametags and a list of phrases, and right away our group was up around the room learning about the various messages about money that we all received growing up – and those messages we want to exemplify going forward. The diversity among the 15-20 of us proved really interesting, and we learned about cultural differences from around the world, different family dynamics, and many more lenses that color the way we approach money matters.

Sue also shared some powerful facts from a 2014 National Study on American Jewish giving. The study had some great takeaway data points, including:

  • Over three-quarters (76%) of American Jews make charitable donations.
  • Most American Jews (79%) who make charitable contributions give to both Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.
  • The driving factor for American Jews to give charitably is community engagement.

Source: Connected to Give: Key Findings

The report prompted us to all think about what it really means to each of us to give Jewishly. To some, it meant giving beyond the Jewish community to share those values more broadly; to many, it meant continuing in the tradition of their families’ support for Jewish communities; and, to others, it meant more than just giving financially. To me, I came away realizing that no matter how or where I’m giving, early Hebrew school lessons of Maimonides’ levels of tzedakah are always stuck in the back of my mind: how can I climb that ladder and make my giving the most meaningful possible (thanks to Morah Gilda for what proved to be a very memorable lesson many years ago!).

Armed with some great new information, personal discovery, and shared experiences, we’re all headed back to our boards and committees with new perspectives on money matters, ready to help strengthen that connection between leadership and giving.

Originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, Elysse moved to San Francisco nine years ago after graduating from Boston University’s School of Management with a B.S. in Business Administration and a minor in Hospitality Administration. She is a Vice President with Kingsley Associates, a real estate consulting firm, where she leads research and advisory projects for real estate owners and operators all over the world. She is active in her local community as a dedicated member of Big Brother Big Sister Bay Area and board member of Hebrew Free Loan San Francisco.

Federation Fellows is a two-year leadership building program that develops the next generations of leaders for the Jewish community. Learn More

Categories: Leadership, Young Adults


August 31, 2017


Elysse Bell