Young professionals prioritize Jewish giving

This summer, more than 150 JNFuture members and friends participated in a three-hour cruise to celebrate and raise awareness of JNF’s work in growing Israel’s water capabilities.Photo courtesy of JNFuture
This summer, more than 150 JNFuture members and friends participated in a three-hour cruise to celebrate and raise awareness of JNF’s work in growing Israel’s water capabilities.
Photo courtesy of JNFuture

Young professionals often have little time and money to spare, but a number of Washington area Jewish 20 and 30-somethings make Israel and Jewish philanthropy a priority for their scant resources.

Take, for example, the JNFuture D.C. Chapter. With 71 paid members, it is considered a hallmark of the organization aimed at grooming the next generation of Jewish National Fund leaders.

Aaron Bregman, 30, a history teacher at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, sits on the JNFuture national board as a representative of the Baltimore-Washington region. He said board members are asked to make a $360 donation to demonstrate their commitment.

Bregman was happy to make the donation, as he views JNF as a way to express his support and passion for Israel, though he acknowledged it is a big ask.

“It’s a difficult time to give money, so we give people opportunities to help” alleviate the cost, he said. Potential members can work out a monthly payment program or the cover charge for an event can be put toward membership dues.

In addition to membership, JNFuture D.C. chapter members raise money throughout the year and vote on what projects they want their money earmarked for, such as Israel advocacy and water conservation.

“People will spend money if it’s a cause they believe in,” said Lauren Kaufman-Bergmann, 29, a senior vice president with Katz Watson Group and national chair of JNFuture. “With JNF you can track where your money goes. You can go to Israel and see where your money went.”

She added: “There’s a direct return on investment. My $180 or $360 is going to help a community in Israel with this
tangible need.”

During the 11 years Kaufman-Bergmann has lived in Washington, she has seen more opportunities for young professionals in general, and Jewish young professionals specifically, to give back increase.

“I think why JNF has spoken to a lot of young people in D.C. is because of their direct link to Israel,” said Kaufman-Bergmann.

Leadership missions to Israel, such as the one Kafuman-Bergmann mentored this summer, are another big draw. A fifth of this summer’s JNFuture leadership mission participants came from the Baltimore-Washington area.

In addition to JNF, Kaufman-Bergmann doles out her hard earned dollars to the American Jewish Committee, American Israel Public Affairs Committee and her local Jewish Federation.

She’ll make her annual donation to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington at the Young Leadership’s 5th Annual Impact DC on Oct. 15, which she described as the “marquee” of the Jewish calendar in Washington.

“If you’re going to a Jewish event in D.C., this is the one to go to,” said Kaufman-Bergmann.

Attending the swanky soiree is not cheap. Couvert is $50 plus a $100 minimum gift to Federation.

“It becomes worth the money that you pay for it,” said Alisa Brem, 29, a development associate at EDENS: Connective Retail and co-chair of this year’s Impact D.C.

“It’s understood that it’s not just money to go out and party; it’s money that makes a difference in the community,” said Brem. “We hope [the cost] is not prohibitive to people attending.”

Brem said past attendees have waited until payday to sign up because giving back to Federation is that much of a priority. She added that if cost is a barrier, then a plan can be worked out on a case-by-case basis.

The co-chairs and planning committee, she said, work hard to make the party a platform to highlight Federation’s work in the community and to get young professionals involved for a lifetime.

Yes, the cost “is a lot of money relative to what a young professional makes,” said Brem, but the idea is to start the habit of giving to the Jewish community now, so as young Jews’ progress in their careers, their commitment will remain at levels commensurate to their earnings.

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