Max Weinreb: Moving Up as a Mentor
Max Weinreb at The MYC (Marin Youth Center) / photo by Eric Slomanson
At San Rafael’s Aroma Café, sixteen-year-old Max Weinreb awaits a 5 p.m. meeting of Next Generation Scholars, a nonprofit group committed to helping economically disadvantaged children attend college. Weinreb is planning a free class in break dancing for at-risk students living in San Rafael’s Canal District. “When I see kids going downhill, it has a lot to do with boredom,” he says. “They don’t have a passion and they end up doing drugs or getting involved in gangs.”
Weinreb arrives at this insight from hard experience. He went through a rough patch himself five years earlier. “When I was eleven, I was a rebel and a trouble-maker,” he admits. “There’s a lot of pressure from other kids in Marin to follow the wrong path, and I did.”
How did he turn it around? Weinreb grins wide. “I started break dancing every day,” he says. “I took classes, I went to battles. I fell in love with it.”
Weinreb quickly points out the role his mother played as well. Marion Weinreb, a philanthropist who endowed a family fund to provide essential services for immigrants from the Soviet Union, suggested then-13-year-old Max volunteer with Team Tzadek, whose activities included Purim fundraisers and bringing food and gift baskets to Jewish seniors.
Weinreb capped off the experience by donating more than half of his Bar Mitzvah money to Toys for Tots. “Most of the people in my grandparent’s generation were lost in the Holocaust. I know that people suffer. But my mom showed me how to take the next step—that you’ve got to help.”
A year after Weinreb’s first act of giving, his mother took him to St. Anthony’s Dining Hall to help feed the hungry on Thanksgiving. “It was an eye opener!” he exclaims. “It was stressful. You’re on your feet for six hours and you see the reality of the world. These people are hungry!”
As a result of his volunteer work with Next Generation Scholar, he’s changed his mind about college.
“I see the value of it now,” he says. “I want to give that back when I’m older by mentoring people, by donating. I want to make a difference in the world and this is the path I’ll follow.”
Learn more about family philanthropy by downloading the MCF Guide to Family Giving.