Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

My Hebrew Story: By Gillian Rosenberg

 Permanent link

Gillian Rosenberg

As my phone dinged with the first text from the Israeli teenager that I was assigned to host as part of Diller Teen Fellows, a rush of excitement flowed through my body. I was finally going to get the chance to communicate directly with an Israeli teen and eventually she would come to the United States and I would host her for 10 days. I was excited for so many reasons, but especially ecstatic to be able to practice my Hebrew with a native speaker my own age. Hanna, the Israeli, texted me in English and I immediately responded in Hebrew. I had to look up a few words, but for the most part, I had no trouble conversing. After a few days, we decided to video-call and speak to each other live. Little did I know what awaited me over the phone…

The minute I answered her call, it was as if all my years of Hebrew schooling went out the window. My mind was completely blank. I could barely comprehend even the simplest “Shalom” She was speaking faster than I had ever heard anyone speak in Hebrew. Now, I have come to learn that this is a common predicament that language learners face when talking to natives, but at the time I was completely shocked and overwhelmed. I managed to get through that conversation with a lot of “Tov” (good) and “Ken” (yes) and “Ma”(What), but I left wondering how I was going to host her for ten days and why I suddenly couldn’t speak Hebrew.

It turns out that speaking in Hebrew with that Israeli was the best thing that could have happened for my Hebrew. Over the course of the exchange and then as I traveled to visit her in Israel and speak with other natives, I learned more Hebrew than I could have thought possible and even started to think in Hebrew sometimes. As I think back to how I felt when I originally talked to her, I realize how much speaking fast and with natives helped me improve my Hebrew.

I learned the value of speaking with native Hebrew speakers, but what I also picked up from those conversations were subtle cultural differences between Americans and Israelis. I noticed the way our language affects the tone we use, the way religion connects to Hebrew, and a whole new perspective on Israeli life just from learning to speak like a native. Though it has been two years since I first received that text from that Israeli in Diller Teen Fellows, I still continue to speak with her and other natives to keep learning about Hebrew, understanding life in Israel, and continuing the relationships I have formed.

If you are learning a new language, the best advice I can give you is to allow yourself to be overwhelmed by native speakers and then use them to help you improve on your own skills. 

My Hebrew Story: By Noah Srulovitz

 Permanent link

Noah Srulovitz

My name is Noah Srulovitz, and I am currently a senior at Deerfield High School. Looking back at my high school experiences, something that stands out above all else is how profoundly taking Hebrew classes helped me grow: as an individual, as a leader, and as a Jew.

I decided to take Hebrew in order to maintain my connection to my Jewish identity and my relationship to Israel. For elementary and middle school, I attended Solomon Schechter Day School. After learning Hebrew as a second language for nine years, I wanted to continue to immerse myself in the language as a high school student.

Since my mom is Israeli and my family is connected to Israel, feeling immersed to the Hebrew language and culture is important to me. Frequently, I hear my parents watching an Israeli TV show from across the house. Hearing my mom helping my dad, who is trying to pronounce the Hebrew words he hears in the show, I am reminded how significant learning Hebrew is to my family: it brings us closer together.

Studying Hebrew provides a unique challenge that many other languages offered in high school cannot: there is an entirely new alphabet to learn. This makes studying Hebrew more rewarding when one succeeds in mastering a new vocabulary word or finally understanding a certain part of speech.

Hebrew also provides a connection to one’s Jewish identity and can strengthen their relationship to Israel. Being able to speak the same language as most Israelis do and as our forefathers did is an incredible ability that all Jews should have the opportunity to gain.

I have gained a sense of community and belonging by being part of my high school’s Hebrew program. Choosing to take Hebrew gave me a class where I can escape my stress and reconnect with my roots. There, I was learning about a topic essential to who I am that I was passionate about studying. Over the past three and a half years, I have been able to grow as an individual and as a Hebrew-speaker alongside others who are just as passionate about learning the language as I am.

After being heavily involved in the Deerfield Hebrew Honors Society and Deerfield Students for Israel, I want to use what I have learned about spreading the Hebrew language and apply it to Hebrew in the High. Learning Hebrew is an experience unlike any other, and I wholeheartedly believe that every single Jewish student should know this. 

Ta’am (Taste of) Yisrael or Ta’am Lily?

 Permanent link

National Institute of Mental Health

Shalom everyone, my name is Lily Booker and here’s a little Ta’am or ‘taste’ of who I am!  

I was born and raised in Deerfield, IL and spent many summers up at OSRUI. I was a camper for 6 summers and then spent an additional 6 summers on staff as a madricha (מדרחה) or counselor. I was even the unit head for Moshavah (מושבה), the outdoor, camping unit.  

Growing up, when I wasn’t at camp, I spent my time as a competitive swimmer. My favorite stroke was backstroke and I particularly loved the 200-yard freestyle relay. While I can’t swim as fast as I was when I was younger, I still love to get back in the pool when I can. I attended Boston University where I graduated with a degree in International Relations, with a focus on the Middle East and security. I recently got a five-month-old Maltese, named Bear, the cutest, smallest and mushiest thing of all time. I live in Lakeview and love spending time reading, walking Bear and hanging out with friends and family. 

I love all things outdoors, food and traveling. Which is why I love my job working as Community Engagement Associate for JUF Ta’am Yisrael, or Taste of Israel! JUF Ta’am Yisrael is the 8th grade trip to Israel, where teens get the opportunity to experience Israel for a week and get a taste of its people, history and culture. I’ve been to over 20 different countries and plan to visit many more in the future. My favorite (of course) is ISRAEL! Hence why I love my job helping teens explore Israel.  

Interested in learning more? Feel free to follow us on Instagram @juftaamyisrael or go to our website  http://www.taamyisrael.org


Sababa Surf and Self Care

 Permanent link

Sababa Beach Camps is stoked to partner with Springboard Chicago and the Teen Midrasha Coop to provide a week of "no worries." Teens today are over programmed, over stressed, and are swept up in the Race to Nowhere culture. This trip is a direct response to help you find balance, have fun, and gain self-worth. Not only is this trip a respite from the pressure; it also provides tools from a Jewish lens to help you live a more emotionally healthy lifestyle. 

Weather on a surfboard or deciding what to do on a Saturday night, life can seem like a series of balancing acts! We often want to see friends, but we also have a ton of homework. We want to eat healthy, but we are craving ice cream! We want to see the world, but we would miss our family! Sababa is all about finding your balance. Not only do you need a week at the beach, just to get away, but in Cocoa Beach with Sababa you will also meditate to yourself and discuss with friends how to live a more healthy lifestyle that reflects your true sense of self! 

For those of you who cannot attend this wonderful experience, please accept this gift from Sababa that will help slow the world down when life gets a little overwhelming! 

Let Every Breath Praise You

A beautiful concept in Judaism, and a primary teaching at Sababa, is that even a breath can be your prayer. Not every word you say is prayer, and obviously not every breath you take is prayer.

However, a deep breath taken with intention, focus, and reflection is certainly a prayer. We are taught ...

Kol haneshama tehalel Yah Halleluya

כל הנשמה תהלל יה הללויה

With every breath I praise You

A Kol Haneshema breath is inhaled  through your nose and exhaled through your mouth. The goal of Kol Haneshama breathing is to focus entirely on you and your breath; to let nothing else distract you.

Of course new thoughts or a distraction will enter your mind, but acknowledge them and return your focus back to your breathing!

Breathe in through your nose

Follow your breath down to your stomach

Now exhale slowly out your mouth. 

That exhale is your prayer; let it be filled with positive energy that you are putting out to the world!!! 

Let’s take 5 kol Haneshama breaths in as much silence as possible, doing our best to rid ourselves of any distractions. We will break the silence with…

Kol haneshama tehalel Yah Halleluya

כל הנשמה תהלל יה הללויה

With every breath I praise You


Chicago Makes Youth Mental Health a Priority in Our Community

 Permanent link

National Institute of Mental Health

Today, teens and young people are struggling.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health,more than 3 million adolescents, representing over 13% of the population, have experienced a major depressive episode.  The numbers are equally high for adolescents experiencing eating disorders, substance abuse and a variety of other mental health challenges.  Attempted and completed suicide rates continue to rise.  

Jewish teens are not immune.  This is why Springboard, Chicago’s Teen Engagement Initiative, is making adolescent wellness a priority in our community. In January 2019, Springboard hosted its first training course in  Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). The certification program, first developed in Australia, teaches participants to better understand typical adolescent development, spot signs and symptoms of mental health challenges, and respond to a youth experiencing a crisis.  The session was attended by 24 participants representing Jewish overnight camps, teen program directors, synagogue clergy and mental health professionals.  

This year, Springboard increased its support of adolescents and youth experiencing mental health challenges. The Jewish Teen Education and Funder Collaborative, the convening body for Springboard and nine other community initiatives around the country, created a community of practice, inviting each community to send a representative to a three day “train-the-trainer” program led by the National Council of Behavioral Health. To enrich the YMHFA training and ensure its relevance for the unique needs of the Jewish community, the Jewish Teen Funder Collaborative partnered with The Jewish Education Project to create a  companion guide for YMHFA facilitators to help infuse Jewish wisdom, values and context into the program.   

Springboard’s representative in this community of practice, the first of its kind in the Jewish community, is Lisa Ehrlich, Manager, Outreach and Community Education at Response for Teens. On January 16th Lisa will lead Springboard’s second YMHFA training in Skokie.  Learn more. “This subsidized training is one of many ways that Springboard is ensuring that Jewish experiences continue to be places where teens feel supported and safe to explore their own identities,” explains Sarina Gerson, Director of Springboard.  

Springboard is a community initiative created with the support of JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, the Jim Joseph Foundation and a consortium of local funders.