Zeke Blumenkrans, chief executive officer of Generocksity. (photo from Zeke Blumenkrans)
Zeke Blumenkrans, a 21-year-old University of British Columbia student, is establishing a philanthropic younger generation one fundraiser at a time.
Blumenkrans is co-founder and chief executive officer of Generocksity Inc., a nonprofit that organizes concert and party fundraisers for a variety of causes, as well as educational workshops and help for young adults who are wanting to start their own philanthropic endeavor. It has held events across Canada and in Europe, and has active branches in Ontario (Kingston and Hamilton) with plans to expand to Montreal and Victoria later this year.
In operation since November 2013, Generocksity has received more media attention over the last year, as its events have become more popular and, therefore, the organization has been able to raise greater amounts for charities across the board. In January 2015, the organization was chosen as the best of the highlighted projects at UBC’s Student Leadership Conference and, in November, Blumenkrans was honored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Vancouver chapter with the 2015 Giving Hearts Award for outstanding youth philanthropist.
“I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and came to Vancouver with my brother and parents when I was 3 years old. Since our arrival in Vancouver, my family has been heavily involved in the Jewish community,” shared Blumenkrans about his background. “My siblings and I attended Talmud Torah for preschool and elementary school, and King David for high school…. I love discovering new music, watching documentaries and weird foreign films, outdoor rock climbing and playing any team sport I have time for, especially soccer.”
Blumenkrans noted that his passion for volunteering began at an early age, and he has been volunteering at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice for the past five years.
“Canuck Place allows me to interact with some of the most courageous and incredible children in the world, all while goofing around and helping them have fun and forget about their tough situations for awhile. It’s very easy to get tunnel vision and just focus on your career or academic pursuits, and sometimes it’s important to see the bigger picture and what’s really important in life,” he said.
Generocksity was formed after the death of his friend David, who he had met as a fellow volunteer at Canuck Place. When Blumenkrans met David, David had already been diagnosed with spinal cancer.
“One of my most memorable moments with David was when he was voicing his frustration about how he felt like he simply did not have enough time to do all the things he wanted to do in his life. He had only recently been diagnosed, so he had always thought, as most of us do, that you can always leave stuff for later and there will always be time in the future. Although he never knew it, David is the reason why I started Generocksity, so every success and achievement my team and I experience, I share with him for being my eternal inspiration.”
Blumenkrans combined the inspiration of David’s life with his own experiences. While he was a student at King David High School, Blumenkrans was positively influenced by events such as Random Acts of Chesed Week and Mitzvah Day. RAC Week was inspired by the life of alumna Gabrielle Isserow.
“I always looked up to Gabi Isserow and her incredible leadership working with my brother, Dan, on Mitzvah Day when I was in the eighth grade,” said Blumenkrans. “As a lowly eighth-grader, she was one of the only seniors who ever took the time to say hi or smile at me when I would see her in the halls. Although she was always an important leader in the school, she had a certain level of kindness and humility that I have seldom seen in my life and, although she likely never knew it, I always viewed her as a role model.
“RAC Week is one of the most beautiful examples of how one can find love and inspiration in the darkest of places,” he continued. “In Judaism, we are taught to always celebrate life and I genuinely feel that Gabi’s life will be forever celebrated through things like RAC Week and all the mitzvot done by those kids she unknowingly inspired just like me.”
While Blumenkrans is pensive about his past, he is very much looking forward to the future. He believes that the true impact of Generocksity will only be seen in the next couple of decades.
“Many of the young adults who attend our events will go on to become very successful business owners, lawyers, doctors, etc. My goal is that when their time comes to decide how much money they’d like to give to charity, they will remember the positive experiences they had associated with philanthropy and how easily they are able to integrate charitable giving into their day-to-day lives,” he said.
“I don’t want our charity parties to be an anomaly. I want it to become the norm. I want there to be so many people doing this type of thing that it’s oversaturated. I want every weekend when you go out to party or let loose with your friends, if at least part of the proceeds aren’t going to charity, people will think, ‘this is kind of messed up.’ I want it to get to that point and I think that we have proven that it can.”
When asked how he would respond to millennials who believe that they are above philanthropy, Blumenkrans said, “If you think that you are too good to attend a charity event, then you have probably been scarred by a really boring and dull charity event and/or never found an event that was benefiting a cause that really meant something to you. We are trying to redefine how people view charity – to make it something exciting, cool and really fun while still making it very meaningful and personal. I want people to not feel conflicted about dancing and letting loose with their friends while supporting a hospice or homeless shelter. I want them to see that you can help disadvantaged members of one’s community while having lots of fun!”
To learn more about Generocksity, and their future events, go to generocksity.com.
Jonathan Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His writing has appeared in the Canadian Jewish News, and various other publications in Canada and the United States.