Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

Reflections on being a TYG advisor and this year's LEAD award winner by Neil Rigler

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Niel Rigler

It’s hard for me to imagine a time in my life when I was not working with Jewish teenagers. I grew up in a synagogue where both of my parents served as president, so I was constantly surrounded by that community. During high school I was an active participant in our temple’s youth group and in NFTY (JFTY at the time - go New Jersey!) events, both regionally and nationally. The day after graduation I started working at URJ’s Camp Harlam, where I spent 11 summer as counselor, unit head, and leader of their 6-week summer trip to Israel. When I moved to Chicago after college, I worked at OSRUI for two years and was hired as the youth advisor at North Shore Congregation Israel, where I have been honored to work for the past twenty-six years. I must take a moment to note I was initially hired as a co-youth group advisor - my partner then is my wife now - the world works in mysterious (or perhaps quite deliberate) ways! During my spare time I’m an English Teacher at Deerfield High School, where I enjoy the opportunity to work with a wide range of students but worry a bit less about boxes of costumes and ordering pizza.

To me, the different aspects of the LEAD award (Leader, Educator, Advisor, Dugma/Example) are all essential and interwoven components of what it means to be successful with this challenge. However, what they each mean is not so straightforward. For me, being a leader means standing on the side while my students lead. If I am the one in the front of the room or running an activity, they are passive participants instead of growing their skills in communication and organization and a hundred other areas. As an educator, my main roles are to ask questions and encourage reflection. After every program we consider not only what worked and didn’t, but also the parts each person played in everything from the brainstorming to social interaction to physical work. Being an advisor means being a listener - I long ago learned to be aware of the needs of each student, and that everyone carries a heavy backpack. I set a high bar of expectations and work hard to create it with each of them - the strengths and challenges of each student are unique. Lastly, being an dugma/example means I must be aware of our goals and the ways in which I model them. If I am being phony about it, students are aware of that right away. If I engage with my Jewish identity in a genuine and meaningful way, I can better help be a participant in the important conversations they have about what that can mean to them - about the role Judaism plays in their daily lives and how to explore those questions.

In my jobs as both teacher and TYG advisor I am constantly learning from my students. They are the ones who teach me about current ways of thinking and existing, about their ways of navigating our complicated political and social times, and about the galaxy of forces impacting their thoughts and beliefs. (As a music nerd I try to hold my own in that category, and always manage to surprise a lot of kids when I’m closer to the stage at Lollapalooza than they are). I like to tell people I have the best job in the world - that every day is different, and that I get to be present when teens are at their most curious. Yet those opportunities coincide with their most vulnerable moments, and times when they most feel like challenging and questioning everything. I embrace that. Those are the moments of growth and I’m truly honored to have the opportunity to be there and help guide the pathway for the next generation of Jewish leaders. I’m so fortunate to have so many fantastic people to work with at North Shore Congregation Israel. I’m thankful to Springboard and all of the great work they do, for this wonderful award, and for the chance to reflect on my journey up to this point.

A Window into Diller Teen Fellows: by Abbey Finn

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The Diller Teen Fellows program is a year-long fellowship rooted in six core experiences; leadership, Jewish identity, Israel, Tikkun Olam, pluralism, and Jewish peoplehood. As a fellow this past year, I’ve grown tremendously through the program and have formed invaluable connections to each of these values.  I’ve taken on leadership roles and been involved in multiple Jewish organizations throughout high school, and because of this, I can say with certainty that Diller is amazingly unique. So far this year, we’ve had monthly workshops and two shabbatonim. We’re looking forward to a 10-day experience with our partner region in Israel when they visit Chicago, and to a three-week Israel trip in the summer. Diller is different from other programs in how pluralistic and diverse it is. Our cohort has fellows from different areas, schools, and levels of observance. We’ve used our differences to teach one another about our individual experiences as Jewish teens, and how that has had an influence on us and our community. We’ve been forming friendships with our Israeli counterparts and can’t wait to learn and grow as Jewish leaders with other Diller teens from all over the world. 

          Besides forming incredible friendships and creating lasting memories with the other fellows and staff, I’ve been able to partake in awesome programming. Some of my favorites include bonding as a cohort with a mock bar-mitzvah, giving back to the community by volunteering at the Lieberman Center for Health and Rehabilitation, reading about and discussing Jewish culture around the world, and hearing from a Holocaust survivor and a Jewish congressman. Our last shabbaton was based on leadership, and we had the opportunity to split off into different committees and plan the entire weekend. My committee brought in two speakers and led a program focused on our passions. It was a great way to work on leadership skills in preparation for planning a similar week with our Israeli counterparts when we go to Israel. During this shabbaton, we also took time to create an impactful Shabbat experience and get to know one another on a deeper level. While each workshop we have is focused on a different aspect of the program, the workshops all connect to help shape fellows into prominent Jewish intellectuals and role models. 

          The Diller Teen Fellows program has transformed my year. It’s challenged perceptions I thought I knew, given me connections to remarkable Jewish communities around the world, and introduced me to some of my best friends. If you want to take advantage of this amazing opportunity, apply to be a part of Cohort 7! I promise that you won’t regret it. There’s a specific quote that comes to mind when I think of Diller. “From the outside looking in, you can never understand it. From the inside looking out, you can never explain it”. While I attempted to provide a description, my experiences differ from others. The only way to grasp the wonders of Diller is to experience it for yourself. 

For more information and registration click here


5 Ways to Have the Best Purim Ever

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Purim Mask

Purim is here! The Jewish holiday of Purim (best recognized as the holiday where we dress up and eat delicious triangular cookies called hamentashen) takes place during the Hebrew month of Adar. Did you know that during Adar it’s actually a commandment to be happy?  Below we offer some suggestions to increase your happiness this Purim.

  1. Make a wacky new kind of Hamantaschen this year. While I’m sure many of us have enjoyed some decadent Hamantaschen during one Purim celebration or another, here are some fun unique recipes for you to try this year! Bake them, eat them, share them, however you want to spread the Purim joy is encouraged!
  2. Take your costume to the next level and get some inspiration from last years top Purim costumes
  3. Sick and tired of having the same old Grogger for Purim? Check out this fun article on how to make and decorate your own Grogger this Purim! 
  4. Want to do something nice for your friends or family? Purim is a perfect time to do just that! Mishloach Manot are baskets of food, drinks, or other treats delivered to family or friends on Purim. Take this opportunity to send your loved ones some Mishloach Manot.  
  5. Check out our Instagram story where we ask ‘What Makes You Happy’ and will be sharing your responses throughout the day on Purim/Thursday! 

My Hebrew Story by Caroline Cotler

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Hebrew Word 2

Since starting high school, Hebrew has become a major part of my life. Before freshman year, I was not aware of how much I could enjoy taking a language class. I decided to take Hebrew because I had heard fantastic things about Josh Morrell, the teacher at Glenbrook North and I also heard that it was overall a great class. I can definitely see Hebrew benefiting my future because I plan to visit Israel many times later in my life. Additionally, knowing conversational Hebrew will allow me to communicate easily with the people around me. Learning Hebrew will also impact my future because I plan to take Hebrew in college, therefore I will be well prepared. 

Others should take Hebrew because even though learning a new language can be challenging, it can also be very enjoyable. Hebrew is a class that I always look forward to attending because of the connection I have with my classmates. There is a strong sense of community in the Hebrew classroom that is hard to find in other classes. Taking Hebrew at school has increased my appreciation for the language.  

When I am at Temple or reciting a prayer at home, I have a completely different perspective and understanding because of my experience taking Hebrew. My view of the Hebrew language is significantly more positive now that I have learned more conversational Hebrew.  I am thankful that I decided to take Hebrew. It has been such an enjoyable experience for me and I believe that all students can benefit from taking Hebrew at their high school. 

JTAC in the Community: Josh's NFTY Kallah Video

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JTAC (Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago) is a board made up of teen leaders representing different Jewish programs in the Chicago community. We asked them to share stories that reflect their Jewish involvement. Over the next few months we will be featuring their stories on the Springboard blog, Instagram and Facebook. If you want to learn more about the experiences they share, email Springboard@juf.org or send us a message.

Today we are featuring a video by Josh Glucksman highlighting the NFTY Chicago Area Region Winter Kallah at Oak Park Temple. Josh and Sarah Cohen, NFTY CAR President, share how they, along with teens from across Chicago, spent the weekend learning about restorative justice, exploring the intersection of food justice and food deserts, hanging at the arcade, celebrating Tu Bisvhat and Shabbat, and making great new friendships!

Springboard's 2019 18 Under 18 Leadership Event

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18 under 18 logo

Three years ago, Springboard started a new program to highlight teen leaders in the Chicago area. Each year 18 Under 18 honoree selection has become increasingly competitive. This year was no different with a record breaking 79 different teens nominated for the award. After careful consideration, the final 18 were selected.

2019 honorees

Springboard is proud to announce the 2019 18 Under 18 Honorees: 

Dina Barrish

Sarah Bloom

Ella Brown

Raquel Cohen

Sophie Draluck

Sophie Frankenthal

Joshua Zach Glucksman

Ariana Handelman

Shulamit Horton

Rebecca Jacobson

Maxine Kalika

Marc Luban

Emma Rosenberg-Rappin

Andrew Scott

Brian Silverstein

Elitsa Mairav Reinglass Sklar

Jason Tothy

Randi Wilk

The group met for the first time on Wednesday, February 13th for the 18 Under 18 Leadership Event. During the event teens got to know each other and discussed what it means to be a leader. They reflected on their leadership experiences within their specific communities and dove into issues that they are seeing and how they, as leaders, can help address and work towards solving them. The honorees also heard from other community leaders including former 18 Under 18 honoree Sawyer Goldsmith and Marissa Freeman, the Chicago Hub Manager of OneTable. During the panel, the honorees engaged with Marissa and Sawyer, asking critical questions about how to help people find connections within the Jewish community, how to deepen their leadership skills, and how to bridge their Jewish identities with the broader community.  

Next, the honorees applied their leadership skills values to their signature projects. The first activity asked the honorees to zero in on crucial Jewish values that relate to different aspects of being a Jewish teenager. The teens were asked which values related to the challenges they want to tackle in their communities and how they can use these values to inform their work. The second activity utilized the metaphor of a peer led hike to help the honorees identify their unique leadership styles. Through meaningful content driven discussion, the honorees then unpacked their issues and clarified how their individual skills best serve their issue. In addition, the teen considered at how their communities can best support them. 

The evening was filled with enthusiasm and passion. Over the next few weeks, the honorees will work on addressing their issues and will present their progress at the 18 Under 18 Community Event on April 10 at the Botanical Gardens.  The evening will include a dessert reception, live music and more! We hope you will join us on April 10. You can get your tickets here.  

Let’s Get Together: A Journey for Social Justice

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Let's Get Together

“In order to create a better, brighter future with more justice and equality, we need to unite these groups that have been attacked throughout history and realize that we have amazing similarities.”  

-Simon Adams, 17, Lane Tech High School, Let’s Get Together participant.  

Last year African American teens, of all religions, and Jewish teens, of all racial backgrounds, took a journey through the South to learn about their communities and how to advocate for social justice. The teens stopped at important cites and landmarks such as the National Civil Rights Museum, Little Rock High School, and lobbying at Springfield, Illinois during their trip where they explored anti-Semitism, civil rights, and integration.  With a goal to bridge the cultural gaps between these two communities, the teens joined together during fun activities and meaningful conversations about how they can help better their communities. “During Let’s Get Together we discussed different stereotypes that are prominent in the Jewish community as well as the African American community. This was really meaningful because the discussion not only brought us close, but also shed some light on how saying certain things or doing certain things can affect others on a deeper level.” - Jacob Kline, 16, Lane Tech High School 

Once again, this powerful trip is being offered again to teens throughout of all the Chicagoland area. From April 14-17 teens in grades 9-12 will have the amazing opportunity to travel to Memphis, Little Rock, St. Louis and Springfield.  

Let’s Get Together gives teens the resources and ability to use their words to create change. “Now that I’ve been on this trip and I’ve been able to talk about the things I felt and believed in and people listened to me, I feel like I’m able to speak way better than before.” Genevieve Hicks 17, Richard T Crane Medical Prep, said after coming back from Let’s Get Together.   

This trip is a great opportunity to learn about our history as a nation and come together to help fight social injustice. To learn more and sign up for Let’s Get Together click here.  

Its Finally Here

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