Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

One Year Mark

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This past Shabbat marked one year since I completed and was released from my service as an infantry soldier in the Nahal Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces. One year since I turned in my gun, my gear, my uniform, my boots and left everything I had known for the last two years. The transition was marked as I put on a pair of jeans, a normal t-shirt and athletic shoes, clothes I could wear seemingly for the rest of my life.  

No more were the days of going to sleep at 4 pm to wake up at 10 pm and train throughout the night to avoid the dangerous Israeli heat. No more marching kilometer after kilometer, with shooting pains through parts of my body I never knew existed. No more having my biggest worry be, “will the person switching me off of guard duty g-d forbid be late?” Also missing was the sense of camaraderie and purpose that came from being an infantry fighter in the Israel Defense Forces.  

While finishing the army is cause for celebration, it is also a very scary time. For many lone soldiers, including myself, our ultimate life goal was to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. I didn’t have any plans for what would happen after the army. I completed the army, my ultimate life goal, and still had a whole life in front of me. The question of “what’s next” made me anxious and stressed. I avoided thinking about it for as long as possible and I was successful up until the very day I was released. I truly had no idea what the answer to that question was. Yes, the army was the place I where truly turned from a boy to a man, and it wasn’t easy, but after enough time, it became comfortable. I knew my place, I knew my purpose, and I knew my people. When I was released from the army, and cut my army ID in half, all of that disappeared.  

In the last year I have accomplished many things. I traveled through Eastern Europe and India for the first time, I made the decision to leave Israel and build a life in Chicago, I started working full-time for Springboard Chicago, and was accepted to my top choice Masters degree program for the coming year. These milestones have allowed me to take time and reflect on just how different my life is now compared to a year ago. My bus rides to the army base have been replaced by Metra commutes. My smelly, crowded army bunk is now my comfortable room at home.  Army dining has turned into eating whatever I want, whenever I want. I used to go weeks without an electronic device and now I check screens regularly.  Workouts used to be long runs through the desert and now I visit an air-conditioned health club. To many, these are improvements, but for many soldiers, it is a difficult adjustment.  

I take great pride in continuing to serve Israel through the Israel Defense Force Reserves (Miliuim). When I decided to build a life in Chicago, it was important to me to still fulfill my duty as an Israeli citizen, and to continue with the army reserves so that I am ready to do whatever it takes to defend the Jewish homeland. My work through Springboard helps me to continue my goal of serving the Jewish people in any capacity. I look forward to my second year of freedom and my role helping more Jewish teens to find their connection to Judaism. I'm excited to continue sharing my Jewish Journey and hearing about the journeys of others in our community.  

Chicago's Very Own Rock Stars

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Two of Chicago’s own local teen musicians, Yael Bettenhausen, 17, a student at Niles North and Marc Luban, 17, a student at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School, are two of the National Top 12 finalists in Jewish Rock Radio’s Jewish Star North America Talent Search. This is Jewish Rock Radio’s first nationwide competition, designed to identify emerging talent in the Jewish community. Marc and Yael were among dozens of applicants from across North America who submitted videos reflecting their musical talent and passion for impacting the Jewish world.

When asked about the impact of being a Jewish song leader in their communities, the two shared:

Yael Bettenhausen on Guitar

“Being a Jewish song leader is about connecting with other people through the power of harmony and song. When you hear others signing your song and having a good time with your music, Jewish or not, that’s the moment when you know you’ve truly connected and impacted someone else and to me, that is the most meaningful part of about being a Jewish Song leader.” – Yael


“Each carefully crafted masterpiece of Jewish music carries not only the meaning its creator intended, but also brings with it the enormous power of our timeless traditions and teachings, which makes it possible for each and every individual to feel the voice of every song in their soul. Jewish music has impacted my life because it brought me closer to my community and to communities outside of mine and showed me new and incredible ways to connect to my religion and identity in this ever-changing modern age.”- Marc


Right now is your opportunity to help these amazing Jewish Rock Stars move into the final six! From now until Monday, December 17, you can vote here.

6 grand prize winners will be awarded a private mentorship from an internationally recognized Jewish celebrity recording artist, a professional recording studio session, exposure throughout all of North America and a full scholarship to attend the 2019 Song Leader Bootcamp (SLBC) National Conference.

Think you’ve got what it takes to be the next Jewish Rock Star? Join Song Leader Boot Camp from Sunday, February 17, 2019- Tuesday, February 19, 2019 in St. Louis! Teens who participate in the Springboard school break track will receive significant tuition subsidies. Learn more @ Springboard SLBC.

Hebrew in the High Spotlight: Community!

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Now more than ever it is important to be a leader in the Jewish community. Luckily, there are so many avenues for teens to hone in on their leadership skills. Through Hebrew in the High, teens are able to take ownership of their school Hebrew language programs and broadcast this amazing opportunity to the greater community. Look first hand at what these amazing teens have to say about their experience!

Four Teens

“Choosing to take Hebrew has impacted my high school experience immensely and has helped my become more involved in my school and outside community. Looking back, I cannot imagine how different my high school experience would be, had I not chosen to take Hebrew.”

-Mia Strubel Iram; Niles North High School

“Hebrew is a class that I always look forward to attending because of the connection I have with my classmates. The Hebrew language has brought a sense of community to my classroom that lacks in other classes.”

-Caroline Cotler; Glenbrook North High School

Not only is Hebrew an amazing and fascinating language, but the class is engaging, fun and tight knit. There is something very special about having a class with the same people every year...Hebrew is a constant that acts as a safe space to resort to no matter what. After being in a class with the same people for four years you will make friends that you never thought you would. In Hebrew we are all so close because we chose to take this class and have it in common with each other every year.

-Stephanie Kallish, Highland Park High School

“Hebrew, specifically at my high school, is a community that I wouldn’t necessarily get in a different language. In a big public school, it is nice to have a place where I can go to find that Jewish community.”

-Gillian Rosenberg; Evanston Township High School

“Usually by the end of 7th period everyday, I’m tired, I’m dragging my feet, I’m watching the clock. But that stops when I walk through the door of my 8th period Hebrew class. As soon as I walk in, I see my friends. Friends I’ve been with in Hebrew class since freshman year. Friends I’ve gotten to know really well and look forward to seeing everyday. I can say with absolute certainty that many of the people in my Hebrew class will remain close friends after high school and beyond. Because when you sign up to take Hebrew, you aren’t just signing up for a language, you’re signing up for a community.”

-Sarah Bloom; Evanston Township High School

“So if it wasn’t to learn the language itself, then why did I sign up for Hebrew when I had plenty of other language options available? I chose it because of the community I’d be a part of.”

-Adi Zetouni; Deerfield High School

Hebrew in the High

For more information on Hebrew in the High, please contact Sam Grobart at samuelgrobart@juf.org.

Meet Eric: Teen Engagement Specialist

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Eric Golberg Pic

Hey! My name is Eric and I am one of Springboard’s Teen Engagement Specialists. I spent my high school years at Stevenson and was President of my USY chapter when we won chapter of the year (Humble Brag). I am a big sports fan and watch any game on TV, especially the World Champion Boston Red Sox. I also enjoy traveling, working out, and eating as much as I can while binge watching the office on Netflix.  

I went to the University of Hartford where I studied Integrated Elementary and Special Education. I recently returned to the Chicagoland area after spending seven years in Hartford, Connecticut. While there, I taught third grade and worked with students in the special education department. Additionally, I taught cooking (let me know if you need a recipe!) and helped develop new, exciting classes for Jewish teens at the JT Connect (Jewish Teen Learning Connections). 

I’ve traveled all around the world as a staff member with BBYO Passport visiting Costa Rica, Italy, Slovenia and Israel.  

What are your interests? Let’s get coffee (preferably Dunkin’... It’s a New England thing) and talk about the great programs in the Chicagoland area that you can be a part of!  

Eric’s Top Three Facts: 

  1. I’ve lived in 8 states (Guess which ones!) 

  1. My favorite animal is a sloth 

  1. I recently adopted a four-year-old German Shepard named Lyla

Hebrew in the High Spotlight: Israel!

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Through Hebrew in the High, teens are able to take ownership of their school Hebrew language programs and broadcast this amazing opportunity to the greater community. In our second spotlight, check out how these teens' connection to Israel has been impacted by their Hebrew programs!

three ambassadors

“I can definitely see Hebrew benefitting 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.”

-Caroline Cotler, GBN

“After traveling to Israel in eighth grade with Ta’am Yisrael I realized how modern and fast paced of a country Israel truly is. This made me forge an even deeper connection with the Hebrew language. It is not only the language of the Torah but it is vibrant, modern and cool!”

-Stephanie Kallish, HPHS

“Being able to speak to Israelis because of my knowledge of Hebrew has been the true best part. I stayed with an Israeli family for a week going into junior year and because I knew Hebrew, I was able to deepen my connection with the host family.”

-Elie Rosenberg; ETHS

“Hopefully, through Hebrew in the High, more people can foster the same love I have for Israel and the same desire to spread it with others.”

-Noam Zetouni; DHS

“I have grown to appreciate it and love it. My reasons for continuing it every year have grown. To me, Hebrew is so much more than just a language. It is a connection to my religion and to my other home, Israel. When I hear someone speaking Hebrew in a public environment, I find myself feeling a connection towards them even if I don’t know them.”

-Gillian Rosenberg; ETHS

Hebrew in the High

Stay tuned to hear more from these amazing teen ambassadors. For more information on Hebrew in the High, please contact Sam Grobart at samuelgrobart@juf.org

Meet Adina Teen Engagement Coordinator

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Adina Blog Post

Hebrew in the High Spotlight: Leadership!

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The polls are closed and the votes are in! This doesn’t mean it is time to stop advocating for things you are passionate about. Check out our new blog series highlighting the amazing Hebrew in the High ambassadors.

Hebrew in the High ambassadors

“During my Junior year, I was elected Head of Recruitment for D219’s Hebrew Honor Society. Driven by my passion for Hebrew, I, alongside my fellow HHS members were able to recruit over 20 students. Now, D219 has TWO Hebrew 1 courses in addition to the standard 4-5 courses.”

-Sammy Schwartz; Niles North High School

“Achievement and Hebrew go hand in hand. I don’t know one person who doesn’t take Hebrew for honors credit...when you sign up for Hebrew, you aren’t just signing up for a language, you’re signing up for achievement.”

-Sarah Bloom; Evanston Township High School

“Right off the bat I devoted my extra time to help promote the Hebrew program, and worked closely with our amazing teacher Anna Gorbikoff, to make sure our status as a program was known in our community.”

-Abby Lapins; Stevenson High School

“I took the role as President of the Hebrew Honors Society where I helped recruit more students into our program. Further, I joined the board of Israel Club where our fun events attract dozens of students each month.”

-Noam Zetouni; Deerfield High School

Through Hebrew in the High, teens can take ownership of their school Hebrew language programs and broadcast this amazing opportunity to the greater community. In this highlight, see how the ambassadors Hebrew programs have provided them with valuable leadership opportunity!

Hebrew in the High

Stay tuned throughout the week to hear more from these amazing teen ambassadors. For more information on Hebrew in the High, please contact Sam Grobart at samuelgrobart@juf.org.

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