Charitable giving often starts at an early age. Noam Benson Tilsen recently established a scholarship fund for members of his synagogue, Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel, to attend Camp Ramah. This fund is part of Noam’s bar mitzvah observance and facilitated by the Jewish Foundation’s youth philanthropy program – the Build-a-Tzedakah program. “I’ve been going to Camp Ramah since I was eight years old,” explains Noam. “It’s a great Jewish education and I’ve made lots of good friends there. Camp Ramah is such a great experience for me and I wanted to share that with others.” Camp Ramah is affiliated with the Masorti-Conservative Movement and offers a fun, active camp in a Kosher, Shabbat-observant, and Hebrew-language enriched environment.

His parents Miriam Benson and Rabbi Jon-Jay Tilsen agree this is a fine opportunity to continue a family tradition of charity. “Noam is an enthusiastic camper at Ramah,” his father explains. “The experience and knowledge, the sense of community and spiritual energy, carries throughout the year after camp and reinforces campers’ relationship and builds community. Ramah has a profound influence in creating positive Jewish identity and Noam decided to support this particular project.” 

Noam’s parents have both worked professionally and as volunteers in the Jewish community, with the aim of helping to build the Jewish commonwealth in Israel and globally. Each of Noam’s older siblings established funds or engaged in mitzvah projects at the time of their bar/bat mitzvahs. “Noam’s siblings’ projects were intended to express each one’s individual areas of interest in the larger context of building community and rebuilding the Jewish People,“ their father explains. “Essential to the task of building communal institutions is providing the capital they need. Thanks to the support of the Foundation’s Build-a-Tzedakah program, a lot of the other kids and parents are already familiar with the idea of establishing a charitable endowment as a way to celebrate a bar or bat-mitzvah and beginning to fulfill adult functions in the Jewish community.”

The Foundation’s Build-a-Tzedakah program allows young adults to engage in charitable giving by contributing $600 from their bar or bat mitzvah gifts, with a match of $400 from a community donor.  With this, the young adult now has a $1000 named charitable fund at the Jewish Foundation—they, or others, can add to the fund anytime and in honor of special occasions. Every December, at Hanukkah time, they are given the opportunity to distribute funds to one or more charities. Distributions are based on the Jewish Foundation’s spending policy.

To learn more about the Jewish Foundation’s Build-a-Tzedakah program, visit