An interview with B’nai Tzedek Youth Foundation Members
Age: 16, Junior at Amherst Regional High School
Parents: Julie Rueschemeyer & Benjamin Bailey
Siblings: Solomon, 15 & Noe, 10
Organizations: BTYF, Chai BBYO, started a program for volunteering and teaching new immigrants English, Model United Nations, Women’s Rights Club, Junior Engineering and Technical Society team captain
Hobbies/interests: Ballet/dance, reading, learning languages
LEDGER: What is the most important Jewish issue to you and why?
TALIA: Addressing peoples’ basic needs, especially hunger, is the most important Jewish issue to me because I believe that everybody in the world should be able to live comfortably in a way that allows them to develop and be educated. Furthermore, I believe that everybody who can has a duty to help those in need, and tzedakah and tikkun olam are an important part of that in Judaism.
LEDGER: What tikkun olam projects have you been part of and what have you learned most through the experiences?
TALIA: As part of my bat mitzvah project, I spent time with a Jewish girl with special needs. As I did that, I realized how much of a connection I feel with other Jews and how integral tikkun olam is to Judaism. B’nai Tzedek has made tikkun olam one of my favorite things about Judaism. I know that because of B’nai Tzedek I will do philanthropy and tikkun olam my entire life. Philanthropy is empowering and rewarding, and with B’nai Tzedek, teenagers get involved in it early and will help others throughout their lives.
LEDGER: How has your participation in B’nai Tzedek and other tikkun olam activities helped you to grow as a teen leader and activist for tikkun olam?
TALIA: One thing that B’nai Tzedek has done for me has been to make tikkun olam an important part of Judaism for me. I really enjoy helping others, and B’nai Tzedek has been a great way to do that. Since we end up getting so much money (what we raise will be matched by Harold Grinspoon) and we, the teenagers, get to decide which nonprofits the money goes to, it is a really empowering way of doing philanthropy. Although this may sound slightly clichéd, B’nai Tzedek has shown me that teenagers really can make a difference. Having to decide which organizations to fund has forced me to think seriously about what my values are, and thinking about that has made me more confident and passionate about what we are doing at B’nai Tzedek. This confidence has carried through in important leadership skills such as the ability to communicate effectively. Finally, tikkun olam has become incredibly important to me, and what I love about B’nai Tzedek is that it begins a tradition of philanthropy in teenagers, which they will continue for their entire lives.