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

Naomi Altman's Jewish Journey

(Jewish Journey) Permanent link

I attended Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School from nursery until 8th grade. While I was there, I gained an amazing Jewish education that has served me well in life so far. Going to Israel in 8th grade with my grade was an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Instead of spending time with family in the areas where they lived like on my previous trips with family, I was exposed to many different areas and perspectives that I had not been afforded prior. I am also very thankful to have spent my summers at Camp Interlaken JCC in Eagle River Wisconsin. Going to camp strengthened my Jewish identity and gave me the confidence to participate in Jewish life fully. Being part of a Jewish community has been very important to me especially since I currently attend a non-Jewish school. I have become a part of many different Jewish organizations including BBYO, Diller, RTI, and one of the heads of JSC. All of those things have helped me get to where I am currently in regards to my Jewish identity. Being a Peer Ambassador is an exciting step for me and my Jewish identity because I want to share and create programs that will get people as excited about Judaism as I am. I am so thankful that I was exposed to all of these amazing programs and I want to help more people become involved. I would like to stay involved and be a leader in the Jewish community when I go to college and beyond and I think that being a Peer Ambassador will give me the skills and experience to make that happen. 

Naomi Altman

Naomi is a Junior at the Latin School of Chicago where she is a member of the field hockey and softball teams. She is the managing editor for Discourses (her school’s political magazine) and the head of her school’s Jewish Student Connection. She volunteers at the field museum, graduated Diller Teen fellows last year, and is currently a part of RTI (research training internship). 

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Springboard Peer Ambassador Sophia Schultz

(Social Action) Permanent link

Sophia Schultz

My family began attending SJCS, the Secular Jewish Community and School of Oak Park when I was in first grade. Each year with my age group, I participated in either a social action project or service project. In third grade, for example, I made headbands to sell in order to raise money for a children’s hospital. Other projects I participated in included donating food to and volunteering at the Oak Park Food Pantry, and cleaning up a forest preserve. I was taught at a young age that the proper thing to do was to always help others and to do my part to repair the world (Tikkun Olam) which I have always directly aligned with my Jewish Identity. This past summer, I participated in JUF’s Camp Tov in which we discussed Jewish values and how they relate to our purpose in doing good for others. We met with several organizations, learned about their pursuit, and what we could do to help them. When we met with Sophie Draluck, a freshman at UPenn who began Cycle Forward, an organization that collects feminine products for women in need, I was immediately drawn to the organization’s ambition and started my own Period Products Drive. By running my own drive, I inspired my friend to get her swim team to do a Period Products Drive for their yearly service project.

In addition to discovering impactful organizations, participating in conversations on Camp Tov Zoom Calls made me feel like I truly belonged somewhere. Living in a community with a very small Jewish Population, I have never truly felt accepted besides at SJCS. During Camp Tov, I was able to make connections and share similar beliefs with the other Jewish Teens. This experience encouraged me to become more involved in my Jewish community and to apply for the Springboard Peer Ambassadorship. I am excited to get connected with more Jewish teens during my Peer Ambassadorship and to continue to develop my Jewish Identity. 

Sophia is a Senior at Lyons Township High School where she is a news editor for her school newspaper. Through her Participation in SJCS (the Secular Jewish Community of Oak Park) and JUF’s (Jewish United Fund) Camp Tov, her Jewish identity has become central to her passion for social action and service to others. 

Meet Stacy Bernstein, the new NFTY Midwest Area Associate Manager

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I am so thrilled to be in my new role as the NFTY Midwest Area Associate Manager, and therefore get to be working with the enthusiastic teens from NFTY CAR and five other NFTY regions all throughout the Midwest.  Before beginning this role, I worked on the Reform Teen Initiative in St. Louis – here, I spent 2 years building an initiative focused on teen engagement.  I had the opportunity to run middle school programs, immersive experiences, and leadership trainings.

My passion for working in the Reform Jewish professional world began when I was growing up.  I was an active member of NFTY Missouri Valley in middle and high school, making friendships and memories with other Jewish teens from across Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and Colorado.  I also grew up attending URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute.  Here, I truly found my Jewish identity, and I can confidently say I wouldn’t be the Jewish adult I am today if it weren’t for Jewish summer camp.

With these past experiences, I’m thrilled to be working at the URJ with a variety of Jewish teen leaders and youth professionals who are also excited and passionate to bring NFTY, the reform youth movement, to their communities, and truly watch it thrive.  Even more so, in my first month, I have been blown away by the incredible leadership teens in Chicago show, and have enjoyed being welcomed into the community.

When I’m not gushing about Reform Jewish teens, you can find me working out at Orange Theory Fitness, eating ice cream, or talking about how much I love KU Basketball (Rock Chalk!)

Stacy Bernstein

Stacy Bernstein is the NFTY Midwest Area Associate Manager at the URJ.  She oversees six regions: Chicago, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Northern, Northeast Lakes, and Michigan.  Stacy went to the University of Kansas where she studied Elementary Educator and was an elementary school teacher for 2 years in Topeka, KS before coming back to St. Louis to work with the Reform Teen Initiative.  Stacy is thrilled to have made this leap in her career and is excited to get to continue meeting enthusiastic professionals in the Chicago area.

#RepairTheWorld Wednesday with Springboard Peer Ambassador, Talia Holceker

(Holidays, Social Action) Permanent link

Hanukkah, Challah, and Volunteering

Celebrating Hannukah with my family is notably one of the most important events that have helped shaped my Jewish identity. Huddled around the Menorah, singing the blessing, and lighting the candles. Judaism has always connected me to the value of family and caring for one another. I have such fond memories of Hannuakh and watching the candles burn and shine in my kitchen. Last Spring, during quarantine, I tried making Challah for the first time. Even though it didn’t turn out great, Challah was a way for me to connect with Judaism and it brought me back to when I would eat Challah at Sunday School.

challah bread

More recently though, I think JUF has truly helped shape my Jewish Identity. For the last two years, I have volunteered through Camp Tov and this year participated in Voices. Being around other teens with the same values and beliefs as me was powerful. Those camps also introduced me to how much I love volunteering. It connected me with so many amazing organizations that I have continued to work with. This past summer, I participated in a program called “jaywalking” which was started by a fellow teen and raised money for food insecurity in Chicago. I am now an active volunteer with Cradles to Crayons which is one of my favorite organizations. Those are just two examples of how JUF has shown me how important volunteering is. I am so excited to be a Peer Ambassador this year because I will be working with other Jewish teens and connecting them to educational and exciting programs. I am looking forward to planning my event and connecting it with a lot of my interests. 

Talia Holceker

Talia is a junior at Francis W. Parker School of Chicago, where she is an active leader and member of her community. Through her work with Cradles to Crayons and the Anti-Creaulty Society, her Jewish identity has become central to her passion for volunteering

#RepairTheWorldWednesday: What repairs your world?

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Jared London: Little Moments, Big Impact

Hey everyone! I am Jared, Camp Chi’s new Program Coordinator. I grew up in the North Shore attending Camp Chi every summer since 2007. This upcoming summer will be my 15th spent at my home away from home. I could not be happier to work my dream job at Camp and to continue working with the Chicago Jewish Community! I have known this is what I wanted to do for most of my life, and I am excited to share with you the story of the moment that started this dream.

Jared London 1

Back in 2010 I was heading to my fourth summer away at camp as an incoming 7th grader. I had spent the previous three summers enjoying every single second of camp, but for some reason my fourth summer did not start off the way I had expected. I was terribly homesick. To this day I could not tell you why I was homesick, but that feeling was completely dominating my camp experience for the first few days. One night towards the end of the first week I told my counselor Jake that I wanted to go home. He did not say very much, and I went to sleep. At some point after I had fallen asleep Jake woke me up, and the only words he said to me were “grab your pillow and blanket…” I followed him out to the porch, and we continued walking to a place in camp called the commons. During the day the commons don’t look like much, it’s really just a slab of concrete towards the back of camp, there are a couple basketball hoops, a gaga pit, but this slab of concrete is now my favorite place in the world because of what happens next. Jake laid his pillow and blanket down and I did the same. He did not try to convince me to stay at camp, he just told me to look up at the stars. I looked up and was genuinely taken back by how incredible the night sky looked. The commons which are fairly underwhelming during the day, became the most amazing place at night. The treetops create a perfect circle with a crystal-clear night sky in the middle. We sat there for a while and stargazed, Jake pointed out a perfect view of the big dipper and then played the song Hallelujah (Rufus Wainwright Version) on his speaker. I even saw a shooting star. We got up, went back to the cabin and I went back to sleep. That next morning, I woke up and on my pillow was one of the bandanas Jake wore almost daily. He tied it on my head and gave me a fist bump. I was never homesick again. Jake took 20 or 30 minutes out of his night to change my life forever. The commons became my favorite place, stargazing my favorite activity, I wear a bandanna every day at camp, and I still listen to hallelujah every night before I go to sleep. I am convinced that without that night, I would not be where I am today. From that point forward, I never wanted to spend another summer not at Camp Chi. I went on to be counselor, unit head, and now a member of the full-time team as Program Coordinator. 

Jared London 2

I think this is a great story given our current climate. You never know when someone is going through a rough patch, and a small (or big) act of kindness can have such a huge impact. I am so excited to be in a position where I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on my camp and the greater Jewish Community.

Jared London is the Program Coordinator at JCC Camp Chi. He also runs Chi Town Connection (CTC) JCC Chicago and Camp Chi’s year-round program for teens in 8th-11th grade. He is extremely passionate about Camp and Teen Programming and the impact they can have.


#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Connecting Chicago Written by Co-Founder Rem Johannknecht

(Social Action, Celebrate Our Community) Permanent link

Repair the World Wednesday Image

Connecting Chicago was founded by Rem Johannknecht and Lucy Gold in March of 2020. Sophomores at Payton at the time, this team of friends was inspired and met the moment as individuals around the City of Chicago fell victim to isolation amid shutdowns and stay at home orders. When public school students began at-home learning, they understood that thousands of families would soon be struggling to keep from falling behind.

Pivoting to meet the needs of their community, the organization crafted a mission statement: “Connecting Chicago fosters opportunities unlocked by education. We are bridging Chicago's vast educational inequities by empowering students in and out of the classroom, providing critical services regardless of household income.”

Rem and Lucy organized their fellow students in Chicago to launch an innovative virtual tutoring program. Available to students of all incomes, the program impacts over 1000 students over the course of the year and is growing steadily. Both tutors and students alike have been motivated by a sense of community, connection, and service during these unprecedented times.

After collecting feedback from their volunteers, the founders organized two teams to guide their improvement steps. First, Rem oversaw a resource development team that crafted best practices and compiled resources for tutors in English/Language Arts, Mathematics, and World Languages. Then, Lucy created a recruitment team which has been hard at work finding amazing new volunteers crucial to the health of the program. Recently, the recruitment team finished crafting their holiday fundraising plan. With a goal to collect five thousand dollars, they are committed to ensuring the sustainability and growth of Connecting Chicago.

Recently, the organization switched to a quarterly sign up system where one-on-one pairings are made for several months. This means that students currently enrolled will continue through January! Anyone interested in signing up for the third quarter will have the opportunity to do so on their website!

Ella, a tutor with Connecting Chicago since the spring, says that her time has “been nothing short of amazing since I started tutoring with them. They are empathetic, organized, easy to contact, and completely flexible with scheduling."

The organization’s hardworking tutors’ hard work has not gone unnoticed. A parent acclaimed that their family’s “tutor has had an amazing impact on [their] son. She’s a wonderful role model and teacher. Her attentiveness to schedule, responsibility, learning needs, and engagement has been truly impressive. I have no doubt that this interaction is having a very positive impact on my son.”

The organization’s say that the future for Connecting Chicago is bright, and that their mission to connect students with high-quality resources will remain critically relevant! Currently, they are creating plans for the tutoring program to continue to thrive, as well as looking into starting an affordable summer camp!

For more information on the organization, please visit their website at!

About the Founders:

Rem and Lucy are both current juniors at Walter Payton College Prep. Their collaborative friendship initially started when they were partners in driver’s ed, completing mandatory hours behind the wheel together!

Rem Johannknecht is the Founder of Connecting Chicago and is known for his hard work ethic. At Payton, he is organizing a TedxYouth Conference, excels on the varsity sailing team, and participates in Model UN. Outside of school, he has organized fellow Chicagoans on several political campaigns, and enjoys learning languages.

Lucy Gold is the Co-Founder of Connecting Chicago and loves to help others. In school, she manages the football team and boys basketball team, she is a peer buddy in Best Buddies, and will be Vice President of the Payton's Special Olympics Committee. Out of school, Lucy loves her job at the Cubs, babysitting, and hanging out with friends and family.