Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

My Hebrew Story by Blake Finkel

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Blake Finkel

My Hebrew journey began on Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings at my Synagogue when I was in 2nd grade. With many years until high school and more focus on socializing with friends than studying what we were learning, I did not make instant progress. Through my Hebrew school years, I learned Hebrew primarily to be used in prayers. While part of class was dedicated to understanding Hebrew and its history, most of the Hebrew I learned was memorized and not fully understood.  After my bar-mitzvah, I was inspired to learn Hebrew and become fluent in reading, writing, and conversing.

When I entered high school, I joined almost all of my classmates in taking Spanish. Everyone had taken Spanish in middle school and it was the easy choice to continue taking the Spanish path. During my freshman year, I learned about the Hebrew program at my school and my interest in learning Hebrew resurfaced. I made the decision to take Hebrew during my Sophomore year.

Hebrew class in high school provides so much more than a simple credit and learning a language. For me, Hebrew class provided a family. Spending time with people who shared the same passions that I do created an amazing learning environment where I could turn to any classmate for help.

As I continued to learn Hebrew, I suddenly understood what I was saying when I prayed. Services became more of reading and understanding, rather than reciting a memorized list. Through different field trips and community events, I began to meet other teens at different schools who were taking Hebrew and I was immediately able to have a connection. Now, I am in Hebrew National Honors society which hosts many community events to teach and provide Hebrew experiences to people of all backgrounds in the community. As a student, I wish to continue my Hebrew journey into college and beyond. As a member of the community, I encourage kids, teens, and adults to take Hebrew, as it is never too early nor too late to begin or continue your Hebrew Journey.

Tikkun Olam with Tivnu School Break Trip

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When I first learned about Tikkun Olam with Tivnu, a trip focusing on houselessness and how to combat it, it immediately caught my attention. I’m constantly looking for ways to change the world with a hands on approach so this program sounded like such an amazing opportunity. At first I was somewhat hesitant to try this new experience but that all changed as soon as I started meeting the other teens and leaders just as eager as me to make a difference. Every day was packed with amazing volunteer work, learning experiences, and time to explore the beautiful city of Portland.

Tikkun Olam at Tivnu

Ania Sacks (left) with friends on Springboard’s Tikkun Olam with Tivnu School Break Trip 

My favorite volunteer opportunity was when we visited Cascadia Clusters, a nonprofit that trains people to build tiny homes. Most of my time at Cascadia Clusters was spent on de-nailing boards that could then be used as structure on tiny houses. After de-nailing for a while, I along with two other people on the trip built a sawhorse; a table that supports wood for sawing. It was such a cool experience to do something like this that I had never done before and I felt so proud when looking at the final product. Both activities really helped me see that even an activity as small as de-nailing boards or building a sawhorse can contribute massively to the overall product of a tiny house. Another activity we did was go to a small organization called Outside the Frame. Outside the Frame is a production company that trains homeless youth to be directors and actors on films they create. While at Outside the Frame, we watched a series of short films written, directed by, and starring some of the incredible people we had the chance to talk to.

One of the things that resonated with me from this experience was when one of the women told us about how their mission at Outside the Frame is to show houseless people that they deserve more than just needs. I think a lot of people see houseless people as just needing food and shelter. While this is true, I think that places like Outside the Frame are so important to give a creative outlet to the houseless and give back their dignity. Throughout this blog post I’ve been using the term houseless rather than homeless. As we learned on this trip, some people prefer the term houseless instead of homeless because a house is just a building whereas a home is a place where you feel safe and surrounded by a community. Overall, this trip was such an incredible experience. I learned so much, experienced so many amazing things, made many new friends, and had an amazing time. 

Ania Sacks is a sophomore at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Ania went on Tikkun Olam with Tivnu and is also involved in many other Jewish activities such as NFTY, Teen Seed 613, Jewish Student Connection club, Madrichim, and Oak Park Temple youth group (OPTY). Outside of school, Ania loves to work on art, write, and play the violin which she has been playing for over nine years.

My Journey to International Sh’licha

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Kelly Fagel

When I first joined BBYO, I didn’t understand the magnitude of the organization.  All I knew was that I was in a chapter, sometimes I hung out with the whole region, and people go on this thing called CLTC in the summer.  The more time I spent in BBYO, the more it made sense. I was opened up to a whole world of teens just like me.

My chapter has always been on the smaller side.  We are a tight-knit group of girls with passion and strong sisterhood.  Stepping into a leadership role felt like a natural move for me, so I ran for my first board position for the Spring Term of my eighth grade year.

It wasn’t until spring of freshman year when I was elected to my first term as Chapter Sh’licha that I gained some clarity about my future in this organization.  There was something about the position that I was immediately drawn to. The work I did didn’t feel like a chore, and it was something I felt excited about. I was right where I needed to be.  At CLTC in 2018, the idea of running for International Board popped into my mind. It was a short, quick thought that I quickly dismissed, knowing I was committing myself to lots of other activities in high school.  Regional board felt like a reasonable goal to work towards, but not until my senior year.

I remember a night when I told my older sister, “I think I’m going to wait until senior year to run for Regional Sh’licha… I feel so passionate about it and I want to save it until then.”  Just a few months later, regional declaration packets were released, and I realized that if I felt so passionate about the position, there was no reason to wait. On the day of regional elections, everything clicked into place for me.  I was, once again, right where I needed to be.

I left for Perlman Summer (International Leadership Training Conference and International Kallah) with the intention of gaining perspective and thinking about my future.  International Sh’licha had moved to the front of my mind, and I wanted to use the summer as my time to decide if it was right for me. In order to do so, I fully immersed myself in Jewish experiences at Perlman.  I planned Shabbat services and made the most of the opportunities presented. I am so thankful for that summer. Leaving Perlman, though, I felt more passion but only slightly more clarity than I had before I left.  When the time came for declarations for International Board, I would decide what route to take.

I was in love with the work I was doing in my region, and the idea of doing that work on a global scale was within reach, so why not go for it?  I began the election process, and I found myself in the same position I was in when I ran for Regional Sh’licha: right where I needed to be. Of course, there was more pressure and the stakes felt higher, but I knew that whether I won or lost, I wanted to put everything I had into the election… and so I did.

Elections were a blur.  My stomach was in knots for every election that preceded mine, but something was waiting for me at the end of the day: a new board position or a different path in BBYO.  I just wanted to know which it would be. I don’t remember too much from being on the podium during my election, but I do remember one familiar feeling. I felt like I did when I ran for Chapter Sh’licha and Regional Sh’licha.  I was right where I needed to be, up on that podium, sharing my passion with the International Order of the B’nai B’rith Girls. 


Kelly Fagel has just been elected to serve as the 32nd International Sh’licha (Vice President of Jewish Heritage, Social Action, and Community Service) of the B’nai B’rith Girls.  She has been an active member in BBYO since her eighth grade year, and she’s taken many leadership roles throughout that time. Kelly is passionate about creating meaningful Jewish experiences and involving teens in their communities.  She is so excited to enter a new role in BBYO and work for the Jewish community on a global scale.