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Springboard Beyond: After 18 Under 18 by Randi Wilk

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For as long as I can remember, both the Jewish community and the disability community have been major parts of my life. More accurately, the Jewish disability community has been instrumental in not only my upbringing, but in developing my passion for Jewish inclusion. 

My 18 Under 18 project centered around improving inclusion and accessibility in synagogues and creating a curriculum around disabilities, accessibility, inclusion, and ableism. While I made progress on this goal during my time as an honoree, I was less able to implement anything as my first year of college was interrupted by the pandemic. At that time, I had begun building a relationship with my University’s Hillel and Chabad and connecting with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh. 

While serving as a campus engagement intern (CEI) with Hillel in the 2020-2021 remote school year, I began to notice something: our campus Hillel was not as accessible as it could be. I knew that my personal experiences in the disability world gave me a unique perspective on this issue and allowed me to see areas for improvement that those who were less familiar might not have even noticed.

I brought my concerns to our Hillel director, Kari Semel, and she and I have been working together with the entire Hillel ever since. Currently, I work with Hillel as a Disability, Accessibility and Inclusion Liaison. This role encompasses multiple responsibilities, some of which include: educational presentations to leadership on disability, finding and creating solutions where we see areas of inaccessibility, and adapting our Hillel both in physical space and attitude to be a more inclusive space for all. 

In all my work I have done with Hillel, my 18 Under 18 experience has inspired me. I think of the young people I met in my cohort, all leading impactful change in our communities. Our cohort experience taught us all to step up, take action, and make a difference wherever we can. Together we learned to take our passions and change the world, and that is truly an experience I will never forget.

Randi

About the Author: Randi is a Junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying speech and hearing sciences, linguistics, and American Sign Language. There, she serves as the secretary for the university’s Best Buddies club (fostering friendships with individuals of all abilities), mental health chair for Rho Psi Eta academic sorority, and works with the campus Hillel JUC. She is an alum of 18 Under 18 in the 2019 cohort and has continued her Jewish involvement on campus through both Hillel and Chabad. 

Meet Jessica: Springboard’s New Teen Engagement Specialist

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I am so happy to join the Springboard team! In 2017, I had my first role at JUF, working as an intern as part of the Lewis Summer Intern Program. I knew right away that I was passionate about connecting with the local Jewish community and helping individuals find out what programs or opportunities excite them! 

I grew up in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. As a teen, I was involved with my local BBYO chapter. At my first meeting everyone was so warm and welcoming that I couldn’t wait to get more involved. I joined as a freshman in high school and liked that I was able to connect with teens in 8th through 12th grade. I later served on the board as the Sh'licha (Vice President of Jewish Enrichment) and Gizborit (Treasurer). I spent my summers at Beber Camp and met people from all over the country (including my husband) and got involved in activities I would have never had the opportunity to participate in otherwise. I learned to waterski, make jewelry, sail, and so much more!  

Jessica at Camp

These experiences shaped who I am today. Whether it was hosting a fundraiser for my BBYO chapter or traveling on 3-day canoe camping trip, these moments helped me make amazing friends, grow as a leader, and encouraged me to try new things.  

Those experiences are why I am thrilled to be on the Springboard team. It is incredible to think that my role is to connect Jewish teens with programs and opportunities that have the potential to change their entire lives and inspire them to explore their Jewish identity. I am driven by my passion to help connect teens with meaningful Jewish experience. Whether it’s through TOV Teens, USY, JSC, NCSY, JSU, NFTY, BBYO, Keshet, summer camp, or the dozens of other Jewish opportunities for teens in the Chicago area, I am excited to help each teen find the program or multiple programs that will leave a positive and lasting impact on their life. 

When I’m not connecting Jewish teens with programs, I enjoy group fitness classes, trying fun restaurants in Chicago, and taking walks by the lake. 

Jessica Bank


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