November 9, 2020

Finding Shared Values in a Divided Time

Tags: 2020, Community Partners, Teen Voice

Annie Fortnow is an Engagement Manager at JumpSpark focusing on our Strong Women Fellowship and relationship building with our community partners, professionals and other stakeholders. Before JumpSpark, Annie served as a Springboard Fellow for Hillel at UMass Amherst, working on Jewish college student engagement around social justice topics. Annie holds a BA from Brandeis University and she is passionate about Jewish engagement in the teen space to ensure all Jewish teens have access to and feel included in the amazing Jewish opportunities that exist in our community.

As we watch our country’s election unfold and see how close the results are, we can see a clear divide in what the people of the United States of America care about politically. No matter what side of the aisle one sits, one thing is clear at this moment: our country is starkly divided.

Annie Fortnow, JumpSpark Engagement Manager

Coming together around shared values in this time sometimes feels almost impossible — with nearly everyone holding differing viewpoints, it can sometimes be scary to bring up the topic of shared values. But if we want to create change in our country and live in a more compassionate society, we must do just that and strive for courageous conversations around our shared beliefs.

Moving from Conversation to Action

In late October, JumpSpark hosted a Community Conversation with Wayne Green, Executive Director of the Jewish Teen Funders Network. Community Conversations are monthly calls that bring together Jewish youth serving professionals in Atlanta for informal conversations with a thought leader in the field. The speakers and topics provide an exclusive deep dive for teen professionals and Jewish educators in Atlanta.

In a creative and interactive presentation, Wayne took our group of professionals through a journey of shared values exploration to decide where to allocate a pool of funding to. Wayne encouraged the participants to think critically about a wide variety of values and come to a consensus as a group about what values mattered to us. In doing this, Wayne modeled what a giving circle experience could look like for the teens we work with.

Wayne shares, “how we engage with teens to make changes in the world by giving is best when we as educators connect with the context and fundamental values of giving. Empathy and experience in why, where, and how we give is important to be able to effectively work with teens and share this experience. In doing so, our impact is greater for the giver and the receiver.”

As we went through the giving circle experience together, we began to understand the importance of bringing this experience to our teens. Lara Schewitz, Experiential Education Director at Creating Connected Communities, shares, “JumpSpark’s mini giving circle allowed me to connect with my peers in a fun and hands-on way! Wayne is an incredible educator and introduced me to new virtual resources that I plan on implementing.”

Aligning Values and Giving

Through our shared values exploration, our group of professionals landed on the values of human dignity and justice that we wanted to guide our giving together. Through these values, the group decided to donate our pool $240 to AgeWell Atlanta. Amy Glass, Director in Community Planning and Impact at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, shares, “we are so appreciative of the efforts of the Educator’s giving circle. The money they raised for AgeWell Atlanta will provide financial support for older adults who need help paying for assistive devices like hearing aids or glasses as well as home repair for things like grab bar installation. All are critical to enabling older adults to continue to age in place wherever they reside.”

Through defining our shared values as a group, Jewish youth professionals and educators in Atlanta were able to make a real difference in the lives of older adults in our community. Compassionate listening and consensus building helped us get there as a group.

This giving circle experience gives us hope for the future of our country. In a political moment where having conversations across difference can seem almost impossible, the Jewish Teen Funders Network has created a platform through which to have conversations where everyone might not agree and engage in crucial discussions around the values we hold and what we care about. Bringing these experiences to our youth will only help strengthen the compassion in our society now and in the future.

Want to learn more?

Interested in bringing teen giving circles to your community? Learn more at http://www.jtfn.org/

Want to attend future Community Conversations with JumpSpark? Check out our calendar for more information: https://jumpsparkatl.org/programs/professionals/ 

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