Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

#TravelTuesday Ski & Snowboard Adventure

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Ski and Snowboard Adventure

"The Ski and Snowboard Adventure program is one of the highlights of my year. Not only do I love to ski, but I love to see new people learn this amazing skill every year. Seeing someone who doesn’t even know how to step into a pair of skis or a snowboard on day one racing past me on a black diamond on day four is unbelievable. However, this program is more than a group of teens learning or enhancing a skill, each year I see a group of strangers become a group of friends. Every year I hear about the teens involved meeting up after the program and becoming good friends. In my opinion, that is what the program is all about. Forget about school and homework, at the Ski and Snowboard Adventure teens are able to get away from Chicago, spend their winter break on the slopes skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing, they try out some of the best indoor waterparks that the Wisconsin Dells has to offer, and leave with a new group of lifelong Jewish friends from across the Chicagoland area."

- Kyle Kolling, JCC Camp Chi Program Coordinator

Springboard Teen Engagement Specialist Sam Grobart Signing Off

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Over the past year and a half, I have had the privilege of working as a Springboard Teen Engagement Specialist. The teens, parents, and professionals I have been able to work with along the way have reassured me that this community will continue to thrive. Being able to be both a teen and professional in this community has been an eye-opening experience. As a teen, there were many things I took for granted and never gave much thought to what went on behind the scenes. As a professional, being able to use my experience as a teen to provide meaningful and engaging programs proved invaluable. I am confident that without my experience as a Jewish teen in this community, I would never have become a Jewish youth professional.

Sam Grobart

It’s been an incredible experience, one that cannot be summarized in a single blog post. I’ve decided to focus on a few lessons I’ve learned as a Teen Engagement Specialist:

1. There is no better day than today to make a difference.

As a Teen Engagement Specialist, I felt empowered to take initiative and create unique, memorable experiences for Jewish teens. None of that could have happened without amazing supervisors and team members, knowing that I had their trust to put ideas into action and take initiative in making a difference in our community. 

2. Jewish youth professionals need to have lots of hats ready in the closet.

One day you may be tasked to organize excel sheets and perfect mail-merge skills. The next day you’ll be speaking to another group of professionals about different email hacks. And a third day you’ll be driving up to an overnight camp to run an immersive and engaging program for teens. Jewish youth professionals need A LOT of different hats and knowing when to wear which. Mentor hat? Yes. Facilitator hat? You bet. Technology wiz hat? Without a doubt. I have come to appreciate the vast amount of skills and areas that come with being a Jewish youth professional.

3. Jewish teen leaders of today are the Jewish youth professionals and leaders of tomorrow.

As cliché as it sounds, it's true. There is no better experience when looking at Jewish youth professional roles then authentic experience in these programs. It is something that cannot be explained but only felt. You just know. For the teens reading this that look up to their staff and other Jewish mentors, they were just like you not so long ago. The amazing experiences you have in your programs don’t need to end when you graduate.

4. Relationships are everything.

As a Teen Engagement Specialist, my number one priority was to build, cultivate, maintain, and enhance relationships. Whether with teens, parents, and professionals, having these strong relationships makes the work we do possible. I want to thank everyone that I have worked with, in any capacity, and allowing me to make even just a small positive difference in the Chicago Jewish teen community.

It’s been a pleasure getting to know so many teens, parents, and professionals in our community. Thank you to all those who have let me learn and grow both personally and professionally. My email will remain, and I won’t be moving far (less than 100 feet to be exact), so please continue to reach out as I begin my new role at the JUF. This is Teen Engagement Specialist Sam Grobart signing off. L’hitraot!

A Letter From Maia Volk

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Hammer Girl


My name is Maia and I’m the Director of Youth Programs at Beth Emet Synagogue in Evanston, Illinois.  I’m so grateful to have the privilege of working with the amazing teens of the Chicago-area to learn about social justice and take action to make our world a better place. I’ve had so many incredible experiences with our teens exploring the Chicago-area to learn about the history of our city, different social issues affecting our community today, and how to take action to make a difference.   

When I first heard about the possibility of this Springboard School Break trip with Tivnu and TOV Teens, I was ecstatic. I know the social justice aspect of the trip and the opportunity to work with marginalized communities and explore the root causes of poverty and houselessness is something our teens would really enjoy; not to mention the gorgeous scenery, hiking, and fun group-bonding. However, the aspect of the trip that really catches my eye is the opportunity to physically build tiny homes, which will have a direct impact on people’s lives.   

Being able to have this kind of physical impact is something that has been important to me from a young age. Growing up, my favorite place in the world was summer camp. I loved to escape my schoolwork and chores to spend two months a year in an alternate reality where kids ruled the world.  My summer camp was modeled after a kibbutz, so we spent our mornings doing Avodah (work), which included cleaning the bathrooms, chopping vegetables for our meals, building benches, blazing trails, and more.  You would think I found this as boring as my chores at home during the year, but I loved our morning Avodah.  I loved the gratification I felt sitting on the bench I made during meals in the Chadar Ochel (dining hall), showing my parents a mural I helped paint on Visitors Day, and eating a meal for which I helped chop the carrots.  The crucial element of what made camp such a special place to me was that my peers and I had physically built it to be the open, accepting, and loving community that shaped who I am today. 

While Tikkun Olam with Tivnu will a very different experience from my summers at camp, I can’t wait for students to feel the gratification of literally and physically shaping our world to match our values on this trip.  I hope you can join us over Veteran’s Day weekend for this unique and special opportunity. 

Thank you, 


Tomer Eres: A Dramedy in 3 Acts

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Tomer Eres

Act 1:

Scene 1

(The curtain opens to reveal a hospital in Dayton, OH)

A young Israeli couple emerges the hospital with a new baby. They named him Tomer – unaware of how difficult life will be growing up in the south with an Israeli name. They celebrate the birth of their second (and clearly favorite) son, before returning home to their firstborn, who requests they return the new baby to sender. Scene.

Scene 2

(14 Years Later; Lexington, KY)

The now high-school aged Tomer begins to take voice lessons, discovering a passion for music and singing. Tomer becomes heavily involved in USY, attending conventions, organizing services for the region, and traveling to Israel at any opportunity. Tomer is accepted to the University of Michigan School of Music; On a family trip to Israel, Tomer is told that he hasn’t been released from military duty, and interviews on a military base to prove that he is the American child of Israeli’s and has plans to go to college.  

Act 2:

Scene 1

(The curtain opens to a beautiful fall in Ann Arbor, MI)

Tomer begins his studies at the University of Michigan, taking voice lessons, studying Italian, French, German, and Czech. Four years fly by in a whirl of classes, parties, and performances, culminating in his first operatic role. Tomer finishes his degree and accepts an offer to pursue his Master’s degree at the University of Houston.

Scene 2

(The fall of 2016 in humid, hot Houston, TX)

Tomer begins pursuing his Masters degree at the University of Houston. During this time, Tomer begins exploring his love of baking, inspired by “The Great British Baking Show,” his grandmother, and a great heritage of Jewish baked goods. Upon completing his degree, Tomer starts teaching voice lessons, religious school, and tutors b’nei mitzvah students at Congregation Emanu El. A friend convinces Tomer that he should go on Birthright; It is a life-changing experience, and upon his return Tomer becomes heavily involved in the Houston Hillel’s young professional organization: Jewston.

Act 3:

Scene 1

(August 2019, Chicago, IL)

Tomer moves to Chicago, Illinois on a whim! The JUF asks him to take on a role as the Israel Education Associate for their Ta’am Yisrael program. Tomer enthusiastically accepts the position! He is so excited to begin working with this amazing program, which offers an opportunity like no other, and hopes that everyone who can will join him in taking their own taste of Israel.