Jenna Weinberg

In my junior year of college, I participated in a retreat called Grand Street (run by 21/64), which provides a network and tools for young adults who might be involved with their family’s philanthropy one day. This retreat was life changing and eye opening. It empowered me to ask my parents the questions about this inherited legacy that I had never previously known how to ask.

Location: New York, New York

Profession: Interim Director, Slingshot

Tell me about your role:

I currently serve as Slingshot’s Interim Director. This past November, I moved back to New York after a year in Israel. At the same time, Slingshot’s executive director decided to leave the organization for an amazing new opportunity. While we searched for our new executive director, the Board asked if I’d step off of the Board to step in as Interim Director. Over the past few months, I’ve had a blast getting to know Slingshot on a whole new level and feel grateful that I could help the organization at such an integral moment in its growth.

Over the course of my involvement with Slingshot I’ve held the following roles: fund member, board member, and now Interim Director. Wearing the two-hats of being both a non-profit professional and also a funder is something I will struggle with throughout my career, especially today when I am just beginning to prove myself in both arenas. Because I hope to have a mission driven career, it is only natural that I’ll be drawn to working for the same organizations that I’m interested in funding.

How did you get connected to the organization?:

In my junior year of college, I participated in a retreat called Grand Street (run by 21/64), which provides a network and tools for young adults who might be involved with their family’s philanthropy one day. This retreat was life changing and eye opening. It empowered me to ask my parents the questions about this inherited legacy that I had never previously known how to ask.

The idea for Slingshot emerged 10 years ago at one of the first Grand Street retreats. The participants felt disconnected from the organizations that their parents supported and were looking for new ways to engage with Jewish philanthropy. So, they decided to create the Slingshot Resource Guide – a Zagat-style guide that highlights the most innovative and impactful Jewish organizations in North America.

Soon after, they created a giving circle, called the Slingshot Fund, which I joined after moving to New York when I graduated from college. The Slingshot Fund is comprised of Jewish funders in their 20s and 30s, who pool their contributions in order to leverage those dollars to make larger gifts. Only organizations featured in the Slingshot Guide are eligible for funding. Participating in the Slingshot Fund gave me a network of peers who were interested in funding Jewish innovation, exposed me to dozens of Jewish organizations that were relevant to me, encouraged me to grapple with my Jewish and philanthropic values, and empowered me to advocate for the organizations I believe in.

What’s your first connection to philanthropy?:

Every Friday night growing up, my family had Shabbat dinner together, often with quite a few guests. In addition to the standard rituals of lighting candles, blessing the wine, and eating challah, my family added an extra tradition: giving Tzedakkah. Each person had a quarter by her/his place setting. We would take turns going around the circle and placing the coin in the Tzedakkah box. Each person was also required to share a good deed they had done over the course of the week. This positive action was something that was expected of me weekly. And, not only was I expected to be positively engaged with the world around me, I was expected to recount the deed, reflect on it, and take pride in it. For me, philanthropy was never just about the money, but also the actions that go along with it.

Who has inspired your giving?:

It’s not a particular person, but the alumni network of the Dorot Fellowship. They inspire me by showcasing that when a group of people come together around share values, they can make a big difference. 7 years ago, Dorot Alums created a giving circle called HEKDESH, asking alums to make a minimum gift of $180 per year. With so many alums participating, these individual gifts are leveraged by an incredible amount, giving alums the ability to allocate around $20,000 per year to organizations that alums themselves nominate. I am inspired by the power of giving together with a community.

What did you do as a Dorot Fellow?

During my 10 months in Israel as a Dorot Fellow, I was focused on two main pieces that were also connected in many ways. Firstly, I was interested in learning more about Arab-Palestinian Citizens of Israel. 20% of Israel’s citizens (within the Green Line) are Palestinian. They have the right to vote and benefit in many ways from being Israeli citizens. However, they also have an incredibly complex identity, do not receive equal opportunities compared to Jewish citizens, and often experience racism. As a Jew, I have a deep connection to the State of Israel. And, as a Jew, I believe we have a responsibility to ensure that Israel’s minorities receive full equality and opportunity. During my time in Israel, I had the chance to meet with tons of amazing people working for NGOs promoting equality and democracy for all Israelis. I also had the opportunity to volunteer in the Arab village of Deir Al Assad and coordinate a daylong meeting between Jewish American youth and Deir Al Assad youth. (The picture of me on this post is overlooking Deir Al Assad!)

I was also interested in learning more about Israeli philanthropy. Israel was established as a socialist state, where the government was meant to provide all necessary services for its citizens. Over the past 20 years, Israel has become a much more capitalist society, with one of the most successful tech sectors in the world. Since Israel’s founding, the vast majority of services, cultural centers, and universities were funded by Jews from the diaspora. Yet, over the past 10 years, Israel’s wealthy elite has begun to give back and is encouraging others to do so as well. Opportunities for giving are starting to emerge for donors of all levels. Keren Baktana (“Little Fund”) is an amazing example of groups of young people who gather monthly in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem to give away smaller amounts of pooled funds to projects in their local cities. Israel has always had an incredible culture of volunteerism, and this shift towards donating funds will ensure that the social sector’s priorities align with the priorities of Israeli citizens.

Now that I’m back in the US, I hope to share what I’ve learned with Jewish American philanthropists and encourage them to fund projects advancing equality for Israel’s Palestinian Citizens.

What do you care about philanthropically?

Over the past few months, I’ve become a bit obsessed with the city of Lod in Israel. Lod is a city that is only 7 miles from Tel Aviv and that has a history that is older than that of Jerusalem! Over the course of its history, it’s become a place of significance to Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Yet, its more recent history is quite painful, with the expulsion of most of its Palestinian population in 1948 (read Ari Shavit’s perspective in the New Yorker). Today, Lod is what we call a “mixed city,” meaning that it’s home to a significant population of Palestinians and Jews (mostly Russians, Ethiopians, and Mizrachim). In many ways, it’s a microcosm of Israeli society.

Avital Blonder moved to Lod in 2011 as part of a new movement of young adults who moved from the main cities to Israel’s “periphery” cities. The goal was to bring new, young life to these places, which have a much more affordable quality of life but also have higher rates of crime and poverty. Avital also founded an amazing NGO called Jindas, which is focused on urban regeneration in Lod. Her goal is to use philanthropy as a way of catalyzing the local and national governments, businesses, developers, and NGOs to implement an urban plan for the city together along with the local community.

What is it like to have a seat at the Foundation Table?

The funds that I help allocate with my family are separate from what I give on my own. I didn’t earn that money myself. My parents made sure I remembered that giving as part of the family was a privilege and that I should never view these grants as a replacement for my own personal giving and involvement. My parents also understood that it’s not only natural, but it’s in fact Jewish, that I would express my philanthropy and Judaism in different ways than they do. I’m lucky that they support my cousins and me in exploring new programs to fund. Yet, we do so having deep understanding and respect for the history of what’s been done before us.

I try to treat my own personal giving with the same care I give to my allocations with my family. Even if I’m only giving $10 to an organization, I think about how the gift fits into my philanthropic values and priorities. I track all of the donations that I make over the course of the year on a spreadsheet and take time at the end of each year to make sure my personal giving portfolio is something that I’m proud of. This year, I want to play around with tracking hours spent volunteering as well to get a more holistic understanding of my contributions beyond just the financial ones.

What advice would you give to people?

The #NextGenDonors Report, published by the Johnson Center and 21/64, helped me articulate how I, and I believe our generation, think about philanthropy. To me, philanthropy means giving with all of our assets. As the report puts it, this includes our Time, Talent, Treasure and Ties. As people in our 20s and 30s still at the beginning of our careers, it’s easy to say that we’ll start giving once we’ve made enough money to do so. But, we have more to give now than one might think.



Julia Levy, Founder, has a decade of development experience, including working for a philanthropist, a small nonprofit and now a large nonprofit. She has raised significant dollars for numerous causes, from education to religion and from donors of all ages. Julia holds a Certificate in Fundraising from NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University. Julia has taught fundraising workshops, most recently at Brooklyn Brainery and coached development professionals.

'Jenna Weinberg' have 1 comment

  1. June 5, 2015 @ 6:32 pm Amy Sharvit

    Kol hakavod!your deep commitment to helping foster and create a shared society in Israel is inspiring and important for the future of the country.


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