By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
Everything we do at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle is driven by our mission to ensure Jewish continuity—keeping Jewish life vibrant and thriving, today and tomorrow.
Investing in leadership development is a core part of that mission. Jewish life doesn’t happen by itself—it’s the product of thinking ahead and investing in our collective future, including development of the next generation of leaders.
Leaders like members of the Seattle NowGen Giving Circle. NowGen is a grassroots initiative, launched by your Federation, that brings together young leaders every month to learn, explore our community’s needs, and award grants that support organizations making an impact on Jewish life every day.
I am so heartened by how motivated NowGen members are about jumping into community life, thinking about ways to make it better, and giving back. We asked Jonny Basha, NowGen’s co-chair and a co-recipient of the Federation’s 2020 Jack J. & Charlotte Spitzer Young Leadership Award, to share what drew him to involvement in NowGen. His words speak to both the tangible and intangible impact that NowGen is making:
“Being part of the giving circle is a constant reminder of the importance of giving to community. Amidst all of the distractions of work, social life, etc., coming together once a month to discuss Jewish ideals and philanthropic directives keeps us on a healthy path. Without such a connection, it’s easy to lose touch with the Jewish community. Our involvement in the giving circle is just one example of a lifeline that maintains our attachment to the Jewish people.”
NowGen’s collective philanthropic model is designed to amplify the impact of individual giving. Each member contributed a minimum of $500 to a pool that Federation matched. The group decides on its philanthropic goals and once a year, awards grants out of the pool that are aligned with those goals. For this year’s grants, the 16 NowGen members focused their giving on supporting Jewish continuity through education, combating antisemitism, and fostering the well-being of the Jewish community. Cumulatively in 2019 and 2020, NowGen gave out $37,500 to 13 organizations that provide critical human services, connect people to Jewish life, and educate and inspire.
Through self-directed philanthropy, NowGen is nurturing habits of leadership that not only make an immediate impact through grantmaking but lay the groundwork for future impact as NowGen members step up to community positions of increasing responsibility.
NowGen has proved to be a gateway to expanded community leadership. In December 2019, the group partnered for a special session with the teens in the Stroum Jewish Community Center’s GIFT Program to explore cross-age philanthropic impact. Over half of the NowGen members have increased their engagement with the Federation. Some have taken on Federation lay leadership positions on the Special Initiatives Fund Committee and Strategic Planning Committee. Others have honed their leadership chops through participation in the Advanced Leadership Development Program and Netivim | Pathways.
The high level of engagement and commitment that NowGen members have shown gives me great hope that our community will be in good hands under the next generation. The light of Jewish life will shine ever brighter. L’Dor V’Dor.