Memphis middle and high school students involved with B’nai Tzedek, the teen philanthropy program at the Jewish Foundation of Memphis, were quick to step up to meet emerging needs during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The Coronavirus crisis is a real threat, and I want to do everything I can to help,” said Eliza Herman, an 8th grade student at St. Mary’s Episcopal School. “Giving to the Mid-South Food Bank, the Mid-South Covid-19 Relief Fund, and the Memphis Jewish Federation to feed homebound seniors from my B’nai Tzedek tzedakah fund allows me to do a small part to help my own Memphis community.”

B’nai Tzedek Grants that support COVID-19 Relief were presented via Zoom in September 2020

Eliza is not alone. As of September 1, 2020, 22 teens chose to donate money from their B’nai Tzedek funds at the Jewish Foundation to support COVID-19 needs. The Mid-South Food Bank was granted $1528 while $497 was granted to the Mid-South COVID-19 Relief Fund, operated by the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. Within the Jewish community, $275 was given to the Memphis Jewish Federation to feed homebound Jewish seniors. Another $100 was donated to the Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab to help purchase Personal Protective Equipment and $330 to Wendy and Avron B. Fogelman Jewish Family Service to provide emergency assistance within the local Jewish community.

Jewish teens join B’nai Tzedek by donating $250 of their bar or bat mitzvah money to the Jewish Foundation of Memphis. This money is used to establish a donor-advised fund in their name. Their $250 contribution is matched so the student has $500 to donate towards any non-profit in the United States before they graduate from high school.

Over the past several years students have donated to all different causes, such as St. Jude, Thrive, and the Forrest Spence Fund. However, with the Coronavirus at the forefront of their minds, this year, the majority of teens wanted to make sure their dollars are being used to help those affected by COVID-19.

Shoshanah Kaplowitz, an 8th grade student at Margolin Hebrew Academy, chose to donate to the Mid-South Food Bank. “I want to help those who lost their jobs due to Coronavirus and make sure they can have access to food,” said Shoshanah.

Ella Trotz, a junior at St. Mary’s Episcopal School followed suit. “Now more than ever there are people in our community who are food insecure. I wanted to support the Mid-South Food Bank because they have a strong network that will efficiently get food to those who need it most,” she said.

Founded in 2002 and named Outstanding Teen Foundation in 2005 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Memphis Chapter, B’nai Tzedek teaches Jewish teens to become philanthropists. To find out more about the B’nai Tzedek program or to enroll your child, visit or email Sarah VanderWalde at

In 2019, Joel Ashner presents grants needs for Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab to B’nai Tzedek teens.