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#RepairTheWorld with Yanira Kaplan: Stop Sex Trafficking Now's Winter Drive

(Social Action) Permanent link

Hi! I am thrilled to be able to talk about my not-for-profit organization, Stop Sex Trafficking Now (SSTN) and share about SSTN’s winter drive!

Stop Sex Trafficking Now

Sex trafficking, a subset of human trafficking, is a billion-dollar industry. Millions of people are trafficked each year, and on average, teen girls in the U.S. are forced into the sex trade at 12-14 years of age. I became interested in the topic of sex trafficking in 2019. As I began reading more about the topic, I noticed that despite the severity of this issue, there seems to be little conversation and resources about it that is teen and young adult-friendly. Knowing education is essential for action, I decided to create Stop Sex Trafficking Now (SSTN). SSTN is dedicated to educating teens and young adults on the issue of sex trafficking and supporting programs involving outreach to survivors.

It is so important that we, as teens and young adults, educate ourselves on dire issues such as sex trafficking. My goal is to bring this issue to attention and hopefully inspire some of you to find ways you can fight against sex trafficking.

Speaking of which… SSTN is conducting a winter drive throughout the month of December to collect funds and goods for the STOP-IT Initiative Against Human Trafficking! STOP-IT is a local organization that offers direct services and support to sex and labor trafficking survivors and their children. We are accepting monetary donations made through SSTN's online fundraiser or goods that have been specifically requested by STOP-IT that can be purchased through SSTN's Amazon Wishlist. For more information and the donation links, please check out our winter drive information page. Thank you so much for reading and considering a donation to support Chicago-area survivors of sex trafficking!

Yanira Kaplan

About the Author: Yanira is a senior and a full IB student at Beacon Academy. She participated in Diller Teen Fellows in 2019 and RTI (Research Training Internship) in 2020. She is currently a junior counselor for this year’s RTI cohort. In 2020, she created Stop Sex Trafficking Now, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating teens and young adults on the issue of sex trafficking and supporting programs in their outreach to survivors.



Creating a Community: Introducing Hannah Dalinka, A Springboard Peer Ambassador

(Jewish Journey) Permanent link

About the prompt: We asked each Peer Ambassador to share with us a pivotal moment in their Jewish journey, what being a Peer Ambassador means to them personally, and what value speaks to them. Stay tuned over the next few months to hear from all of the Peer Ambassadors.

Check out Hannah's blog post below as she shares about how her Jewish journey has inspired her to create on ramps for other teens in the community. 

As a member of the Peer Ambassador team, I am beyond excited to get to learn, lead, and grow this year. Beyond all, however, I am so excited to try and strengthen the Jewish community in my area. Community mindedness, one of the four values that the Peer Ambassador program is centered around, speaks to me on so many different levels.

Personally, my Jewish journey started all the way back when I attended Jewish preschool, where I got to grow and play with a community of other Jewish kids and practice Jewish learning. Additionally, I have been a congregant at North Shore Congregation Israel (NSCI) since I was born, and I have been a song leader at NSCI for three years. I was fortunate enough to visit Israel in 8th grade and from that experience, I felt a whole new connection with the Jewish community there. I ultimately found my Jewish home at JCC Camp Chi where I met some of the best, most supportive people in the entire world. All of these combined experiences have helped me connect to the Jewish community.

Hannah Dalinka - Camp Chi

My Jewish identity is a big part of who I am, and I owe that to the Jewish communities that I have connected to so far in my life. One of my biggest goals for this year is to try and build that Jewish community for some of the other teens in my area. I think that Judaism can have such a strong impact on a person if they are able to find their own place in the Jewish community. There are so many different places to become involved and not everyone will fit in the same. Personally, I have found my connection to Judaism at my temple and at camp, but I was connected to those places from an early age. I want to be that connection for others and help them find their place in the Jewish community this year, because it is never too late to become connected and find your community.

Hannah Dalinka Photo

About the Author: Hannah is currently a junior at Glenbrook North High School (GBN) and she belongs to North Shore Congregation Israel (NSCI). Hannah is a member of the machonik leadership committee at NSCI and a regular song-leader there. She is also a URJ Song-leading fellow and completed the SIT program at JCC Camp Chi last summer. At GBN, Hannah is active in acapella, theatre, choir, and student government. She is also on the Speech team and volunteers for Relay for Life. Hannah loves to sing, act, hang out with friends, stargaze, and make smoothies. 



Mount Shlomo and My Jewish Journey: Introducing Sophia Rose, a Springboard Peer Ambassador

(Jewish Journey) Permanent link

About the prompt: We asked each Peer Ambassador to share with us a pivotal moment in their Jewish journey, what being a Peer Ambassador means to them personally, and what value speaks to them. Stay tuned over the next few months to hear from all of the Peer Ambassadors.

Check out Sophia's blog post below as she shares about her experience this summer on URJ NFTY's Chalutzim Ba'aretz trip in Israel and how this experience gave her an opportunity to appreciate her friends and her Jewish experiences. 

This past summer I had the incredible opportunity to go to Israel through NFTY’s Chalutzim Ba'aretz program. We did everything from bargaining, eating our weight in falafel, camel riding to doing the iconic Masada hike. There was one hike in particular that I still think about everyday, Mount Shlomo.

Masada Hike

Mount Shlomo is located in the Southern end of Israel near Eilat bordering Jordan and Egypt and even Saudi Arabia is far off in the distance. Now, what does a hike have to do with my Judaism? After a long year and a half of feeling disconnected from everything including my Judaism- away from camp, shabbat at temple and holidays without family, everything felt at peace as I looked off into the mountain. Being surrounded by my friends who were also taking in this view and knowing the same feeling of finally being connected I realized how grateful I was to be Jewish.

Friends

Sitting in silence with my thoughts, I realized how lucky I am to be with my friends, both old and new and get to spend my summer in Israel and see the gorgeous and unforgettable veiws. I came back home feeling a strengthened love for my community and culture. My next wish is to get better at Hebrew! I’m so thankful for being on Springboard Ambassadors and being a part of a community that will help more people feel at home and find that place or feeling of connection within their Judaism. I will forever be grateful for my hike on Mount Shlomo.

Sophia Rose

About the Author: Sophia is a senior at Vernon Hills High school. She likes to read, go for walks and hangout with friends. She found her love of Jewish youth leadership and the community while as a camper at OSRUI and serving on board of her synagogue's youth group. Making some of her best friends and memories is what inspired her to do Springboard’s Peer Ambassador program. She hopes more people can experience all that there is to offer within the Jewish youth group community.



TOP 5 Reasons to Sign Up for the NCSY & JSU Relief Mission to Houston

(Program Experiences, Community Spotlight) Permanent link

 Houston Relief Mission 2022

Who’s excited for the Relief Mission to Houston?!?

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

#1: You're going to make meaningful change! You’ll help build homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Harvey, combat food insecurity at the Houston Food Bank and more! All while earning 15+ service hours!

#2 - You'll spend 4 incredible days in Houston and visit some of the city’s greatest attractions, including the Kemah Boardwalk!


#3: You’ll make new, lifelong friendships with Jewish teens from across the Chicagoland area. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet our incredible staff and college-age advisors!


#4: You'll live the Jewish value of tikkun olam and experience an amazing Shabbat that 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 MLK Day Weekend for the trip of a lifetime on our Relief Mission to Houston!

Learn more and register for this wonderful service opportunity at  https://midwest.ncsy.org/reliefmissions/.

Happy Eighth Night of Chanukah: How NFTY Brings Light to My Life by Molly Schless

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the eight night, we will hear from Molly about her experience with NFTY.

My name is Molly Schless, and I am on the regional board for an organization called NFTY. NFTY stands for the North American Federation of Temple Youth. It is a place for Jewish teens to stay connected to their religion whilst having fun with their peers.

Molly Schless

What has kept me involved in NFTY is how welcoming the environment is. From my first program in 6th grade, I could just tell how inclusive and inviting everyone was. There is such a diverse group of participants within NFTY that it is easy to find your people and quickly feel at home. For me, NFTY is a second home and a place where I can truly be myself.

My favorite event ever was the spring weekend retreat that I went to in 8th grade. My sister was very involved in NFTY at the time, so she told me stories about all the events that she went to, but this was my first high school event ever. I loved every second of it, from small things like a conversation I had with a new friend, to getting to participate in programs that were planned and led by teens. At the end of every spring retreat, every senior gets to talk about their experience in NFTY and what they will take from it since this would be their last event. I remember watching all the seniors, my sister included, with such joy in their eyes while they talked about NFTY like they could go on forever. Their words really stuck with me, and they inspire me to be the leader I am today. This event was the start of 3 years filled with amazing memories and even more amazing people. 

Menorah Lighting - Molly Schless

About the Author: Molly Schless is a junior at Buffalo Grove High School. She enjoys singing in many of her school’s music programs such as vocal jazz, acapella, and choir. Molly also loves to read, cuddle with her pets, and spend time with her friends. 


Happy Seventh Night of Chanukah: How No Shame On U Brings Light to My Life by Toren Strauss

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the sixth night, we will hear from Toren about his experience with No Shame On U.

My name is Toren Strauss and this year I am representing No Shame On U on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC). Founded in November 2014, No Shame on U is a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating the stigma associated with mental health conditions and raising awareness in the Jewish community and beyond. The goal is for the people who need help to seek it, for family members and friends to know how to provide proper support and to save lives.

Menorah Lighting - Toren Strauss

As a teen I understand that struggling with your mental health is incredibly challenging, and to not be able to be open about it without fear of being isolated or cut out is even more challenging. It not only is an important cause to me because of my experiences, but mental health stigma has also affected my friends and highlights how many people the stigma affects. My favorite NSOU event that I have taken part of is the Virtual Yoga with a special focus on mental well-being and mindfulness every Tuesday led by Mary Zimmerman. I enjoy giving myself 30 minutes to relax and I can feel the physical, emotional, and therapeutic benefits directly after and throughout the rest of the week. Being in the present allows me to reflect on my week and recently myself for the upcoming challenges of the week. The yoga sessions have allowed me to even practice it on my own time. Before I play sports or do any work or homework, I always start with some mindfulness exercises to help me get started. I am an extremely busy person and the relaxation and stretching for just 30 minutes a day makes all the difference. 

Toren Strauss

About the Author: Toren is a sophomore at North Shore Country Day School; prior to high school, he attended Chicago Jewish Day School for 10 years! In his free time, Toren is active and enjoys golf, basketball, baseball, and skiing with his friends and family. He also loves to read fantasy books. Toren is a member of Am Yisrael Conservative Congregation, and he enjoys eating Jewish foods - his favorite is matzo ball soup. 


Happy Sixth Night of Chanukah: How NFTY Brings Light to My Life by Justin Rubenstein

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the sixth night, we will hear from Justin about his experience with NFTY.

My name is Justin Rubenstein and I represent NFTY on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC).  

Throughout the year,  NFTY-CAR (Chicago Area Region) runs a ton of programs and events, both in person and virtual, in Chicagoland.  

These events are based on social action, Israel, Jewish culture & prayer, song leading, and fun. NFTY is open for primarily 9-12 graders with a 6-8 grade program. NFTY also is led by a group of teens who are elected to be on the regional board. There are also Va'adot which are committees of people focused on a specific aspect of NFTY. For example, I am on the Social Action & Programming  Va’ad, but there are also many more, including song leading, Israel, 678, and social media.

Justin Rubenstein Menorah Lighting

I first came to NFTY in 7th Grade where I wanted to see camp friends, meet new people, and be part of the Jewish community. My favorite event in NFTY was the NFTY 678 Kallah I went to when I was in 7th Grade at OSRUI. I had a lot of fun staying overnight and going to a waterpark and enjoying the community. Another event I really liked was the Kolbo, our final event of the year and the first event on Zoom right as the pandemic was starting. This was my first high school event, and I had a lot of fun being welcomed into the full Jewish community and enjoying being with other people since we were all stuck at home. NFTY is a community I love and cherish so much, and I hope you consider coming to a NFTY event because it is a great way to get involved in the Jewish Community. 

Justin Rubenstien Photo

About the Author: Justin is a sophomore at Vernon Hills High School. He is a member of Student Council and #vhgive and is the Director of Activism for JSA (the school’s political, debate, and activism club). Justin is actively involved in his synagogue, Congregation Or Shalom and their youth group ‘Jew Crew’. He loves NFTY and spending summers at OSRUI. 


Happy Fifth Night of Chanukah: How BBYO Brings Light to My Life by Tamar Agam

 Permanent link

Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the fifth night, we will hear from Tamar about her experience with BBYO.

Hello! My name is Tamar Agam, and I am representing BBYO on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) this year. I have been a member for about five years now, and in that time, I have held several leadership positions. Through these experiences, I have been able to gain invaluable leadership skills and confidence. I have also been lucky enough to make some amazing friends from not just across the country, but the world. BBYO is an international youth movement and is dedicated to bringing more meaningful Jewish experiences to more Jewish teens. It has reached 60 countries, with 40 regions and 700 chapters worldwide.

Menorah Lighting - Tamar Agam 

BBYO has a rich history, and many traditions special to the organization; something that creates a close community. Split into BBG (female identifying), AZA (male identifying), and BBYO (co-ed) chapters, this organization has several unique opportunities to all teens who identify themselves to be Jewish. Not only is this the largest pluralistic Jewish youth movement, but it also has a large variety of leadership, summer, and regional experiences to inspire all its members. It is entirely teen led, and every chapter is unique.  

This year, I have been looking forward to passing down my legacy onto the younger members of my chapter and watching them grow into amazing leaders. To me, BBYO is so much more than just a youth movement; it is a home. I have enjoyed every second I’ve spent dedicated to this organization, and I am incredibly thankful for all the experiences I have been able to gain! 

Tamar Agam

About the Author: Tamar is a senior at Plainfield North High School, where she is involved in several activities including National Honors Society, French club, Marching Band, and the Jewish Student Club (JSC). She has been a member of BBYO for almost five years and loves to learn traditional Jewish stories and lessons. 


Happy Fourth Night of Chanukah: How USY Brings Light to My Life by Allison Finn

 Permanent link

Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the fourth night, we will hear from Allison about her experience with USY. 

My name is Allison Finn, and I represent USY on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC). USY (United Synagogue Youth) is the Conservative Movement’s youth group. USY is for high-school-aged Jewish teens all over North America and centers around leadership, inclusivity, Tikkun Olam, Israel, and more.  

Crazy Dots

I got involved in USY in 3rd grade when I was able to participate in Kadinkers and Kadima programming (now known as Gesher and Chaverim). This is programming geared towards elementary and middle school-aged kids. Since this time, I’ve been able to develop my love for USY that has been rooted in me for so many years. Once I was able to transition to USY and High School, I began to grow my leadership in the organization. I have been honored to serve on my chapters board (BJUSY) as the Israel Affairs VP, Executive VP, and President (my current role). I even got the chance to serve on the Chicago Region (CHUSY) general board, planning a weekend convention for middle schoolers.  

Regionally, my favorite program that I have attended was the spring convention (Kinnus) in 2019. During this weekend I was able to make deeper connections with friends, learn more about Judaism, and grow as a human. I have also loved attending and leading various chapter events including going Ice skating in the city, Yom Ha'atzmaut celebrations, and an Interfaith ‘Feed My Starving Children’ program.  

Additionally, I will be attending International Convention in Washington D.C. in December. At International Convention I will be participating in social action projects around the city, connecting with Jewish Teens from all around North America, and growing my love for Judaism. USY has inspired me to step out of my comfort zone, provided a space to truly be myself, and helped deepen my connection and love for Judaism and Israel. 

Allison Finn

About the Author: Allison is a junior at Buffalo Grove High School. In addition to USY, she is also currently a part of Diller Teen Fellows, Shalom Corps, serves as a Jewish Student Connection (JSC) Leader, and has attended Camp Chi for the last 7 years. She loves to be a leader in the Jewish community and is excited to be a part of JTAC this year! 


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