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

My Jewish Community by Sammy Kasselman

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In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Sammy Kasselman shares how thankful she is for the Jewish community she found for herself through Hillel was. While transitions are hard for everyone, finding people who make us feel at home make everything easier. Whether it is going from 8th grade to high school, starting at a new camp, attending an after-school club for the first time, or graduating high school and starting college, the Jewish community is there for you.  


Researchers say the greatest determinant of Jewish continuity is having a Jewish community. Although it took me until college to find one; I couldn’t be happier that I finally did. 

A few weeks after I attended the Freshman Shabbat Dinner at Hillel, I realized that I had a special connection with the girls I sat with. If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t FaceTime someone after one conversation. But this time I didn’t even think twice as I put my high school’s motto to the test and truly embraced the awkward. I FaceTimed these 3 girls because I couldn’t wait to tell them I found an open dorm room on their floor and I was moving in. I still remember them sprinting down the hall to show me how close my room would be to theirs. While this was touching, I still had no idea how close we would become as friends. 

As weekly Shabbat dinner attendees for 2 years now, I can confidently say Hillel’s activities fostered a connection amongst my friends that runs deeper than just shared experiences and circumstance.  When the year gets busy and schoolwork takes over our week, Hillel feels familial in a way nothing else does. Not only did I learn new things and meet new people, but I also found a space to express myself authentically. From stealing challah from all the tables at Shabbat dinner to playing games at the Purim carnival and volunteering to educate students on Jewish genetic screening, Hillel has provided me a community that role models healthy relationships and strong leadership.  

I’m now going into my junior year and I am counting down the days until I move into a house with all my best friends. Between our plans to decorate the attic to more games of ‘Set’ (A great card game) to hosting our own Shabbat dinners, I truly cannot wait to see what the year has in store for us. 

Are you interested in finding a Jewish community on your college campus? Check out College Road Trip a Springboard School Break to tour Jewish life on college campuses this Spring.

A Re-imagined Bat Mitzvah Speech by Yardayna Ben-Simon

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Becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a significant milestone in one’s Jewish journey. This is because at age 12 or 13 one is considered to be an adult in the eyes of Judaism; this is a substantial responsibility at which point one is asked to stand in front of your community to reflect and share wisdom. By this point in life, you are able to developed your own outlook on life, and question your identity, Jewishly and otherwise, which is encouraged by Judaism. But, the questioning doesn’t stop here which means that your perspective is bound to change many times over. How will your reflections change if you were asked to share sentiments again later in life? What better way is there to see personal growth and change in perspective than being asked the same reflective question at a later point in life. Here to share new nuggets of wisdom, and what her Bat Mitzvah speech would look like two years out of college is Yardayna Ben-Simon.

I’m being honest: I barely remember what I wrote for my Bat-Mitzvah speech, probably because it wasn’t really true to who I was. But how could it have been? I was only 12, having very little life experience to say something “wise” or true to my heart or beliefs. 

If I could rewrite my Bat Mitzvah speech as my current 20-year-old self, I would talk about mistakes, particularly within the context of leadership. There are a myriad of characters and leaders in the Torah who made life-threatening and even nation-threatening mistakes, which put themselves and the people of Israel at a disadvantage. Aaron and Miriam spoke Lashon Hara (gossiped). Moses broke the Luchot. David committed adultery. Saul disobeyed G-d’s commands. As Jews, we recognize all of these names and acknowledge each person’s undeniable greatness and fierce connection to G-d and Judaism. But I recall that in day-school, my teachers and fellow peers were afraid to also acknowledge their mistakes. We were hesitant to debunk these leaders’ greatness. But I don’t think mistakes are a bad thing. I think mistakes are so human, separating us from G-d’s imperfections. The mistakes that the above-mentioned leaders made lowered them from the level of G-d to the level of the nation and society.  

A B-Mitzvah child enters young adulthood and is suddenly accountable for the future of the Jewish people and its continuity. They are the future leaders. That’s intimidating! However, as leaders, they have to understand and learn from our past leaders in Jewish tradition. Mistakes make people human and they drive one towards self-awareness, which is, I think, one of the most important qualities in a leader. Mistakes make you look back and say “huh, I see what I did wrong there,” hoping that you’ll grow from it and become even more self-aware. So, I would tell my 12-year-old self: don’t let things just happen to you in a passive way. Don’t just say “oops” and not think about what you did wrong or how you could fix it. Get to know yourself, how you interact with people, your strengths and weaknesses, and be OK with making mistakes and hold yourself accountable for them. That is how you can develop into a true leader, and it’s only human. 

Olivia Hirshorn: Still Singing Along to the sound of Songleader Boot Camp

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When I first found out I was going to Songleader Boot Camp, I was initially hesitant. All I knew was that I would be attending a five day songleading conference in St. Louis. But when I arrived at Union Station, my perspective changed. I was immediately greeted with warm hellos and hugs from the fellow Springboard teens. This first interaction and fun filled train ride perfectly set the tone for the next five days. Every day, I had the chance to meet a wide range of people, all from diverse backgrounds and interests, who all shared a commonality; a love for music and Judaism. Every day was action packed—filled with seminars, spontaneous jam sessions, and meaningful conversations with individuals. Coming in knowing very few people, I left with  a new best friend and community that became family to me. The most powerful moment of SLBC took place in the Blackbox theater. It was Havdalah and everyone who attended the conference was huddled together, standing in a large circle. With new friends and educators on both sides of me, I felt like I had found my people. We all sang in harmony, the sounds of many voices coming together as one. This experience and conference not only allowed me the opportunity to form new bonds, it helped me find myself and my true values. Not only am I already planning on attending this amazing experience next year, I am now top 12 in the Jewish Star competition! Stepping into the unknown to attend this conference was the best decision I ever made. I still ride the SLBC high with an uplifted spirit and soul. 

Who’s excited for Big Apple Adventure Round 4?!?

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Big Apple Adventure Round 4

Who’s excited for Big Apple Adventure Round 4?!? 

We are! And we’re here to tell you our TOP 5 Reasons why! 

#1: You get to spend 5 incredible days in the city that never sleeps! Experience some of the city’s greatest attractions including the Statue of Liberty, the iconic Times Square, and Rockefeller Center!  
#2: You’ll make new, lifelong friendships with other Jewish teens from across the Chicagoland area. You’ll also have the opportunity to build relationships with our incredible college-age advisors and staff!  
#3: One of the best parts of the trip is that you’ll have the chance to give back by volunteering and helping our Jewish brothers and sisters in need. You’ll also learn about the different volunteer organizations that serve Jewish communities in New York and across the world.  
#4: You’ll explore Jewish Brooklyn as you shop for Shabbat, bake your own delicious challahs, and gear up for a Shabbat experience you won’t soon forget!   
#5: As if reasons 1-4 weren’t enough, you’ll also have tons of fun!  

Can’t wait for you to join us this Presidents’ Day Weekend for the trip of a lifetime on Big Apple Adventure! 

Jeremy Schaechter,  

Big Apple Adventure Director & NCSY North Shore Director