Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

Meet Adina Teen Engagement Coordinator

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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.

Emily Fridland- Study Abroad Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI)

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From September to November 2017, I studied abroad in Israel on AMHSI (Alexander Muss High School in Israel). This was one of, if not, the greatest experience of my entire life. I had become more mature and independent. I learned how to manage my time without my parents telling me what to do. I feel prepared for college and my future. My favorite memory of AMHSI was our last day. We sat in a circle in the middle of Jerusalem’s old city and shared our favorite memories. We all at one point or another started to cry from either laughter or sadness. This moment showed me how much we learned and what we were going to take away from this trip.  

Emily Fridman-study Abroad

Before I left, I was a student at Glenbrook North High School. When I came back, I realized how much I loved having small classes, with a small Jewish community surrounding me at all times. When I came home and realized this, I decided I wanted to go check out Rochelle Zell Jewish High School. The second I walked through Rochelle Zell’s halls and I felt as though I was back in Israel at my school. I knew this school was the perfect fit for me and I had never realized it before. This is one of the ways that AMHSI changed my entire life for the better.  

If you would like to learn about this program, please join an informational meeting October 10 at 7 pm in Northbrook. Attendees will meet the head of the school from Hod Hasharon and hear about Emily’s life changing experience. Reach out to Emily for more information and the session’s location.  

AMHSI is a pluralistic, college-prep, international study abroad program for high school students where the land of Israel is a living classroom.  

Emily Fridland is a Junior at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School and participated in AMHSI last year. 

Meet Hanna: Teen Engagement Specialist

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hanna-skylineHi! My name is Hanna and I am one of Springboard’s Teen Engagement Specialists. I grew up in Mequon, Wisconsin and went to Butler University in Indianapolis (Go Dawgs!). I moved to Chicago two years ago and currently live in Old Town. I love to travel (ask me about Seville, Spain), try new restaurants, take advantage of Chicago summers, and watch Butler and Marquette basketball games. You can find me around town catching a movie at ArcLight, working out at Studio Three, or planning my next trip!

Prior to Springboard, I worked in the Young Leadership Division of JUF helping young adults find their place in the Jewish community. In that role, I planned programs and events and helped fundraise for the JUF Annual Campaign.

hh-israel-2I’ve been to Israel three times, each was a completely unique experience: Once in high school for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah, once on Birthright (yay Shorashim), and once staffing Ta’am Yisrael (Border < 3>

I would love to connect with you! I want to hear about your interests and see if any of the amazing programs in our community are a good fit for you. Also, if there are any cool, new social media trends and apps or “hip” lingo 😉, please keep me in the loop! Let me know if you want to grab coffee. Ice cream works too, obviously 😊


Quick game- Two truths and a lie:

  • I hate sushi
  • I love unicorns
  • I have a dog named leo

Reach out to guess the answer and win a prize!  hannaholman@juf.org

Ayze Amerikai: איזה אמריקאי

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You may recall that I recently returned to Chicago after three years in Israel.  During my time away, Hebrew became an important facet of my life. From not knowing how to order off a menu to being able to navigate Israeli bureaucracy with ease, learning Hebrew has been an evolving process. Never would I have imagined myself being able to become fluent in a language that I was not surrounded by most of my life.  

The title of this blog post, pronounced “Ayzeh Amerikai”, is a phrase I heard all too often throughout my army service. The direct translation of this term is, “What an American”. Whether in reaction to what I would say or what I would do, the response would always be the same: “what an American!”  

While I was in Israel, I developed two identities. To my Israeli friends, I couldn’t be more American, and to my American friends and family, I couldn’t be more Israeli. My Israeli friends thought I spoke Hebrew with a strong American accent, and my American friends and family say I now speak English with an “Israeli style”. Being “The American” or “The Israeli” were two roles that I learned to embrace. 


Every memory I have associated with my time in Israel in one way or another relates to Hebrew: engaging in conversation with a local in Hebrew, wrongly translating something by mistake (which happened often), or simply listening to people speak. The Hebrew language was an integral part of my time in Israel. Although my Israeli friends would often joke about my Hebrew, I gained proficiency, and in some ways, became more fluent in Hebrew than I am in English. For example, because of my military service, I can tell you all about the parts of a gun in Hebrew, but I have no idea what they are in English! 

To some, Hebrew is meaningful because it is the language of our people’s most sacred texts. It is a language over 3,000 years old. But to me, Hebrew has nothing to do with religion or my Bar Mitzvah. It is my connection to Israel, and to one of the greatest accomplishments I have taken away from my service in the IDF and process of making Aliyah. Everything I learned in the Army and from life in Israel was in Hebrew, and that makes it even more meaningful.  Since moving back to Chicago, I have made it a point to find ways to keep Hebrew a relevant and important part of my life. It is Hebrew phrases that pushed me forward and that motivated me to be better. I am channeling that motivation as I adjust to my new life in Chicago. It may sound strange, but coming home has made me even more aware of “The Israeli” who speaks English with an “Israeli style”. 

Family IDF

The work I am doing with Springboard and Hebrew in the High is personal. It’s another tool that allows me to share my passion for Hebrew and the way it became an important part of my life.   

Stay tuned for more examples of how I’m using my Hebrew to support Springboard and the Hebrew in the High program.  

Why We Are Excited for NFTYpalooza!

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Kickoff is one of the most important events in NFTY Chicago. It’s our starting point, our foundation, and, of course, it is so much fun! This year we are taking Kickoff to the next level and are bringing in live musicians, great food, and inflatable games (human Hungry Hungry Hippos and a jousting arena!). This change inspired us, so we renamed the event NFTYpalooza! As we look forward to this amazing event, some NFTYites would like to share what NFTY means to them and why they are so excited for NFTYpalooza:

“As an upcoming senior, I've attended many NFTY events and made so many amazing memories. It’s hard to choose just one reason why I love this community so much. As a freshman, I thought that NFTY wasn’t going to be the place for me, but as soon as I went to my first Kickoff, I realized how much I would love it. We spent the day in themed groups (our group was Skittles and we each got to be a color) and walked around the city doing a scavenger hunt while giving out bags of toiletries to those in need. That day, I began to love everything NFTY stood for. I look forward to Kickoff every year to remind me just how special the upcoming year with NFTY Chicago will be.”

-        Megan Berger, Senior at James B. Conant High School

Kick Off 1

“One of the top answers for why teens love NFTY Chicago is because they get to see their camp friends during the rest of the year. This idea enthuses me, but I never went to OSRUI (one of the camps that feeds into NFTY Chicago), yet, I still love NFTY! My devotion to this movement doesn’t stem from meeting familiar faces, but the possibility to meet new ones. At my first Temple Youth Group (TYG) event, I knew no one. I made one friend and that was enough to keep me coming back. As I met more people at events, my passion for NFTY grew stronger. Eventually I decided I wanted to be a leader in NFTY. I want to give back to NFTY because it a place that truly accepts me and allows others to be their best selves. By being a leader, I can only express my love for NFTY more. I'm excited for NFTYpalooza because it will allow me to start another year in this amazing, welcoming community.”

-        Quentin Kagan, Junior at Buffalo Grove High School 

Kick Off 2

“My first NFTY event was Kickoff in 2017. It was my last day of summer and I wanted to go to an event where I could see all my camp friends for one last time before school started. But after Kickoff, I became hooked and went to every NFTY event. Through NFTY, I was able to see my old friends, rekindle some friendships along the way, and make so many amazing new friends. It feels so great to be a member of such an accepting and loving Jewish community. And the best part about NFTY is that it's really fun! There has never been an event where I didn't smile, laugh, and have a good time.” 

-        Ellory Pennor, Junior Lane Tech High School  

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“In 2014, NFTY Chicago decided to let 8th graders come to Kickoff. They would spend half of the day learning about NFTY on their own, then join the high schoolers for a Big Fun trip to Richardson’s Farm. It was different, for sure, but it was exciting and new, so I loved it! That was my first NFTY event. Now it’s 2018, and we’re getting ready to start another year in NFTY. Once again, while planning for Kickoff we are opening our doors to middle schoolers (this time 6th-8th). From my first Kickoff to now my last, NFTY has been filled with new experiences. I’m excited for NFTYpalooza not only for myself, but for all the middle schoolers who will get to experience that same excitement that I did when I was in their shoes. NFTYpalooza will be an event to remember!”

-        Rachel Schless, Senior at Buffalo Grove High School

NFTY means a lot of different things to different people, but everyone can agree on this: our movement is one of the most amazing kehilot (communities) you could ever come across. We can't wait to see everyone at NFTYpalooza! Register here.

Connecting With My Jewish Roots

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Throughout the past year, the Diller Teen Fellows program has worked to teach its fellows the importance of leadership, Jewish identity, love for Israel, Tikkun Olam, pluralism, and Jewish peoplehood. As a fellow this past year, I’ve learned what each of these core values truly are and formed a strong personal connection to each as I strive to take on a leadership role in the Jewish world. This summer I continued that journey as I connected with these values on a new, deeper level during Diller’s Israel Summer Seminar. For three weeks, I not only got to see much of Israel’s beauty, but for the first time, hear from the diverse faces of Israel.   

Cohort 5 Tel Aviv

Before this experience, I had been a tourist in Israel numerous times, but when Diller and JUF gave me the opportunity to live with a host family for a week in Chicago’s partnership region of Kiryat Gat, Lachish, and Shafir, I began to feel at home in Israel. Although I experienced many intriguing cultural differences, I was surprised, and comforted, to find similarities in our families’ Jewish practices and traditions that brought me incredibly close to my hosts. Throughout that week, I was given an opportunity that no other tourist receives-- to live an authentic Israeli life and feel as though I could call Israel my home. 

Cohort 5 Kids

Following the home-stay, Diller provided the fellows with a life changing experience that is unique to this program-- the chance to connect with Jewish teens from around the globe at the Diller Teen Fellows Global Congress. I was able to explore my Jewish identity with teens from 32 communities around the world and heard the perspectives of hundreds of teens from different backgrounds regarding politics, Judaism, family, and numerous other topics. After learning about Jewish pluralism over the past year, I was given the opportunity to experience and be a part of a pluralistic community this summer, as I befriended Jews from parts of the world I’ve never seen. To me, the most powerful aspect of this encounter was the ability to engage in lively discussions, debates, and disagreements with peers from around the world, and in turn, gain perspective, broaden by view on the world, and strengthen my Jewish identity. 

Cohort 5

Without the Diller Teen Fellows Israel Summer Seminar, I wouldn’t have formed such a close and personal connection to Israel and other Jews across the world. Just as importantly, I wouldn’t have built a strong, meaningful Jewish identity. I’m incredibly grateful for the unique opportunity that Diller Teen Fellows and JUF gave me to connect with my Jewish roots and continue to make an impact on my Jewish community-- both in Chicago, and around the world. 


-Orly Lewittes, Diller Cohort 5

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