Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

Meet our Newest Teen Engagement Specialist: Daniel Warshawsky

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Daniel Warshawsky

The Springboard team is so excited to share that we have added a new member to our team! Daniel Warshawsky is our newest Teen Engagement Specialist and will be out and about in the community, along with Tamara and Brittany.  We interviewed Daniel to learn more about his personal Jewish journey, interests and what he loves about life in Chicago.

Why are you excited to be a Teen Engagement Specialist at Springboard?
I grew up in the Chicago Jewish community. I spent almost all of my weekends at USY and Kadima events , winter breaks at nine straight USY International Conventions, two summers at Beber Camp and 12 summers at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. I’m so excited to return to all of these programs, as well as to learn about and participate in so many new ones. There's nothing that I love more than getting to know people in a Jewish environment, and I want to bring that love of Jewish communal life to teens all over Chicago.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
New Zealand. I love the wilderness and hiking, and I grew up watching my favorite movie characters walking through the mountains there. I've always wanted to take a hiking trip out there on my own and to walk and sleep under the stars for days at a time.

How many languages do you speak?
I’m fluent in both English and Hebrew. I spent a year after high school studying and volunteering in Israel, as well as serving in the Israeli Army after college. Learning Hebrew allowed me to connect to my Israeli friends and to Judaism on a much deeper level, so I’m really happy I spent so much time learning it as a kid. Other than that, I took Spanish for a few years in high school and I traveled to Prague, Germany and Poland on a high school summer trip with USY and picked up a few words here and there.
Can you share a favorite memory from your time as a teen in Chicago? 
Playing guitar and piano at the USY open mic nights every year. It was the first time I was able to perform music in front of other people that I felt comfortable with. Because of those nights, I'm able to stand up in front of bigger crowds today to lead singing and play music.
If you could have a superpower what would it be?
Talking to animals. I grew up with dogs and it would have been much easier to interact with them if I knew what they were thinking. It would also be really cool to see animals on hikes and know what they're thinking.
What is one thing you're passionate about that you've gotten to do within the context of "being Jewish"?
One of the things that I'm most passionate about is music. Through my time at camp and in Jewish youth groups, I've been able to play and learn so much more Jewish music than I ever would have thought even existed. I've also gotten to play popular American songs with my friends and campers in a Jewish setting. I've even been able to make "music friends" by playing music at Jewish events all over the country.

Reflections on Diller Israel Summer Seminar

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This summer, 16 teens traveled to Israel as part of the Diller program. (Check out their PICTURES!) One participant shared that “Israel Summer Seminar with Diller Teen Fellows taught me about Leadership, Israel, Tikkun Olam, Judaism, Peoplehood, and Pluralism. But mostly, it taught me about myself.” 5 participants reflect on their experiences below. 

Travel Days- Emma Canter

On the first night of our trip, my cohort listened to Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Bob Dylan wrote, “May you always do for others, And let others do for you.” The first part of Dylan’s quote, “May you always do for others,” has always made sense to me. However, I spent the next three weeks learning the meaning of the second part, “let others do for you.”

The next morning, our first morning in Israel, I experienced the literal meaning of this message. Because of a small bout of dehydration, I had to “let others do” for me. On this day, we visited David Ben Gurion’s tomb at Sde Boker. As Ben Gurion took a pragmatic step to achieve his dreams, we took a literal first step together. In addition, on this first full day, through our slight fear of Ibexes in Mitzpe Ramon and an enlightening Acrobalance experience, my cohort as a whole learned to “lean” on each other.

The second day of our trip embodied Bob Dylan’s quote on many levels. We visited an IDF officer training base, which resonated strongly with the idea of “May you always do for others, And let others do for you.” After witnessing the life of an army officer in the ridiculous desert heat, we repelled down the Ramon Crater. The idea of relying on someone to not let me fall scared me, and still scares me, but I was supported, literally and metaphorically, by these 15 teenagers who somehow became my family.

Our travel days continued with a sunrise bus ride to Masada. We climbed Masada where the history, view, and all around atmosphere inspired me in ways that I cannot put into words. Ein Gedi, Masada’s geographical antithesis, was also incredible and I found myself astoundingly grateful for the opportunity to experience such diversity in life. We continued our journey to Jerusalem where I felt the streets of the Old City breathe life into my bones and hope into my Jewish heart. Being in the Old City felt like stepping into history, but history had Chasidic men on motorcycles. In Jerusalem, “May you always do for others, And let others do for you,” felt like a blessing.

On our final travel days with our local cohort we spent the morning at Machaneh Yehudah, the “shuk”, and I was very shook. With so much to take in, I was grateful for the familiarity of the people around, especially since I knew that later that day we would be surrounded by hundreds of international Diller Teen Fellows.

Although we were only four days into our three week journey, I could already feel myself growing to embrace the message of Bob Dylan’s quote.

International Shabbaton- Rachel Aranyi

I walked across the plush lawn: a hug from Johannesburg, a secret handshake from Montreal, a wave from Boston.

Disparate in culture, nationality and religious observance, we were anything but uniform. However, our Judaism, in whatever form it manifests itself, our experiences as Diller Teen Fellows, and our unwavering love for the State of Israel, unify and bond all 250 of us together.

After numerous games of Jewish geography, multiple conversations about pluralism, a couple pep rallies and losing countless games of soccer (or should I say "football") to some Argentinians and South Africans, I knew I could walk up to any Fellow and find a connection. I felt our peoplehood.

This is the power of the Diller Teen Fellows International Shabbaton.

I am inspired to learn more Jewish history, to understand the complexities and philosophies of the Jewish community. I feel emboldened by the fantastic work my peers are executing all over the globe to make a change in my town. I'm more passionate about advocating for our small, sandy Jewish homeland, Israel.

I've always been told that the Jewish people are a tribe, yet this amorphous concept is one that must be directly experienced. Until I encountered and grappled with the vast intellectual and spiritual diversity of those in the diaspora, I couldn't grasp that I am a legacy, a beneficiary and a representative of the rich tapestry of global Jewry. After International Shabbaton, I have a deeper understanding of my own Jewish identity.

Community Week- Ellie Rosenberg

Community Week (CW) is the week where Chicagoans stay with Israeli host families in our partnership region in Kiryat Gat, Lachish, and Shafir. (Together, Kiryat Gat, Shafir, Lachish, and Chicago make our amazing partnership- Kashlash!). Each day during CW has a specific theme that is planned by a joint Israeli/Chicago committee, but the experience is much more than just those seven days in Israel. We -the Chicagoans and Israelis- started planning CW almost as soon as we met this past March. When we began the process of deciding on the themes, meeting in committees, and planning activities, Community Week seemed a lifetime away. Moving through the planning, finalizing our activities and getting assigned to host families, brought the week closer and closer. Looking back on CW, there is no way that I could have known back in March how much it would impact me and how amazing it would truly be.

My first night at the moshav in Lachish, where I was staying with my host family, I immediately felt at home. I was lucky to have 2 Israeli fellows staying at the host home and each night we would talk and laugh together. These girls became my Israeli sisters in less than a week.

CW was a way to explore the region and get to know Israel through the Israeli Fellows’ eyes. The culture committee organized a potluck dinner, assigning each family a dish from a distinct culture living in Israel (Russian, Ethiopian, etc.). We had Moroccan stew and couscous, mini burritos, shakshuka, burekas, and chocolate chip cookies. This shared meal allowed us to learn about the diversity of cultures in Israel, and it was special because these were cultures and places that impact our Israelis’ families and Israel as a whole. Enjoying a casual dinner and conversation with our host community in the partnership region allowed me to appreciate the power of the partnership on a personal level.

Another way that we connected with our Israelis was during a hike planned by the Teva (Nature) committee.  Through this hike, we experienced a unique aspect of the region, and we were able to recognize the importance of nature in our Israelis’ everyday lives. As Kashlash, we were able to push ourselves and enjoy being together in the beautiful nature of Israel.

Shabbat was one of my favorite parts of CW. I had Shabbat dinner with my host family’s extended family at their grandfather’s house. In a way, the family reminded me of my own back home with their energy, delicious food, and kindness. But of course, the foods were different, the family was speaking in Hebrew, and I was in Israel! After dinner, a large group of fellows spent time together at a home in Kiryat Gat. Being together, without the distraction of phones or technology, allowed us all to appreciate each other and the amazing week that we had together.

Global Diller Teen Fellows Congress- Elliott Gold

A highlight of our Israel Summer Seminar is the Global Diller Teen Fellows Congress, a gathering of all Diller Teen Fellows from around the world. There were almost 700 Jewish teens from 32 communities worldwide discussing the core principles of the Diller program, including Leadership, Jewish Peoplehood, Israel, Tikkun Olam, and Pluralism. This was an overwhelming experience at first, but we were broken up into small groups of 20 teens from around the world and given the opportunity to connect in a deep and meaningful way. These sessions, and the chance to discuss hot topics facing the Jewish community with teens from such diverse backgrounds was one of the most impactful experiences of my time in Diller.

One conversation with teens from Israel, Canada, and Argentina stands out in particular. We began in an organized session discussing Israel, and continued our discussion for an hour into the break. It was so powerful to exchange and debate social and political ideas with Jewish teens from communities so different then my own. And in doing so, I not only learned about their opinions, but their day-to-day lives as well.  

Through these conversations I discovered what may be obvious to some, but what many of us so easily forget: We are all people. We are all Jewish people. We may live in communities spread out over 6 continents, but I discovered that I can still joke around and play games with them as if they have been friends for years. And more importantly, I was able to engage in meaningful conversations about important issues facing Israel and the Jewish people.

It wasn’t all serious dialogue at Congress, we also had the opportunity to socialize and mingle informally. In particular, the Closing Ceremony (and dance) stands out as a highlight. I've never danced like I did on that last night. I may not have had the chance to get to know every person at the conference, but during that dance party it did not matter. We were all out there together having fun and letting loose.

These 4 days were the most "Jewish" I've ever felt. Being surrounded by so many other Jewish teens, having difficult conversations about the world we live in, and dancing, gave me a sense of connection I’ve never felt before. Diller Teen Fellows has changed my life for so many reasons and the Congress had one of the greatest impacts on me. It gave me the opportunity to wrestle with new ideas, forced me to think outside the box, taught me how to work with people from all over the world, and introduced me to a new definition of the word "family".

Final Days- Max Marino

Spending our last few days in Israel with our Partnership2gether region of Kiryat Gat, Lachish, and Shafir proved to be one of the most meaningful parts of my Israel Summer Seminar. During that time, we celebrated Shabbat together at Kibbutz Gonen and explored the Jordan River and its tributaries by hiking and rafting (and swimming) and biking.

Sightseeing with Kashlash (Kiryat-Gat, Lachish, Shafir, and Chicago) was particularly meaningful because we were able to deepen our connections to each other and create a shared connection to the land of Israel. Rafting stands out as a highlight not only because, after 3 weeks in Israel, the fellows and staff were ready to let loose and have fun by splashing and dunking each other. But also because as we paddled down the river, we were also able to absorb a different side of our homeland. As we floated downstream, the river became less a natural waterpark, and more a part of the living Israel, as we observed families, groups of friends, and “regular” Israelis coming to the river for barbecues, to dance and hangout, and to enjoy the beauty (and cool water) of the river.

Shabbat and Havdalah was one of the most special experiences of my life. On Shabbat, there were two service options: an Orthodox minyan or a musical Shabbat experience. I chose the musical Shabbat and enjoyed sharing and learning prayers, songs, and beautiful music. We spent Shabbat thinking about how to take the lessons of the Israel Summer Seminar and the friendships we developed back home to Chicago. Just before Shabbat came to a close, we had one last session with our Israeli partnership. Together we reflected on our Diller experience, celebrated the friendships we made, and shared funny stories and meaningful memories from our 3 weeks in Israel, and our 7 months of working together as a partnership. And as the sun went down, we huddled together for the Havdalah service and sang songs to welcome a new week. It was an emotional evening, as we said goodbye to our Israeli brothers and sisters.  It was so difficult to say goodbye to our Israeli friends, not knowing when, or if, we might ever see them again. Yet we are so thankful for the experiences we shared and these relationships, and are proud to be a part of this global family.

The Diller Teen Fellows experience has increased the size of my world, both locally and globally. The experiences and friendships I have created with my local cohort have opened my eyes to the diversity in the Chicagoland Jewish community. And my experiences and friendships with our Israeli partnership have challenged my global perspective as well. From meeting our Israeli cohort during the Jewish Community Mifgash in March, 2017 to the Diller Teen Fellows International Shabbaton, to the Global Congress, my perspective has changed, challenged, and shaped. As we left Congress, our Israeli cohort, and Israel, I realized that although I was going home, I will always have a home with Diller Teen Fellows, KASHLASH Cohort 4, and Israel.

Stevenson Hebrew: The Underdog?

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By Abigail Lapins

I spent the summer of 2016 in a Hebrew immersion program called Chalutzim at OSRUI, the URJ’s Reform overnight camp in Oconomowoc, WI. The anticipation of my upcoming summer and intensive study of the Hebrew language fueled a passion I didn’t know I had -- leading me to register for Hebrew at Stevenson High School. Having spent the first 14 years of my life living in Southeastern Wisconsin, I never dreamed that studying Hebrew in high school would be an option! 

I’m proud that when I tell people I attend Stevenson High School they usually recognize it as one of the best public high schools in the nation. As students, we don’t think about Stevenson that way, we just think about it as the school we go to everyday. 

Stevenson is just one of many public high schools in the Chicago metropolitan area that offer students the opportunity to study the Hebrew language. As part of a new JUF focus on Hebrew programs, the Hebrew Enhancement Committee (made up of seven students schools that offer Hebrew), I -- representing Stevenson -- met with the full group and quickly learned that Stevenson has the smallest Hebrew program of all. I was shocked! Who would have thought that Stevenson could ever be considered an underdog in anything?  Before this meeting, I assumed all Hebrew programs were similar to Stevenson’s. However, I was mistaken, as a lot of Hebrew programs in the area are very successful and quite large.


Stevenson’s program offers four full years of Hebrew language study. As high school students, we think about what will look good on our college applications. I believe that speaking a unique language like Hebrew will definitely help us stand out from other prospective students. Our program also provides students with the opportunity to form lasting friendships while building a strong team committed to working together to achieve a common goal. We are our own little community within the “city” that is Stevenson. It is very easy for our teacher, Anna Gorbikoff, to get to know each of us individually and help us excel in her classes. I believe that our small class size provides a calmer, more interactive and effective learning environment. For example, earlier in the school year we spent an entire class period cooking authentic Israeli dishes, something that could not be accomplished with 25+ people in a classroom. 

One of the things that most people do not understand about Hebrew programs is that you do not need to be Jewish in order to learn the language. Yes, it is the language of the Jewish people, however, in class we learn not only about how to speak the language, but also about the Israel’s culture and its history. Hebrew is one of the official languages of Israel, which is why we take the time to learn about Israeli holidays and traditions. We also learn the history of the language, where it is spoken, and how to communicate with others who share the ability to speak it.

As my first year in the Hebrew program draws to a close, I am excited about the opportunities ahead and excited to see how the program will continue to grow and evolve. Being a part of the program has continued to fuel my passion for learning and speaking Hebrew. I look forward to sharing this experience with all students who join the program in the years ahead. 

More than an Internship: Reflecting on a Year of Growth, Challenges, and New Friendships

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Our first Springboard Social Media interns just wrapped up their first year on the job! Check out what they accomplished, what they learned, and where they’re headed next.

Social Media Interns

What were some of the most memorable experiences you had as a Springboard Social Media Intern?

“As a Social Media Intern, one thing we did was go to different community events, including 18 Under 18, or Israel Solidarity Day, and a USY chapter cooking event. We had assignments, such as taking pictures, making own Instagram posts, videos, and spreading the word about upcoming events in the community. We got to see different aspects of the Jewish community from behind-the-scenes and everything it takes to put on events.

-Emily Fridland, Incoming 10th grader, Glenbrook North High School

“I made Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter posts, wrote blog posts and interviewed the honorees of the first ever 18 Under 18 Event. I went to Israel Solidarity Day and got to ask people why they love Israel and then take pictures of them. I got to see all different types of answers of why teens love Israel.”

-Evie Katz-Palka, Incoming 10th grader, Buffalo Grove High School

What are some of the main skills or lessons you learned?

“Coming to the realization that posts that lack quality content won’t aid in impressing others. Working behind the scenes has allowed me to fully understand the complexity of how our message effects not simply our community, but the world around us. Further, the WHY is so very important, so by explaining the ‘why’ through our media, we show who we are rather than what we look like on the outside.”

-Maddie Brim, Incoming 11th grader, Stevenson High School

“A skill I had to learn was how to take criticism. Criticism isn’t always negative, but I realized that learning how to deal with it and to use it to better yourself as a person is a crucial skill. Submitting my posts and seeing that I needed to change my execution of a graphic or the format of an interview, helped me to to make my posts better and more informative.”

-Avery Hessel, Incoming 10th grader, Vernon Hills High School

“During our monthly meetings, we covered different professional development topics. One meeting we talked about quantity and quality when it comes to social media posts. We discussed the difference between making a post that gets a lot of “likes”, but doesn’t have any real impact, like causing people to show up to an event, vs. making a post that may not get many “likes”, but gets people to actually act on it, for example, signing up for a School Break program. My fellow interns and I decided that quality, and the impact of our posts, was as important, if not more, than quantity, and something we should be focusing on.”


“I learned how much time and work truly goes into making all these posts and social media type of stuff. I learned that you have to do your part in a group to make the whole group succeed otherwise everyone will fail. We learned also many different ways to edit our posts and how to create them as a whole.”



Share one highlight of your internship:

“Overall, my favorite part was meeting the other interns and being a part of a team. When one of us had a question or needed some insight, the others were there to help. At one point, we all worked together on a Chanukah post and it was so much fun getting to work all together.”


Community is vital to how we become who we are, so without working with this community I wouldn’t have been as involved as I am. I am so happy to be with the Chicagoland Jewish community! Whether it's meeting all the different types of people or being able to broadcast the innovative skills I’ve learned, I could never express my gratefulness for the place I found within the community.”


“Apart from being a madricha at the Chabad of Vernon Hills, this was my first real job. This was the best hands-on learning experience for me as a freshman. I was able to work on my professionalism, cooperation, time management, patience, and social media navigation.”


What’s next?

“As a result of me getting involved in this internship, I have applied to the Diller Teen Fellows program. Diller is a fellowship for high school students interested in exploring topics in leadership, Jewish identity, social justice, and Israel. Each of these topics are extremely important to me as a growing Jewish teen and activist. I was also introduced to Or Tzedek, which is a program that provides opportunities for teens from across the country to learn about and take action on current social justice campaigns, which I will be participating in this summer. I am also hoping to attend more events that I learned about, such as Israel Solidarity Day, Good Deeds Day, and CHUSY.”


This coming fall I am going to Israel to study for a few months and cannot wait. Because of this internship I know who I am and what my role in the Jewish community is.”



Final Thoughts?

“I’m so thankful for this feeling, and I want to thank the teen engagement community at JUF for giving me the opportunity to not only become better engaged with my community through social media platforms, but allowing me to grow to become the person I am today.”


“This has made me a more independent and hard worker. I have been able to work in all different styles from blogging to social media. I have learned so much and will be able to use these skills in the future. I would like to thank Springboard for giving me this amazing opportunity.”


Camp TOV: Learning Jewish values through doing

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Avi Shapira

Last August, with only a few weeks left of summer, I was fortunate to participate in JUF’s Camp TOV, specifically for teens. I learned about the program through friends who had participated in prior years. Traveling around the Chicago area with a group of Jewish teens (and with fun counselors!) while learning about and the wide variety of social service organizations our JUF/Federation supports seemed like a fun opportunity.

Since I was very little, Jewish values of repairing the world (tikun olam) and acting with kindness (gemilut chasadim) have been woven throughout my studies at Chicago Jewish Day School and at home with my family.

Camp TOV gave me an up-close, hands-on opportunity to put those values to work by volunteering at a variety of non-profit organizations. Together we were able to make a meaningful difference for those in need, and I was surprised to learn that these organizations are there to help anyone in need, not just people in the Jewish community.

I also enjoyed Camp TOV because it was a unique opportunity for me to meet new teens from across Chicago and the suburbs, who I wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. Together with a new group of friends, we stickered bags at The ARK, sorted books at Bernie's Book Bank, visited with the elderly at CJE SeniorLife, and prepared food packages at Feed My Starving Children.

My favorite parts were learning about philanthropy and making phone calls for a fundraising phonathon as well as visiting the Pushing the Envelope Farm where we learned about caring for our environment through a Jewish lens.

Camp TOV gave me a taste for what lies ahead as I consider which JUF programs I want to be involved in next as a high school student!


Registration for JUF’s Camp TOV and JUF’s Mini Camp TOV is open to entering 7th-12th graders from metropolitan Chicago. For more information and to register, visit www.juf.org/camptov.

Avi Shapira is an eighth grader at Chicago Jewish Day School and a participant in JUF’s Camp TOV program.

Meet Your 18 Under 18 Honorees: Spencer Schwartz, Ben Gerstein, Kelly Kogen, and Colman Adams!

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Springboard Social Media Intern, Maddie Brim, interviewed some of our 18 Under 18 Honorees to hear a little bit about why they were selected, what leadership means to them, and what advice they would give for those looking to get more involved in their communities.

Spencer Schwartz

Spencer Schwartz is a current senior at Niles North High School. She is the president of both her student government and Hebrew National Honor Society, and is a member of her school’s dance marathon executive board. She has been involved with the Diller Teen Fellows program for two years, serving as a junior counselor during her senior year to help participants through their own Diller experiences. As a StandWithUs high school intern, Spencer works to enhance Israel's image in the eyes of the world. She recognizes the importance of her Jewish identity and feels obligated to express that aspect of herself with her community.

She has worked as a leader in the Jewish community in order to inspire other leaders and community members. Spencer continues to empower those around her, including friends and classmates, by connecting with the broader world. Spencer uses Israel advocacy, the most prominent aspect of her Jewish involvement, to educate herself and teach others accurately about her Jewish homeland, which she calls her home. Spencer says, “When looking for new opportunities do not be intimidated, and recognize that there are so many aspects of the Jewish community to be involved in. The beautiful thing about the Jewish world is its multifaceted nature. Each person has a place, whether in advocacy, summer camp, prayer, etc., and each personality type is strengthened through the Jewish peoplehood. You become an integral part of a wonderful Jewish masterpiece.”

Ben Gerstein

Ben Gerstein continues to advocate for a better tomorrow for the Jewish community.  He is the founder of Deerfield High School’s pro-Israel club, a Write On for Israel fellow and a freelance Israel-related columnist for the Huffington Post, Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel. He manages his own political site, www.bgerstein.com, which aims to introduce a new perspective on pro-Israel issues. Ben has even lobbied Senator Tammy Duckworth, encouraging her to speak at the Jewish National Fund's Yom Ha'aztmaut Celebration. He believes that supporting Israel is a pressing issue in today’s society, and he wants to help prepare and train high school students to be strong supporters of Israel in college. Ben’s passion allows him to succeed in getting his opinion heard. Ben suggests others search for a subject, issue or cause that speaks to them and capitalize on that desire, and he hopes to inspire his peers to create amazing change.

Kelly Kogan

Rather than give up after being diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Kelly Kogen uses her persistence to prove the world wrong about the ability of those with special needs. Kelly attends Glenbrook North High School, though her school work isn’t all that keeps her busy, as Kelly is also a cheerleader at school. Her favorite part of cheerleading is how fun the atmosphere is at the games. Kelly has also been involved in theater, as she absolutely loves being on stage. When it comes to her involvement in her Jewish community, JCC’s Apachi Day Camp was where Kelly first found her fit within the Jewish community. She is still an avid camp-attendee, but she is also now a helper at her synagogue’s Sunday school as well. Last summer, Kelly participated in the Staff in Training program at Camp Chi, a place very near and dear to Kelly. By being fully included in all of the camp activities, Kelly is able to do all of the things that her peers do at camp, which she really loves.  

When Kelly first started spending her summers as a camper, she also started taking Sunday school classes during the school year.  She was in a typical class with all of her friends at school, and when she got to eighth grade, she was able to have her Bat Mitzvah, right alongside her Jewish friends and classmates. Being able to do what all of her friends did and to be able to do it right alongside them was a life-changing experience for Kelly.  Kelly continues to be a leader because she loves helping other people, and giving them the same loving feelings she has gotten through her own inclusive communities. If any of her peers want to get involved in the Jewish community, Kelly strongly believes that they should go for it because it is such a truly a place where everyone belongs.  Everyone she has come into contact with has been so accepting and understanding of who she is as a person. If the whole world acted the same way as everyone Kelly has met at camp and within her community, Kelly believes the world would be a better place. 

Colman Adams

Not being afraid to be himself is one thing, Colman Adams, a senior at Lane Tech High School continues to promote as a leader in his community. In a room full of people, Colman describes himself as “the person making a fool of themselves” because he believes leaders can’t be afraid. Being self-confident, and able to speak his mind are some of the many leadership qualities Colman continues to uphold as an outstanding teen in the Chicago area. Of course, he knows that there are times when he has to be serious, and in that kind of situation he enjoys being a leader who truly listens to those around him.As a junior counselor for the Diller Teen Fellows program, and previously as a fellow of the program, Colman has learned how to mentor others and help them to further their own accomplishments. Colman also works as the current Vice President of Religion and Education for his chapter of USY, serves as the co-president of his school’s Jewish Student Connection club, participates in his school’s orchestra, managing the girls softball team, and sits as the sole student member on his school’s local student council, which is involved with making decisions on the school's budget and principal selection. Loving to make others laugh and helping other people have a good time is what Coleman truly loves about being a leader. Even if it’s 7 am in the morning and nobody wants to be awake, Colman is the person yelling his head off and being silly.

Colman’s advice to those looking to get more involved in the community would be to come to a variety of events or programs and then pick what is right for you.  When Colman’s parents dragged him to his first USY event, he begged them to pick him up early due, his old youth director, named Rabbi Russo, made a huge came up to Colman with a huge smile, made him feel welcomed, and made a difference in Colman’s experience from then on out with USY. After he then was introduced to the other teens at the event, Colman felt included. From that point on, Colman has continued to help others find their fit, especially when it comes to USY or to Diller.

Meet Your 18 Under 18 Honorees: Rachel Aranyi, Syd Bakal, Emma Milner-Gorvine, Kalman Strauss, and Lillie Murphy!

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Springboard Social Media Intern, Avery Hessel, interviewed some of our 18 Under 18 Honorees to hear a little bit about why they were selected, what leadership means to them, and what advice they would give for those looking to get more involved in their communities.

Rachel Aranyi

Rachel Aranyi
contributes to both her secular and her Jewish community. Rachel is a Chicago Diller Teen Fellow and a member of Congregation Beth Judea. She also participates with AIPAC and BBYO. Rachel is a legislative intern for State Representative Carol Sente and has been for over two years. She is the co-founder and president of the Stevenson High School Lean In Women's Leadership and Feminism Club. Her club fosters an inclusive environment through advertising campaigns and enlisting insightful speakers such as the Dean of Northwestern's Law school and Illinois's Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti. Rachel was selected for participation in Stevenson's Student Leadership Academy. Rachel is a member of Stevenson High School's Student Leadership Advisory Committee. She earned membership into the National Honor Society. She regularly volunteers in service activities such as being a class leader for Stevenson's annual Give-A-Thon, and raising money for physically challenged adults as a Project Dance group leader. Rachel is a three-sport varsity letter winner for field hockey, fencing and soccer. Rachel is the Women's Midwest Regional Epee Fencing Champion (2016, 2017) and the Illinois High School Epee Champion (2017). She is a 2017/2018 Captain of the Stevenson Fencing Team. She is a member of her school's Ethics Bowl Team which recently won regionals. 

Syd Bakal

Syd Bakal is a Junior at Barrington High School. They are currently the Social Vice President on their youth group board at Beth Tikvah Congregation. Syd is constantly looking for ways to exercise their passion for music, as well as equality. Syd co-led a song leading program at their temple, founded their school’s Gay Straight Alliance, participated in theater, and joined the youth committee for Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. One awesome thing that Syd is working on is organizing their school’s Speak Out program, a unique program where people of different backgrounds present speeches to create awareness and inclusivity. Syd sings, dances, and plays guitar and ukulele. When speaking about their connection to the Jewish community they have found as a teen, Syd says that going to their Temple is their lifeboat. “It’s my safe space in which I am bonding with other Jews," they say. They live in a community with few Jews and feels a special bond with other Jews in non-Jewish communities, as it makes all of their experiences more unique.

Syd describes themselves as very community-focused, having been a part of so many great communities from NFTY CAR to The Jewish Council on Urban Affair’s Or Tzedek program. Building a community is the most important part of being a leader to Syd. Syd feels that Jewish teens are sometimes afraid of a Judaism that won’t accept them for who they are. “Judaism is a religion that welcomes interpretation. We have been struggling and reinterpreting since the beginning. We are community bound by complexity and nuance. There is enough room for anyone and everyone who wants a place to think, pray, and find community."

Emma Milner-Gorvine

Emma Milner-Gorvine
is a passionate senior at Evanston Township High School. She is involved in cross-country, group promoting women in STEM, Student Ambassadors, and her school’s Gay Straight Alliance. Emma is also President of her youth group and a Madricha at her synagogue, Beth Emet the Free Synagogue. Lastly, Emma is very involved politically and involved in interning at a mayoral campaign, organizing phone banking at the Democratic Party office, and participating in a Rosh Chodesh Jewish Feminist group. She has felt connected to Judaism from a young age. She wants to give back what the community has given to her. To her, the Jewish community is a unique community with amazing friends and values.

Emma describes herself as very outgoing and spontaneous. “Sometimes I don’t plan until the day of,” she says. She is better at stepping forward, doing, and saying. She gets more anxious if a speech is planned rather than not. To anyone looking to get involved with Judaism, she says you should start at your local synagogue, youth group, Hebrew course, or look into Israeli culture. “Don’t be nervous to create something yourself,” she says.

Kalman Strauss

Kalman Strauss is a high school freshman in the city of Chicago. He plays violin and mandolin and sings at Shabbat services as part of Mishkan Chicago’s Davening Team, which he says, "tries to create a spiritual and meaningful atmosphere for people's prayer." At Mishkan, he has also performed Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur, composed music for services, and even recorded a CD. He loves being a part of Mishkan Chicago, a community which he says is "spiritual, musical, intellectual, thoughtful, and truly inclusive--basically a model of how I strive to be." In addition, Kalman studies Talmud with Svara, a "traditionally radical Yeshiva" based here in Chicago, which he says has been "nothing short of life changing." He is also a participant in Voices: The Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation, a JUF program where teens learn about professional philanthropy and grant-making through a Jewish lens. In addition to his work with the Jewish community, Kalman has a passion for nature and for teaching others to appreciate and protect small natural wonders, such as moss and birds, and he volunteers extensively in this area. Kalman would describe himself as someone who tries to move and connect people, especially through music. He states, "Music is one of the most universal of all languages, so it is a great way to connect people to their feelings and to one another, whatever their backgrounds." To those looking to get more involved in the Jewish community, he would suggest casting a wide net. "The Jewish community and heritage is very diverse and rich," he says, "so don't get discouraged if you don't like one aspect. Just keep searching and experimenting." He says he has been especially inspired by several Jewish women in the community, noting his gratitude for Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann of Mishkan Chicago, Stephanie Goldfarb of JUF's Voices Program, and Rabbi Benay Lappe of Svara.

Lillie Murphy

Not only does Lillie Murphy have an outgoing and exciting personality on the outside, but she has the passion on the inside to match. Almost every opportunity in the Jewish community that Lillie has been presented with, she has said yes to. Whether it is going to Camp Chi, where she has now been going for six summers, or being involved with the JCC through their Chi Town Connection Board and Project Teen Seed 613 program, she loves getting to meet new people and jump right into the excitement. Lillie is also heavily involved with USY, where she sits on her chapter board as the Membership Kadima Vice President at West Suburban Temple Har Zion. Her role there ranges from working with the 6th-8th graders to planning the regional convention. It wasn’t until USY that Lillie truly felt connected to the Jewish community and found her own fit. After she met other Jews in Chicago and stared making friends and deep connections, she felt more connected to the community as a whole. She knew then that getting involved in even more activities and making more friends would make her feel even more at home. One thing Lillie really enjoys is helping others, which is why she joined the Gesher Committee in USY, a committee designed to help new members make connections and feel welcomed. This desire to help others is also why she signed up to be a Madricha at her synagogue, where she individually aids younger kids with their assignments and classroom responsibilities. As previously mentioned, her latest endeavor is the JCC’s Project Teen Seed 613, a program for high school girls to create a non-profit, learn about business and Judaism, and sharpen their entrepreneurial skills. 

Lillie feels that being a leader is important because “I am able to guide people who are uncomfortable, shy, or young to a place where they feel happy, included, and comfortable.” If she could give her peers advice, she would tell them to branch out and try extremely new things. When Lillie went to camp for the first time, she was terrified, but if she hadn’t have gone then she never would be where she is, in the community and in her life, today.


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