Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

My Hebrew Story by Blake Finkel

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Blake Finkel

My Hebrew journey began on Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings at my Synagogue when I was in 2nd grade. With many years until high school and more focus on socializing with friends than studying what we were learning, I did not make instant progress. Through my Hebrew school years, I learned Hebrew primarily to be used in prayers. While part of class was dedicated to understanding Hebrew and its history, most of the Hebrew I learned was memorized and not fully understood.  After my bar-mitzvah, I was inspired to learn Hebrew and become fluent in reading, writing, and conversing.

When I entered high school, I joined almost all of my classmates in taking Spanish. Everyone had taken Spanish in middle school and it was the easy choice to continue taking the Spanish path. During my freshman year, I learned about the Hebrew program at my school and my interest in learning Hebrew resurfaced. I made the decision to take Hebrew during my Sophomore year.

Hebrew class in high school provides so much more than a simple credit and learning a language. For me, Hebrew class provided a family. Spending time with people who shared the same passions that I do created an amazing learning environment where I could turn to any classmate for help.

As I continued to learn Hebrew, I suddenly understood what I was saying when I prayed. Services became more of reading and understanding, rather than reciting a memorized list. Through different field trips and community events, I began to meet other teens at different schools who were taking Hebrew and I was immediately able to have a connection. Now, I am in Hebrew National Honors society which hosts many community events to teach and provide Hebrew experiences to people of all backgrounds in the community. As a student, I wish to continue my Hebrew journey into college and beyond. As a member of the community, I encourage kids, teens, and adults to take Hebrew, as it is never too early nor too late to begin or continue your Hebrew Journey.

Tikkun Olam with Tivnu School Break Trip

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When I first learned about Tikkun Olam with Tivnu, a trip focusing on houselessness and how to combat it, it immediately caught my attention. I’m constantly looking for ways to change the world with a hands on approach so this program sounded like such an amazing opportunity. At first I was somewhat hesitant to try this new experience but that all changed as soon as I started meeting the other teens and leaders just as eager as me to make a difference. Every day was packed with amazing volunteer work, learning experiences, and time to explore the beautiful city of Portland.

Tikkun Olam at Tivnu

Ania Sacks (left) with friends on Springboard’s Tikkun Olam with Tivnu School Break Trip 

My favorite volunteer opportunity was when we visited Cascadia Clusters, a nonprofit that trains people to build tiny homes. Most of my time at Cascadia Clusters was spent on de-nailing boards that could then be used as structure on tiny houses. After de-nailing for a while, I along with two other people on the trip built a sawhorse; a table that supports wood for sawing. It was such a cool experience to do something like this that I had never done before and I felt so proud when looking at the final product. Both activities really helped me see that even an activity as small as de-nailing boards or building a sawhorse can contribute massively to the overall product of a tiny house. Another activity we did was go to a small organization called Outside the Frame. Outside the Frame is a production company that trains homeless youth to be directors and actors on films they create. While at Outside the Frame, we watched a series of short films written, directed by, and starring some of the incredible people we had the chance to talk to.

One of the things that resonated with me from this experience was when one of the women told us about how their mission at Outside the Frame is to show houseless people that they deserve more than just needs. I think a lot of people see houseless people as just needing food and shelter. While this is true, I think that places like Outside the Frame are so important to give a creative outlet to the houseless and give back their dignity. Throughout this blog post I’ve been using the term houseless rather than homeless. As we learned on this trip, some people prefer the term houseless instead of homeless because a house is just a building whereas a home is a place where you feel safe and surrounded by a community. Overall, this trip was such an incredible experience. I learned so much, experienced so many amazing things, made many new friends, and had an amazing time. 

Ania Sacks is a sophomore at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Ania went on Tikkun Olam with Tivnu and is also involved in many other Jewish activities such as NFTY, Teen Seed 613, Jewish Student Connection club, Madrichim, and Oak Park Temple youth group (OPTY). Outside of school, Ania loves to work on art, write, and play the violin which she has been playing for over nine years.

My Journey to International Sh’licha

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Kelly Fagel

When I first joined BBYO, I didn’t understand the magnitude of the organization.  All I knew was that I was in a chapter, sometimes I hung out with the whole region, and people go on this thing called CLTC in the summer.  The more time I spent in BBYO, the more it made sense. I was opened up to a whole world of teens just like me.

My chapter has always been on the smaller side.  We are a tight-knit group of girls with passion and strong sisterhood.  Stepping into a leadership role felt like a natural move for me, so I ran for my first board position for the Spring Term of my eighth grade year.

It wasn’t until spring of freshman year when I was elected to my first term as Chapter Sh’licha that I gained some clarity about my future in this organization.  There was something about the position that I was immediately drawn to. The work I did didn’t feel like a chore, and it was something I felt excited about. I was right where I needed to be.  At CLTC in 2018, the idea of running for International Board popped into my mind. It was a short, quick thought that I quickly dismissed, knowing I was committing myself to lots of other activities in high school.  Regional board felt like a reasonable goal to work towards, but not until my senior year.

I remember a night when I told my older sister, “I think I’m going to wait until senior year to run for Regional Sh’licha… I feel so passionate about it and I want to save it until then.”  Just a few months later, regional declaration packets were released, and I realized that if I felt so passionate about the position, there was no reason to wait. On the day of regional elections, everything clicked into place for me.  I was, once again, right where I needed to be.

I left for Perlman Summer (International Leadership Training Conference and International Kallah) with the intention of gaining perspective and thinking about my future.  International Sh’licha had moved to the front of my mind, and I wanted to use the summer as my time to decide if it was right for me. In order to do so, I fully immersed myself in Jewish experiences at Perlman.  I planned Shabbat services and made the most of the opportunities presented. I am so thankful for that summer. Leaving Perlman, though, I felt more passion but only slightly more clarity than I had before I left.  When the time came for declarations for International Board, I would decide what route to take.

I was in love with the work I was doing in my region, and the idea of doing that work on a global scale was within reach, so why not go for it?  I began the election process, and I found myself in the same position I was in when I ran for Regional Sh’licha: right where I needed to be. Of course, there was more pressure and the stakes felt higher, but I knew that whether I won or lost, I wanted to put everything I had into the election… and so I did.

Elections were a blur.  My stomach was in knots for every election that preceded mine, but something was waiting for me at the end of the day: a new board position or a different path in BBYO.  I just wanted to know which it would be. I don’t remember too much from being on the podium during my election, but I do remember one familiar feeling. I felt like I did when I ran for Chapter Sh’licha and Regional Sh’licha.  I was right where I needed to be, up on that podium, sharing my passion with the International Order of the B’nai B’rith Girls. 


Kelly Fagel has just been elected to serve as the 32nd International Sh’licha (Vice President of Jewish Heritage, Social Action, and Community Service) of the B’nai B’rith Girls.  She has been an active member in BBYO since her eighth grade year, and she’s taken many leadership roles throughout that time. Kelly is passionate about creating meaningful Jewish experiences and involving teens in their communities.  She is so excited to enter a new role in BBYO and work for the Jewish community on a global scale.

JUF Write On for Israel Fellows Advocate on Capitol Hill

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JUF Write On For Israel


In case you missed it, we wanted to share the article from last week's JUF News Express about JUF Write On For Israel Fellows' visit Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers. Participants also share meaningful reflections on the impact of their two-year fellowship.  

JUF Write On for Israel Fellows Advocate on Capitol Hill Nine high school seniors from eight Chicagoland schools meet with members of the Illinois congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss issues of importance to the Chicago Jewish community.

The students, Senior Fellows in JUF’s Write On for Israel program, traveled to the capital as the culmination of two years of intensive study and skills building that has prepared them for leadership roles when they get to campus next year.

In meetings with Representatives Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (4), Mike Quigley (5), Raja Krishnamoorthi (8), Jan Schakowsky (9), Brad Schneider (10), Bill Foster (11), and Adam Kinzinger (16), as well as senior staffers in the offices of Senators Tammy Duckworth and Richard Durbin and many other Illinois Representatives, the Fellows urged Congress to advance the work of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, to back increased funding under the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, and to support funding for the Partnership Fund for Peace. Additionally, they thanked the delegation for continued support of appropriations of defense aid to Israel under the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and passage in the House of the Never Again (Holocaust) Education Act.

"I hope you appreciate the opportunity you've been given," Rep. Schneider told the group. "With this opportunity comes responsibility that you'll only fully understand when you get to college. Thank you for what you are doing."

The Fellows reflected on their experience and pointed to a wide range of accomplishments and achievements.

“This experience had helped me in many ways,” said Marina Foss, who attends Niles North High School. “I learned that I know more and am able to say more than I give myself credit for.”

“I learned the importance of forming relationships,” said Gabriella Bellows, who attends Glenbrook South High School, adding that when she enrolls at American University next fall, “I will rely on relationships I already have and continue to build new ones.”

Max Levine, who attends Walter Payton College Prep High School, summed up his accomplishments in Washington by saying, “ I feel confident that I can speak up in support of Israel and get my ideas across articulately with evidence to back it up.”

To learn more about Write On For Israel email springboard@juf.org or visit juf.org/writeon/

My Hebrew Story - by Stephanie Kallish

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Steph Kallish

Hi Springboard! My name is Stephanie Kallish and I am a Junior and Hebrew three honors student at Highland Park Highschool. Last summer I went on USY Eastern European Israel pilgrimage. This was an amazing experience on so many levels, but one of the best parts was my ability to apply my knowledge of Hebrew every single day. When I walked the streets of Tel Aviv I heard Hebrew being spoken in its natural habitat. When I bargained in the shuk I was able to listen to the conversations of the people nearby. It was incredible to take my knowledge from class and apply it to real and vibrant situations in the Israel. 

Something that I did not expect was how knowing Hebrew brought me closer to my Israeli family. I met my cousin Racheli for the first time in Israel. She did not speak any English so I was able to use my Hebrew knowledge to communicate with her and understand the conversations of my other family members. Every time I picked up a sentence, I was excited. I could have never understood as much as I did without being involved in the Hebrew program at Highland Park.

Another powerful Hebrew experience that I had took place in Tiberias. I was with someone who was allergic to dairy and he wanted to know if a gelato shop had any dairy free options. He was having a hard time communicating with the gelato staff because he had no knowledge of Hebrew, and she had limited English capabilities.  I was happy to jump in and ask if they had any gelato without milk, a skill that I would not have gained without being involved in the Hebrew program at school.

Taking Hebrew made my Israel experience with USY more immersive and exciting. I am thrilled to be a Hebrew ambassador this year and hopefully have more moments that bring my knowledge from class to the next level. 

Meet Mady Frischer: NSCI Youth Engagement Coordinator

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Mady Frischer

(To the tune of Sk8r Boi by Avril Lavigne)


(VERSE 1)

I was a girl

In the North Shore

Can I make it any more obvious?

I did USY

Went to O-S-R-U-I

What else could I try?

Did theater too

Got into AU

Went to school in DC for a year or two

Until study abroad

In Jerusalem

Took my career goals and totally changed them...

 

(CHORUS)

I was an IR Major

That’s what my job plans were

Then I found out I liked Jewish jobs

I had some internships

I learned a lot of tricks

At AJC, JNF, The Embassy of Israel and Kahal

 

(BRIDGE)

Graduation was approaching

My future plans were encroaching

I applied for a CLASP position

Working at NSCI was a smooth transition

Everyday I work with teens

Making the Jewish programs of their dreams

I enjoy work everyday

And that’s all I want to say!


(CHORUS)

I was an IR Major

That’s what my job plans were

Then I found out I liked Jewish jobs

I had some internships

I learned a lot of tricks

Now I work full time at NSCI!

MY HEBREW STORY: YAEL SMITH

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Yael Smith

My parents like to say that my Hebrew journey began at birth. I watched Oy Baby DVDs, filled with Hebrew songs, weekly, before Shabbat and listened to Naomi Shemer Hebrew lullabies as I fell asleep in my crib. As a young child, I learned Hebrew in pre-school, then in kindergarten at CJDS and a few words here and there at home with my parents. After moving to the suburbs and going to public school, I learned the foundations of Hebrew in Religious school at NSS Beth El, and I quickly realized that Hebrew came pretty easy to me. At both Ramah Day Camp and Ramah Wisconsin, where I have been a camper collectively for 10 years, Hebrew is infused throughout the day. Camp Hebrew is the best because we learn slang words that would actually help us blend into the culture in Israel. Moving to Solomon Schechter in 6th grade only made my Hebrew knowledge stronger since the language was integrated throughout the whole school day.  Once I graduated from Schechter I decided to go to Highland Park High School. There, I had to choose which language to take: Hebrew, Spanish, Chinese, or French.  Because of my love for Hebrew, I chose to take Hebrew to continue learning the language that I always loved, in new challenging ways at a high school level.

By learning and speaking Hebrew I feel connected to Jews across the world. Just recently in Florida, at a restaurant, I was sitting next to an Israeli couple who spoke Hebrew. To my surprise, I could understand almost their entire conversation, and they were commenting on several other people in the restaurant! The more people who learn and speak Hebrew, the more the language will live on. Therefore it is important for me and for everyone to study Hebrew if they are given the chance. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to study this ancient language and pass it on to future generations.