By Ariel Kurland, Jewish Teen Foundations Program Associate
This month’s Philanthropic Education Webinar and Seminar focused on creating Healthy, Wealthy Families. Danielle York from 21/64 Philanthropies led an engaging and informative discussion on this important topic that many of us can relate to. As the seminar began, we sat at a table and were asked to reflect on a number of family memories: Who do we think of when we think of family? Was money discussed at home? Who did we go to for support? What was our first job? How were gifts received in our family? What did we do when we received money? Did we spend it? Save it? Donate it? As Danielle asked us these questions, we closed our eyes to help recover and remember some of these memories. After a few minutes of reflection, we came together as a group and got the chance to share our thoughts.
What struck me was how personal these memories surrounding money were! I thought back to my childhood and realized money was never really discussed at home. Although both my parents were doctors, I have many memories of my parents arguing about money. I remembered when I got my first job, and how great it felt to have money to spend on the things I wanted. I remembered that the year I had my Bat Mitzvah, my class collected several thousand dollars to donate to nonprofits around the country. Even though we never discussed money directly, messages surrounding money were constantly in the background.
After we had gotten the chance to share some of our positive and negative memories, York set the stage for the rest of the session,telling us that “with that sense of who we are and where we have come from, we can be more intentional about the children that we are raising, the families that we are helping to grow, and the experiences we are fostering for others.”
Throughout the session, York focused on five indicators of success for healthy, wealthy families. I explain each point below, and frame each point through a Jewish lens.
- Values: B’tzelem Elohim… in G-d’s image. We are all created in G-d’s image.
York opened the seminar by telling us: “What we are teaches the child more than what we say. So, we must be what we want our children to become.” There are two types of values: aspirational values (I want to be a runner, but I don’t run) and operational values (I am an independent, strong thinker). Strong, healthy families are those that spend time illuminating operational values for each individual within the family. It is important to not only discuss the values you want to embody, but to actually participate in these actions that help you uphold the values you want to live by.
Connections: L’dor v’dor… from generation to generation
“We are hardwired for connections- mothers and fathers know this. It is visceral,” York explained. “We are animals that are designed to be connected to other people. Without authentic connection, there is suffering.” With connections, comes the need to show vulnerability. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable shows your ability to take risks and challenges. While embracing vulnerability can be risky, it is necessary that we teach our children and grandchildren the importance of vulnerability. By showing them examples of your own vulnerability, it will encourage children to feel ready to take on their own challenges.
Motivation: “It is not up to you to finish the task, and you are not free to abstain from it.” -Pirke Avoth Ch.2
Motivation is a huge factor in healthy families. York tells us: “The desire to get better and better at something matters. Fostering mastery is encouraging your children to find what it is that they are good at and letting them work hard to achieve success here.” York shared three major components to motivation, as outlined by Dan Pink. First is autonomy- we must let our children have a full sense of personal choice. It allows them to think about risks, failures, and successes for themselves. Although it may be difficult at times to fully let go and let our children be independent, it is a very important factor in being motivated. Second component is purpose. We must teach our children that the work they are doing—whether donating money, holding a job at a company, or going to college—are all efforts towards something greater than themselves. Knowing that our work and our money go to something bigger than us is so impactful. Mastery is the final component to motivation. It is important that we foster a growth mindset- one that pushes our children to find something that they feel motivated by and one that inspires effort, rather than success or failure. Remind them that no great act was achieved without someone taking a risk.
Skill Building: “Anyone who does not teach their child a skill or profession may be regarded as teaching their child to rob.” –Talmud, Kiddushin 29a
We must teach our children the skills they need to be successful in who they are and what they do, particularly when it comes to dealing with money. York referenced a client of hers who shared this quote: “A pool, like money, can be really dangerous without skills. But a pool, like money, can be really powerful and lovely and rich with opportunity and joy.” We can’t expect our children will know what to do with money, if we don’t teach them how to use it first. Much of these skills can be taught by sharing our own personal experiences. Teach children how to tolerate discomfort by telling them about hard times your family faced. Teach your children about financial fluency by asking them to help budget your next vacation. Lastly, teach them about developing a worldview by exposing them to a variety of settings outside of your own home
Practices/Rituals: “This too shall pass.”
As this Jewish proverb says, it is important to remember that moments will continue to pass us by. It is important to remember and celebrate the good moments regularly to remind yourself and your family how blessed they truly are. York quotes Sean Aker who said “Only 10% of happiness is based on the reality of what really happened. The other 90% is based on how your brain processes the external world”. No matter what type of family you come from, or who makes up the members of your family, it is so important to celebrate the little moments. Make sure to teach your children about gratitude and joy, because it is something that we can lose sight of so quickly. There will inevitably be good and bad times with any family, and in order to keep strong, the family must keep these practices of joy in place in order to help uplift the individuals that make up the family.