What’s Next for NextGen

By David Lauer • Development NextGen Coordinator


I started working with NextGen in November 2018, and it has been a wonderful time of growth and discovery. I was intrigued to start learning about the history of the program. Founded in 2012, NextGen set out to provide volunteer and leadership experiences, engage young people in philanthropy, and connect post-college young Jews and other community members with JFCS. It’s been a successful seven years, with NextGen providing the agency and community with new volunteers, a thoughtful and involved Board, thousands raised for JFCS programs, and fun social events. Board members and presidents have gone on to serve on the JFCS Board of Directors and have become leaders in other parts of the community. NextGen also continues to serve a valuable social role in the community, along with many other organizations.


We’re excited to be continuing the tradition of involvement for young adults ages 21-36, and critically, we’re also excited to double-down on NextGen’s greatest strength—its connection to the greater social services organization, JFCS. In an initiative driven by NextGen Board members, we’re launching a multi-pronged approach to help young people connect with community service, the needs of the community, and take part in wonderful JFCS programs as volunteers and supporters.


To this end, we’re planning six volunteer opportunities in the next two months. We’ve already partnered with PRISM to create a monthly volunteer opportunity where NextGenners can support PRISM’s (co-located in the JFCS building) Shop for Change Thrift Shop the last Thursday of every month. The first “Thrifting Thursday” on February 28 was a success, and we’re excited to be joined by Moishe House for our next Thrifting Thursday event on March 28.


In April, we’re starting a series of Service Sundays. First, with the JFCS Caregiver’s Conference April 7, we’ll help support caregivers and connect with community members who are supporting loved ones in need. The week after that, on April 14, some NextGen folks will be making Hag Sameach deliveries for Passover and connecting with another segment of our community. On May 5, we’re happy to be joining with PJ Library and the Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School to celebrate Good Deeds Day and to bring millennial volunteer spirit to the next-next generation. Finishing the Service Sunday sprint, we’ll be supporting the Parent-Child Home Program graduation on May 19. If you or a NextGen-aged person you know is interested in joining any of these volunteer projects, let us know by emailing me at dlauer@jfcsmpls.org.


Our other initiative is to bring social issues home by subbing out some of our purely social events for social events that help us learn about issues in combination with our heritage. One of the ways we’re doing this is with “Tikkun Olam in the 21st Century” (TO21C), a casual discussion series to bring 21-36-year-olds together to tell stories and connect with different social issues in the community. Our first TO21C event was March 8. We paired up with Jewish Community Action to discuss housing affordability and barriers – it was a joy seeing people from different backgrounds and perspectives discuss the Twin Cities housing crisis, our obligations as a Jewish people, and our own experiences with shelter and housing. One of the takeaways was that JCA and JFCS approach community issues in vastly different ways, but are both critical for helping people through tough times and making our region a better place for everyone. We’re planning another TO21C for June, and the next topics will be food security and Jewish & Queer identity and art. If you’re interested, please reach out!


Also coming up in June will be NextGen and Makom’s (Adath Jeshurun’s group for young adults) Philanthropy Panel. Another way of bringing meaningful topics home to NextGen people, we’ll be having professionals and laypeople discuss why we give, what it means to support the community in different ways, and what role we can play in paying forward support we receive and helping ourselves and our peers live better, more fulfilling lives.


In the end, NextGen’s mission is to provide opportunities for young people to deepen their connection to JFCS and its mission through social, volunteer, and philanthropy experiences. I’m excited we’re going to be doing just that – in both new and old ways.


David was recently featured in TC Jewfolk’s Who The Folk?! Learn more about his family ties to Jewish social service work, how he’s evolving NextGen, and what he’s planning for JFCS this year, on this week’s Who The Folk?! podcast.