Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

A Letter to My High School Self Written by Emma Bliwas

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What would you say to your middle school, or grade school self if you had the chance? What would future you say to present day you? In the spirit of the new school year, and Rosh Hashana, let's take some time to reflect, re-energize, and rewind.  Let this be a year full of self improvement, reflection, and mindfulness. Here is what Emma Bliwas would like to say to her high school self from her current perspective as a college student at the University of Denver.

Dear Emma,  

These four years really do fly by. It is cliché and hard to process when you are going through high school. However, you will be looking back on this experience and reflecting if you got involved with all the extracurricular activities you strived to be a part of. Did you get to know lots of different people or did you spend too much energy trying to feel a part of a singular friend group? It is so important to create your own friend circle. It is easy to get sucked into your own friend group because many high schoolers do. Instead of focusing on getting close with your friends’ friends who you feel absolutely no connection to, get out of your comfort zone. Try new activities where you meet people who are different from you that may become your new best friends. If you are interested in a course on debate or photography, sign up for it. Don’t choose the same elective each year because high school is an opportunity to start discovering your passions.  

Thank your parents for driving you to high school football games and tennis practices. Soon, you will be able to drive everywhere and you won’t get to jam out to Michael Franti every day while your mom drives you to school. Appreciate the neighbors you have grown up around. After high school, many people move away to the city or to a different state. Just take in walking down the halls and seeing the same people during your five-minute passing periods.  

Appreciate the now. Don’t take the ACT five times because you will likely still end up at your dream school. The college process is stressful enough and you don’t need to compare your GPA or ACT score with your friends. When you graduate high school, no one ever mentions it. Focus on memories, not numbers. 




Emma Bliwas is a junior at the University of Denver (DU) studying International Business, with minors in Business Ethics/Legal Studies, Journalism and Spanish. Emma believes that transparency, integrity and accountability are crucial for success in school and the workplace. At DU, Emma is involved in Delta Gamma, DU Programming Board and Club Tennis. After her undergraduate career, she wants to pursue a career where she can directly communicate with clients and give back to her community.  

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Today’s Heros: Educators

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We are living in unprecedented times where certain pieces of life that have looked one particular way for a long time, are having to adapt and change. Education is one of those things. While educators of every kind have been unsung hero’s at times, today they are the real life super hero’s along with  first responders, healthcare workers, and essential workers. Teachers have been adapting their teaching styles and structures, while also having groups of students they may or may not have ever met. There is so much behind the scenes that we don’t see, so many hidden challenges educators are overcoming to make sure kids, teens, and young adults don’t have their education impacted by COIVD. We wanted to take this week to say a BIG thank you to all the teachers working so hard to make going back to school as seamless as possible.  

A great teacher can do so much more than provide a quality education, they are community builders. Community, and any kind of connection, is more important than ever. In the Chicago suburbs one of the places teens have found community in their schools has been in their Hebrew classes. This is what a few of last year’s Hebrew in the High Ambassadors had to say about their fantastic Hebrew teachers.  

“Giveret (Ms.) Berman truly cares about each and every one of her students. Regardless of a student's Hebrew skill level, she devotes the same passion into helping them succeed. For me, Gvt. Berman did more than improve my Hebrew — she improved my high school experience. Going into a public high school from a small, private, Jewish middle school, it took me time to find my footing. Gvt. Berman's classes were escapes from the outside stress of high school, and they provided me with a second home. I felt comforted and empowered by learning Hebrew in such a supportive environment, which gave me the confidence and learning skills to succeed in any class. My overall success in high school is largely due to the sense of community and belonging that Gvt. Berman gave me from the very first day.” Noah S.  

“Our class is a community and despite its easy-going vibe, it is amazing how much we learn in a short amount of time. She also sponsors our Israel Interest Group and Israeli Dance club and has been a tireless supporter of all of our passions.” Talia K. 

“[My teacher] is truly one of the kindest people I know. She cares so much about every single one of her students and cultivates an encouraging and warm environment in her classes. She also allows for us to truly be ourselves and talk about issues that are important to us. She really knows how to make learning fun. “ Stephanie K. 

“[My teacher] has created a space where I feel excited to learn Hebrew and feel connected to Jewish and Israeli culture. She works to make sure that classes are always filled with a mixture of fun and learning! Giveret Raiber has played a substantial role in ensuring that the Hebrew community is thriving and growing within our diverse high school. “Mia S. 

“Our class of 8 is like a community. We all have things in common, including our love for Israel and our perseverance to learn to speak Hebrew. Our whole class has grown so much […], and I will never forget the first day of class with her when we learned our “Hebrew word of the day” song, back when we only knew a few words. We now know how to have a full conversation in Hebrew. Throughout this pandemic, Geveret L and my Hebrew class have been a constant source of stability, comfort and normalcy from day one. Every morning at nine am we have a zoom class where we learn, sing, speak Hebrew, and continue to feel connected to each other. I will forever be thankful for Geveret L and will never forget all she has taught us.“ Kaila P. 

To learn more about taking Hebrew at Deerfield, Glenbrook North, Highland Park, Niles North, New Trier or Stevenson high schools or at Caruso or Shepard middle schools' email Springboard@juf.org  

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Noah Lichstein and Voices

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When I signed up for Voices at the end of the summer of 2018, I didn’t know what I was signing up for. I had heard so many great things about Voices from friends who had been part of the program in the past, but I had no first-hand experience with the program itself nor any program like it. All I knew was throughout high school, I had been wanting to be involved with something Jewish, but I had yet to find what I really wanted to do; until I started Voices. 

Voices encourages and provokes lots of thought and reflection on personal values. Early into Voices, I identified that Tzedek is something very valuable to me. Not only did Voices help me identify this, Voices gave me opportunity after opportunity to take action on it, and to help others take action as well. Not only did Voices help me identify and stick to my values, working with others and collectively contributing to something greater and bigger than ourselves was even more rewarding. 

This past year, the Alumni board, which I sat on, had around 12 board members, including myself. As we received grant proposals, the Covid-19 pandemic also began affecting the US and our in-person meetings came to a halt and at the same time, many of the organizations’ needs shifted so they could support their members through the pandemic. As a board, we quickly shifted our outlook and our funding priorities, and we were able to help organizations navigate through the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only were these organizations that were either affected or helped those affected by Covid-19, each board member, including myself had a say in what issues we wanted to support. One committee I sat on was the disabilities committee, which looked into organizations that provided help and services to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Services like these became very important as Covid-19 closed schools and other support systems previously providing assistance to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Because of this, I know that the Voices Alumni Board contributed to a meaningful cause, and was impactful, in a time of need. 

I am so grateful I was able to make Voices a meaningful part of my junior and senior years of high school. As I transition into college and beyond, my values are clear to me and Voices had a large part in helping me identify and uphold those. Voices has also taught me how to contribute to something greater than myself and because of my experience in Voices that is something I will always strive for.

Noah Lichstein

Noah Lichstein is currently a freshman in the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. During his junior and senior years of high school, he sat on the board of Voices: The Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation. Outside of Voices, Noah enjoys taking photos, traveling, cycling, and playing squash.

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Springboard Peer Ambassadors

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#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Springboard Peer Ambassadors by Brittany Abramowicz

Last February at the Dunkin Donuts in Northbrook, I meet with the teens who were starting their journey as Springboard Peer Ambassadors. I told them that over the course of the next eight months they were going to take the lead on making sure their friends knew about Jewish teen programs, and would even have the opportunity to create activities to help more people connect to each other and the Jewish community.  At that time none of us could have predicted what the next eight months would have in store for us.  

One of the many challenges we’ve all had to navigate over the past few months is how to stay connected. So of course, the Peer Ambassadors Program that aims to connect teens to community was dramatically impacted. Jewish teen programs were moved mostly online, and there are now specific stipulations that need to be put in place to do something simple like having a few friends over for Havdallah and a Bonfire. Despite these challenges, this first cohort of Springboard Peer Ambassadors did find ways to help their friends connect online and make Jewish teen programs more accessible.  

In a time when people may be feeling isolated or out of sorts, this group of teens have been working to connect with people through acts of Tikkun Olam. Through their acts of kindness, they’ve made sure their friends know they are there for them, and made sure people are finding ways to relax and have fun, especially during a challenging time.

 After our last meeting, the Peer Ambassadors shared some reflections on their experiences, and this is what they had to say:  

“By getting my Jewish friends together for my events, I realized that being Jewish is also about the connection between Jewish people.”  - Jamie  

“I've realized that Judaism revolves a lot around connection. By connecting with other Jews, I've developed a strong sense of belonging in the Jewish community.”  – Ania 

We are now accepting applications for the next group of ambassadors if you want to make a difference by helping people find meaningful connections to each other and the Jewish community you can learn more and apply here

Brittany Abramowicz works with Springboard to help teens find their fit in the Jewish community. 

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Seed613

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There are many ways to embody what Tikkun Olam means and turn it into action. Our community has many programs that allow teens to do just that; one of them is JCC’s Seed613. This program empowers female identifying Jewish teens to work together to identify challenges in the community and create solutions, whether big or small, that will make a meaningful difference. Tikkun Olam and repairing the world come in many shapes and sizes. Here are some of the incredible examples of projects Seed613 fellows have done that do just that:

Disconnect2Reconnect: is a campaign to educate teens on the positive benefits of reducing technology use in everyday life. This 5-day campaign will be implemented in schools across the Chicagoland area, encouraging students to disconnect from one type of technology or social media each day. Technology usage has been linked to increasing mental health issues in adolescents, and we hope to educate both teens and their parents on the positive and negative impacts of technology.

disconnect to reconnect

Mindfull: an after-school club at high school focused on inspiring students to lead a healthy lifestyle. The clubs are student-led and each week, club-goers participate in a healthy activity such as smoothie making, or learning about different wellness options. MindFULL also prioritizes environmental initiatives – creating a school community garden and completing a relevant service project. MindFULL was created to address the lack of health and wellness information available to school-aged children.


 CopStop: The mission of CopStop is to spark empathy between police and community members in order to build in accountability and transform the culture, relationships, and popular opinions between inner-city citizens and police. It’s an app where users can see crowd-sourced reviews of local police departments, view individual officers, and leave feedback for police.

Cop Stop

 My Student Mind: My Student Mind a website designed to form a digital community for students working through understanding their mental health, encouraging them to take control of their mental well being both inside and outside of the classroom. My Student Mind has everything a student needs to take control of their mental health. The site creates a community of students all with the same goal in mind; mental well being. It provides both tangible and emotional tools that students can customize and choose if and when to use based on their personal interests and dependencies. Once you log on, you have control.

My Student Mind

While Seed613's focus is on innovative projects like the ones above, the fellowship offers so much more; a community - "When I met the other girls, I knew I was welcomed and appreciated for being my true self [...] I realized how lucky I was to be in a room full of people that wanted to support me, my ideas, and this program.". Community is something we are all craving given the state of the world. To learn more about Seed613, the community it can give you, and to get a taste of what participating might look like, sign up here  for the very first Taste of Seed613 tonight on Zoom. Some of the most impactful and innovative things happening today have been created by teens, and you can be next! 

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with JCUA, Springboard, and JUF Teens

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Antiracism Training

We are living through history. 2020 has become a pivotal time that will be remembered for many reasons, including shining a light on the racial injustices that have plagued our nation’s history for many years. Being actively Anti-Racist, and making racial justice a key part of your ally-ship is so important. There is always more to learn, more to share, and more ways to help- and here is your chance!  

JCUA, Springboard, and JUF Teens have partnered to create an Anti-Racism Training. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, many of us are thinking critically about structural racism in the United States. Join us to learn to be a better anti-racist ally through critical theory, American history, and Jewish texts and values. The Teen Anti-Racism training will be held Sunday, August 23rd (1:00-4:30 PM) and Tuesday, August 25th (4:00-6:00 PM). Click to register  here. We hope to see you there and work together to learn and make a difference.  

Check out these additional resources:  

Ways to Help from Black Lives Matter 

Jewish Action in the face of Anti-Black Racism 

Anti-Racist Reads for Teens and Children  

Anti-Racist Articles, Social Media, Movies, Documentaries and Books 

Springboard is Proud to Announce This Year's LEAD Award Recipient

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LEAD Finalists

The LEAD Award (Leader Educator Advisor Dugma/Example) was created to recognize outstanding adults who go above and beyond in their role of educating and caring for Jewish teens. Springboard and JUF are thrilled to recognize Daniel Warshawsky as this year’s LEAD Award recipient! Additionally, we would like to recognize and thank all our LEAD Award Finalists, Adam Blue, Eric Golberg, Samantha Isenstein, Jessie Morris and Adam Rubenfire, for their incredible work and contributions to the Jewish teen community. Nominees were recognized by teens in the community who completed applications sharing how the nominee had influenced them. Here are some of the wonderful things teens said about their educators, advisors, and mentors. 

Adam Blue

Adam has been a role model for me for a long time.  He continuously demonstrates to the people around him the importance of respect and works hard at instilling the value of treating others with dignity and respect, no matter their viewpoint, among the interns he oversees.         – Jacob K.  

Jessie Morris

Jessie has been a role model to me because she is so positive whenever we have club and she welcomes everyone into club with open arms. Jessie is considerate and always gives the best advice while engaging in conversation with club members. -Ella R.  

Samantha Isenstein

Samantha has helped me with my leadership and is very flexible and works very hard for teens in our community. She is very caring and understanding of everyone and their needs. – Josh L.  

Eric Golberg

Eric is truly someone who helps me create fantastic programming by finding time to sit down and work with me one on one. Eric welcomes people into our chapter with the utmost respect, showing me what it looks like to be a leader.  Eric is consistently enthusiastic about programming, even if he himself is not directly part of the program. – Geoffrey G.  

Adam Rubenfire

Adam helped facilitate a connection, worked tandem with me in crafting an amazing program, and was there to congratulate and recognize me for developing what all the teens who attended said was an awesome program! Teens rarely receive recognition and gratitude from others in today's society, and Adam is someone that is constantly uplifting; we need more people in the world like him. – Andy N.

Daniel Warshawsky

Daniel has taught me the importance of finding your own path in Judaism. You don’t always have to follow exactly what your parents do or what your friends do, but you have to find what is most meaningful to you. He has also taught me to stand up against the injustices in Judaism. You don’t have to accept something just because it is written, you can challenge it and do what you think is right. – Stephanie K.