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

Adding Some Jewish into Your Week: Traveling Judaism

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Looking for some new thoughts on this week’s Torah reading? In this series, Daniel unpacks some of the questions that we can ask about the stories in the Torah. Below are his reflections on Parshat Terumah: 

This week’s parsha contains two of my favorite Jewish themes. In this parsha, God asks the Israelites to contribute their gold, silver, copper, and other high value items in order to build the Mishkan, the traveling tabernacle. Then, God gives Moses specific instructions and specifications on how to build the Mishkan so that it can be dismantled, transported, and reassembled as the Israelites journey through the desert towards the land of Israel. 

The first important theme in this parsha can be found in its name: Terumah. In Hebrew, the word terumah means contribution. This is an extremely simple, yet fundamental, part of Jewish life: the idea that in order for our community to flourish, each person must contribute. We even have a ceremony that celebrates the commencement of each Jewish teen's ability to begin to contribute to the community: a bar/bat mitzvah. This can be found throughout Jewish life – from the need for ten people to form a minyan (quorum) in order to pray, to our prayer structure where each blessing must have someone to say amen in response. Each person brings their own background, their own personal prayers, and their own voice to the table, and the community cannot thrive without each individual contribution to the greater whole. 

The second theme that resonates for me is Judaism’s portability. Moses and the Israelites are commanded to build the mishkan so that it can transported from place to place as easily as possible. I believe that Judaism is constructed in a way that allows us to bring it with us to any place that we travel. We can bring with us the values we receive from the Torah, as well as the stories and traditions that we learn from our community.  

These two ideas allow each Jewish person to evolve and grow, while still being able to immerse themselves in Jewish life. No matter where a person is on their Jewish journey, their changing ideas and understanding of Judaism does not affect their ability to contribute to the community. Both contribution and portability allow flexibility for each person to live a fulfilling Jewish life, wherever they are in the world. Just as we can pack up the mishkan and bring it where ever our journey takes us, we can take all elements of our Jewish life with us wherever we go, and use them to inform our lives. As we go into Shabbat this week, let’s all take time to reflect on what we try to bring to our own Jewish communities, and how we bring Judaism with us throughout our lives. 

Presenting the 2018 18 Under 18 Honorees

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Springboard is excited to present this year's 18 Under 18 Honorees! We were so impressed with the quality and quantity of the nominees. We are thankful to the community members and teens who took part in the nomination and review process. Springboard was created to help more teens find their fit in the Jewish community. We are fortunate to have such passionate teens and professionals working together to create a stronger Chicagoland Jewish community. Join us at 18 Under 18: A Celebration of Jewish Teens on April 16, 2018 to celebrate our 18 Honorees,dedicated youth professionals,  as well as the rest of the outstanding teens in our community.

18 under 18 2018

Jordana Bornstein, Deerfield High School 

Sarah Gruettner, William Fremd High School 

Celia Giles, Glenbrook North High School 

Max Marino, Highland Park High School 

Samuel Schwartz, Niles North High School 

Abbey Finn, Buffalo Grove High School 

Adina Arnet, Ida Crown Jewish Academy 

Tziona Chernoff, Ida Crown Jewish Academy  

Ellie Rosenberg, Evanston Township High School 

Danielle Wolff, Vernon Hills High School 

Jake Adler, Oswego East High School 

Zev Blumenthal, Niles North High School 

Mindy Kramer, Grayslake North 

Adina Drapkin, Hanna Sacks Bais Yaakov 

Isaac Freedman, Highland Park High School 

AJ Katzenstein, Adlai E. Stevenson High School 

Sawyer Goldsmith, Rochelle Zell Jewish High School 

Carly Colen, Buffalo Grove High School  

How a Little Bit of Outdoors Can do a Lot of Good

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In our daily lives, many of us don't have enough to enjoy outdoor adventures. We rarely have a chance to breath the fresh air, put away our cell phones, and take a break from the screens (televisions, computers, etc.) we sit in front of all day.

Camp Chi 1

We need to stop looking at cool pictures of nature and actually go outside and explore. There is a reason that movies and TV shows about going out into the wild are so captivating. It’s because when we are surrounded by nature and away from technology, we can truly be free. Through outdoor adventures you can learn about yourself and the world around you like you never have before and have new experiences that you will remember for the rest of your life.

Breakaway Wilderness Adventure

This Spring Break, on March 26-30, Camp Chi and Springboard are hosting Breakaway: Wilderness Adventure. This program will teach a variety of important life and survival skills and will help you discover how crafty and savvy you can be! You will learn the basics, such as navigating, team building, and safety skills, but will also learn all about fire building (without a lighter), cooking over a fire, shelter building, trail blazing, and more! Not only this, but campers will also get to explore the trees while zip lining, taking on the challenges of the ropes course, and conquering the Aerial Adventure Course! This program will be an experience unlike any other, and we hope to see you there.

Camp Chi 2

If you spend your spring break indoors, you may miss out on amazing opportunities and valuable skill building. This March, break out with BreakAway: Wilderness Adventure!

Breakaway Wilderness Adventure 2

Meet Jessie: JCC Chicago's Newest Team Member

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Hi! I’m JCC Chicago’s newest hire, Jessie Morris. I couldn’t be more excited about joining the team of awesome teen engagement professionals here in Chicago! My role is working primarily with Jewish Student Connection (JSC), an afterschool club in 15 different schools across the Chicagoland area, where teens can meet up to explore Jewish values and build a community together. JSC Clubs are great place to meet people outside of your usual social circle and make new friends you might not have had a chance to meet otherwise. 


A little about me: I’m from Nebraska (Go Huskers!), I studied Political Science at Bradley University, and moved up to Chicago after graduation. I compete in the Chicago Triathlon every year, play competitive bocce ball, and love Thai food. I also love spending time with my family, especially my two-year-old nephew.  

I am so thrilled to have the opportunity work with teens across the Chicagoland area. I was very active in BBYO in high school and had some really awesome advisors. They were people I looked up to and encouraged me to try new experiences and break out of my shell.  Now, through JSC I get to be the one encouraging teens to try something new. 

So, itf you are interested in JSC, have any ideas for cool teen programs, or just want to talk about the latest episode of Riverdale, please don’t hesitate to reach out!  

-Jessie Morris

How Taking a Risk at Camp Changed My Life

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Music has been a significant part of my life since I was ten years old. If I had not made the choice eight years ago to be courageous and sing in front of an audience, my personality would not be what it is today. 

Molly Handleman

The first time I sang in front of anyone, it was on a stage in front of three hundred people. I was only ten years old, participating in my first overnight camp experience and trying to figure out what I desired to do for the rest of my life. I decided to take a risk by signing up for the camp talent show to experiment with my possible singing abilities. Once I got up on stage and started to sing in front of my entire camp, filled with people I had just met two weeks ago, I instantly fell in love with singing.  

When I was nine years old, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I became insecure, fearful, and unable to live in the moment. I used singing and songwriting as a coping strategy.  Every time I felt anxious, I would pick up a pencil and start writing down my thoughts and they would eventually turn into a song. I would also constantly sing and listen to my music so that the daunting thoughts of anxiety would drift from my mind. 

Music gives me a purpose. Today, even though I struggle with my anxiety, I am so much better than I have ever been because music saved me from the horrifying anxiety attacks, loss of hope, and fear that I would never get better.  I dream of a career where I can sing professionally and am working hard toward that dream. 

I am so honored to be performing at 18 Under 18 this April. I have sung in front of over 1,000 people and have experience performing at all different kinds of events, but I have never sung in front of a crowd of my peers. I am eager to be a part of a celebration of teens in Chicago and to perform for a crowd filled with people in my generation. 

-Molly Handleman, Junior 

Adding Some Jewish Into Your Week: Learning from the Other

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By: Daniel Warshawsky

Looking for some new thoughts on this week’s Torah reading? In this series, Daniel unpacks some of the questions that we can ask about the stories in the Torah. Below are his reflections on Parshat Yitro:

Who do we learn our greatest lessons from? What do we do when something becomes too big a burden to bear alone? These are the two big questions that came to mind as I read through Parshat Yitro. Now, you're probably asking yourself what these two questions and answers have to do with each other, if anything at all. In this week's Torah reading we learn some our most important lessons from people who are different from us, and when something becomes too difficult for us to bear alone, we should rely on those around us. It happens that, in this parsha, Moses learn this important lesson from Yitro, a man who comes from outside the Israelite camp.

Yitro is a Midianite, and father of Moses' wife, Tzipporah. After hearing about God's great miracles, Yitro leaves Midian and comes to the Israelite camp, and brings with him Moses' wife and two sons. After arriving at the camp, he sees how Moses has attempted to lead the people completely alone, and advises him to create a group of judges to help him govern and administrate the people.

From this short excerpt from our story, we learn the two important ideas of asking for help and accepting insight from people who are outside our situation. Yitro is not an Israelite. He has no prior relationship with the Israelites as a people, yet he gives Moses advice that completely changes the makeup of this new nation of people. From this we are taught that we have so much to learn from people who are different than us, and that it often takes an outsider to point us in the right direction.

Equally as important as who taught Moses the lesson, is the lesson itself, that we cannot do everything alone. Up until Yitro's entrance to the Israelite camp, Moses had been leading the people completely by himself. Sure, his brother Aaron helped him a bit, but he was making all of the major decisions on his own. Yitro could see the toll this was taking on Moses and taught him an incredibly important lesson – that he needed to learn to rely on the people around him.

These are two lessons that we should take to heart. No burden should be carried alone, and people who are the most different from us can teach us the most important lessons. We have the benefit of living in a diverse country where we can be surrounded by people who are different from us. Let's make sure to heed the lessons from Parshat Yitro, and find ways to share our burdens and benefit from the wisdom of others.