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When we talk about family foundations, we usually think about a single person, perhaps a couple, who have made a significant amount of money and then, having amassed their fortune, decided to involve their family in giving it away. But a recent issue of the Jewish Week has a different kind of story about family giving. It's the tale of the Lifchitz Family Fund, founded by a young woman named Becca Linden a few years ago. Linden is not particularly wealthy. Nor were her great-grandparents, Yacov and Rifka Lifchitz, Russian immigrants for whom the fund is named. But the family is comfortable. And the extended family is tight. Here was how it all began at a family reunion in San Francisco:

“Wow, we’ve been blessed,” [Linden] thought to herself, as she looked around the room. She thought about instituting a service project as part of the family reunion. She later scrapped that idea in lieu of a family-giving fund, in which a majority of family members would donate to a collective pot and then, as a group, decided how to allocate the charitable funds. “Communal giving is really a part of our family legacy,” Linden, 27, told The Jewish Week.

Linden said that some family members weren't interested in pooling their money, but many were very excited at the prospect. She told the paper that some people feel "disempowered" because they can only give $100 or so. And that this way they can feel as if they are having more of an effect. In the fund's inaugural year, the family's nearly 100 members raised $17,000 and gave away $15,000 to three Jewish nonprofits that are dedicated to what the family decided their core values would be: Israel, education and social justice.

Linden is currently pursuing a master's in public administration at NYU. And the logistics of the project Linden envisioned may certainly have required any skills she picked up along the way. Ultimately, a grant-making committee was formed and the members in turn established criteria for nominating charities. (They decided to take political groups out of the running so as not to cause tensions in the family). The committee also performs due diligence on any of the organizations that are recommended. The whole family votes on the grants, even members who do not contribute.

The story is both touching and instructive on a number of levels. The family's reunion, Linden's realization of their blessings, and her initial plan for the fund. It's all inspirational. But just imagine the kind of effect this will have particularly on the younger generations of the family, getting to watch their elders' generosity up close, getting to participate in serious philanthropic decisionmaking, and getting to feel as if their own contribution will have some greater impact.

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