Blog with Springboard

The Springboard blog highlights the experiences of Jewish teens and Jewish teen professionals participating in community programs across Chicagoland and beyond. Dive into blogs about different Jewish teen events, leadership programs, trip opportunities, and more! Join us in celebrating the unique perspectives and contributions of Jewish teens and professionals in the Jewish community. To post a blog, please email

Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

Taking a Bite out of Jewish Life

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ncsy volunteer group

What happens when you take 45 Jewish teens from public schools across Chicagoland – many of whom don’t know each other – and fly them to the country’s largest Jewish community for five days of adventure, social action and Jewish inspiration?

A lot more good than we ever thought possible.

This President’s Day Weekend, Midwest NCSY ran Big Apple Adventure, a Springboard school break experience that combined sightseeing, volunteering and celebrating Shabbat in New York. Many of the activities were in keeping with the trip’s theme, “Be a Hero,” with the teens exploring Judaism’s take on heroism through education and hands-on experiences. 

Big Apple T-Shirts

Lizzie Doman, a freshman at Glenbrook North High School, said she decided to go on Big Apple Adventure because it sounded like fun and her friends were going.

Her favorite part? “It’s hard to pick because this trip was full of exciting things to do,” says Lizzie, who mentions visiting Times Square, eating “delicious New York pizza,” and packing clothes at Yad Leah for poor families in Israel, as trip highlights.

For Seth Flynn, a freshman at Oak Park and River Forest High School, Shabbat was one of the best parts of the trip, with an “amazing” prayer service, lots of good food, and a “beautiful” and “high energy” Havdalah. He said he also enjoyed Shabbat guest speaker Jamie Lassner, a volunteer EMT and first responder at 9/11.

“He was incredibly inspirational,” says Seth. “We then split into different small groups and got to talk about what it means to be a hero and how we can all be one.”

Sammy Schwartz, a sophomore at Niles North High School, said he too enjoyed Shabbat, adding that while it was different than how he typically spends Shabbat, it was “meaningful and memorable.”

Most of all, Sammy said, he appreciated the opportunity to make so many friends. 

“I came on the trip knowing no one, but I left with a multitude of new, close friends whom I’m still keeping in touch with,” he says. “And it showed me that Jewish people are always connected, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs.”

Abby Sokol, a freshman from Stevenson High School, shared a similar sentiment about the sense of Jewish community that the teens created on Big Apple Adventure, whether while ice skating at Rockefeller Center, shopping for Shabbat on the streets of Brooklyn, or feeding the hungry at all-kosher soup kitchen.

“The most touching part of the trip was when we all got into a circle to reflect on the experience,” she says. “A few [of the teens] shared their experiences and how they were changed, which brought some  to tears because of all the meaning and sharing that was done in the safe space and tight community we had created over this trip.”

Lizzie Doman agrees.  More than Times Square and good pizza and even volunteering, Big Apple Adventure was, above all else, about being a part of the Jewish community.

“My Jewish ties have been strengthened without a doubt, and it was meaningful to revisit [Judaism] with a fresh set of eyes and new concepts,” she says. “I feel it really brought me closer to who I am as a person and the potential I hold.”

volunteers meeting