Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

My Hebrew Story by Sammy Schwartz

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Hebrew Word

My Hebrew and formal education began simultaneously. My parents chose to send me to JCC for preschool where I embarked on a journey that has been everlasting. From the JCC I went on to Solomon Schechter Day School which furthered my love for Hebrew. Hebrew became as integral to my education as Common Core subjects such as math, science, and English. Following eighth-grade, I went to my local public high school, Niles North. Thankfully, I’ve been able to continue learning Hebrew under District 219’s Hebrew program. 

The ability to learn Hebrew at a public institution is a blessing that I’m extremely thankful for. Not only have I been afforded the opportunity to study a language directly tied to my culture, I’ve been able to share it with others. When I first began at Niles North, the Hebrew program was only Jewish students. While expected, I sought to change this narrative. My sophomore year, I started to recruit friends of mine to join the program. Unfortunately, the number of students signed up for Hebrew the following year couldn’t sustain the typical five classes of Hebrew. This pushed me towards a large recruitment goal. During my Junior year, I was elected Head of Recruitment for D219’s Hebrew Honor Society. Driven with 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.

I believe that studying Hebrew provides a unique opportunity to learn a language that has lasted centuries. Archaeological evidence, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, can tie the language to the Biblical Era. Furthermore, with a growing global economy Hebrew will become increasingly more advantageous to know alternative languages, especially Hebrew, which holds the basis to many other modern languages. 

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, No! It's a Super Blood Wolf Moon!

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This coming Sunday, January 20, we will have the chance to see one of the most rare and unique views of the moon. A super wolf blood moon will appear in the sky starting around 9:30 pm CST. What is a super blood wolf moon you ask? Well let’s break it down!  

A super moon is when the moon is closer to the earth than normal. This means that the moon will appear larger than it would on any other given night. The wolf moon refers to the first full moon of the new year and originates from the idea of wolves howling in the cold night for food. A blood moon is when the sun’s rays bounce off the Earth’s atmosphere projecting a red tint onto the moon. To make all of these coincidences even crazier, they are taking place during a total lunar eclipse. Unlike most eclipse’s however, the super wolf blood moon will last for close to an hour. These five events rarely happen at the same time and we are lucky enough to have one of the best views in the WORLD for this awesome event! 

Just like the Super Blood Wolf Moon (SBWM), Springboard is also preparing for an amazing, though not- as- coincidental, convergence of five unique experiences. There are still 5 school break trips happening this year. Each one of Springboard’s school break programs stands alone in offering unrivaled experiences that as a Chicagoland teen, you have the best (and only) view for/chance to participate in.  

Springboard’s school break programs will take you all across the country: from the Big Apple, to going on a college road trip, learning awesome skills at Camp Chi, experiencing important locations from the Civil Rights movement, or becoming the next Jewish Rockstar in St. Louis. Like the Super Blood Wolf Moon, you won’t want to miss out on your chance to participate. So, sign up for your next awesome adventure and experience a moon that we won’t see again until at least 2022! 

Want to share your excitement? On Sunday night during the SBWM post a picture on Instagram of yourself and the moon with #SpringboardSBWM and you can win an awesome Springboard swag.  

Also, don’t forget to follow Springboard on Instagram @Springboardchicago 

Meet Alana: One of BBYO's Associate Regional Directors

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Alana of BBYO

Learn more about the amazing educators in our community! During the month of January, we are highlighting new youth professionals that are new in their roles.  Today we are sharing a post by BBYO’s very own Alana Ben-Zeev.  Alana is one the Associate Regional Directors for the Great Midwest Region. Click  here for more information about BBYO.  

Hi! My name is Alana Ben-Zeev and I am super excited to have joined the BBYO Great Midwest Region family. I recently moved to Chicago from Orlando, Florida where I was a participant in BBYO during my high school years. I attended Rollins College where I majored in Organizational Communication and Leadership and minored in Jewish Studies, and I was an active member of the Greek life community. During my summers in college I worked at Camp Barney Medintz, a Jewish Sleepaway camp in the south as a counselor and a Unit Head. Before moving to Chicago, I was living in Tallinn, Estonia as a part of JDC Entwine’s Jewish Service Corps. There, I was a JDC BBYO Fellow most of the work I did with the Jewish community was with teens and young adults.  

I am so excited to have returned to BBYO, to give back to an organization that gave so much to me when I was a high school participant, and to become a part of the Chicago Jewish Community.  

Alana’s Top Three Facts:  

I love to travel (my favorite places I've been too are Portugal and Lithuania) 

My favorite food is sushi 

I had only been to Chicago once before moving here

Top 9 Ways to Get Involved in 2019

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Top 9 ways to get involved in 2019

It’s that time of year where we say goodbye to the last 12 months and welcome in a brand-new year. We reflect on the experiences we’ve had, the people we’ve met, and the people we have become. With the new year, we set new goals for ourselves. Whether it is something small like finally going to the gym or spending less time procrastinating, or something big like how we can be a better version of ourselves, we continue to look for ways to improve. New year’s goals can be difficult to reach. Yes, some goals we set have very clear routes to being completed. If my goal is to go to the gym, then obviously I need to pause Netflix and go to the gym. However, not all goals are this clear cut. The road to reaching our goals can be full of obstacles, but the reward of reaching our goals are well worth it. 

As we kick off 2019, it’s time to start planning for the upcoming year. What are your goals for 2019? Share them over the next two weeks using the #SpringboardGoals2019 for a chance to win a Springboard Swag bag.   

One of my goals is to help every teen in the Chicagoland area find a place where they can take steps to reaching their own goals. I could provide an endless list of all the incredible programs, leadership opportunities and ways to develop new skills (Don’t worry a list like that will be out soon!) but instead, I’ve highlighted ways the Jewish community can support you in following through on your resolutions and having an incredible year!   

Make New Friends by joining a youth group: The Chicagoland area is fortunate to be home to a handful of amazing and engaging youth groups. These groups meet routinely and provide leadership opportunities, dynamic programming, and the chance to meet phenomenal new friends.  

Learn a New Language with Hebrew in the High: Did you know that Illinois has the most public schools out of any state that offer students the opportunity to study Hebrew?  11 Hebrew in the High Ambassadors are working to improve their public schools’ Hebrew programs and can help you connect with the unique opportunity to take Hebrew at your school.  

Travel with a Springboard School Break : Want to go somewhere new but only have a few days- or limited funds- to travel? Springboard School Break has 5 upcoming trips ranging 4-5 days. Travel to New York City (Feb 14-18) or St. Louis (Feb 15-19), explore Midwest colleges with your peers (March 24-28), BreakAway at Camp Chi (March 24-28) or take a take an interfaith journey through historic civil rights sights (April 14-17). 

Explore Some Place New This Summer : Ready to a real adventure? Travel the world or check out a new camp. There are a multitude of options to choose from!  

Make a Difference in our Community: Our community is filled with dozens of opportunities to volunteer and give back in both the Jewish community and the greater Chicagoland area. 

Spend More Time Outside: Spend your spring break enjoying an Outdoor Adventure or enjoy some fun in the sun this summer with new friends camp.  

Develop new skills with Internships and Fellowships: Ready to take your skills to the next level? Through internships and fellowships, you can develop leadership skills and other great qualities.  

Find the perfect Jewish opportunity for you - Meet with a Teen Engagement Specialist: Have questions about how you can get involved? Set up a meeting with one of our Teen Engagement Specialists! We will work with you to better understand your goals and connect you to right activities.  

Be sure to check out Springboard’s Community Calendar to see all of the amazing events coming up in the near future!  

Eric Golberg is a TES. You can learn more about him  here. Also don’t forget to follow Springboard at  SpringboardChicago on instagram!  


Adam Blue is the Midwest High School Coordinator for StandWithUs (SWU), an international Israel education organization.

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Adam Lawerence

During the month of January, we are highlighting new youth professionals that are new in their roles. Meet Adam, the Midwest high school coordinator for StandWithUS. 

Adam grew up in the north Chicago suburbs, and graduated from Indiana University with his B.A. in History and Jewish Studies. He is excited to share his passion for Israel with students and the community in his region. 

 His love of Israel started at home, but developed through involvement in USY, at Camp Ramah, and during the Nativ College Leadership Program - Gap Year in Israel, where he volunteered outside Haifa.  Motivated by his experiences, Adam returned to college and instantly got involved with Indiana's pro-Israel community.

 As the President of Hillel at Indiana University, a legislative intern with the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, a youth advisor in Chicago, or as an Assistant Director of BBYO Passport, Adam has repeatedly exhibited his personal commitment to experiential education, community engagement, and teen leadership development over the past decade. 

 Through StandWithUs, Adam is educating and empowering students to enhance their personal connections to Israel and speak out against antisemitism and extremism.  More than ever, we need our students to ask more questions, engage in complicated discussions, and commit themselves to fact-based education.

 One such opportunity is to join StandWithUs’ Teen Leadership Council (TLC) for students 9th-12th grades. In key cities around the Midwest, SWU is setting up TLC’s to provide students the opportunity to further their Israel knowledge, plan innovative programming with their peers, and ensure that their community is connected to Israel. 

 The four-month long program includes: mentorship in leadership skills and community building, access to StandWithUs speakers and materials, and connection to teens in the region with similar goals and aspirations.

 Whether students are seeking their first leadership position, or are already involved, TLC is a professional leadership experience that will surely enhance their Israel programming capabilities.  In addition, TLC prepares them for the challenges they may face at university and in their community regarding Israel.

Program Requirements:

-Attend a total of four mandatory monthly meetings (January - April) with Adam and the other TLC members (via Google Hangout)

-Attend bi-monthly one-on-one meetings with Adam to receive individual professional mentorship (via Google Hangout or in person)

-Collaborate with other members of the TLC to plan and execute a region-wide teen event focused on Israel education

-Plan a minimum of one Israel event in their community

-Stay in regular contact with the TLC and with Adam 

 Are you a high school student or know a student who is interested in working with StandWithUs and educating about Israel? Reach out to Adam today via adamb@standwithus.com . 

 Applications for the spring session of the Teen Leadership Council are currently open, and nominations for the StandWithUs High School Internship  will open on Monday, January 14, 2019. 


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.

Its Finally Here

Dive into something new! Check out one of our 9 exciting School Break Adventures and sign up today.