Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

Summer Highlights: Visiting Camps

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Waking up two hours earlier than normal to drive three hours is not often the start of a great day at work. However, last week my co-worker Sam and I did just that and spent an amazing day with the teens at JCC Camp Chi. The ride went by quickly and before we knew it we had reached the camp gate,  the same gate that granted me entry to my home away from home for twelve summers. I felt like I was in a weird, wonderful time warp. Even though there were only a handful of people there from my own camp days, it was clear to me that the campers are still having ruach (spirit) filled summers and making memories like the ones that I deeply cherish.  

The week prior, I had the pleasure of visiting Beber Camp. What was amazing about this visit was unlike JCC Camp Chi, I didn’t walk in with my own history in that space or community. None the less, I felt almost as if I could see joy and comradery the campers were experiencing by spending their summer immersed in a community rooted in Jewish values.  

One of the perks of my job is getting to see these amazing summer camp programs in action and apparently, I am not the only one who enjoys this element of Jewish professional work. I enjoyed reading Lonnie Nasatir’s reflections on visiting camps and how he sees his own camp experience relevant in his work as JUF President.  As someone who often finds themselves sitting across from a teen who is facing the difficult decision of participating in a staff-in-training program at a summer camp or getting a “real job,” I am thrilled to be able to point to Lonnie as an example of someone who truly sees the value in the important skills camp nurtures.  

Sadly, I have no more camp visit scheduled for this summer, but t I look forward to hearing about all the amazing adventures Chicago area teens are having in day and overnight camp programs this summer.  

Brittany Abramowicz Cahan is the Assistant Director of Springboard. She has spent 20 summers at camps including JCC Camp Chi, Camp Ramah Wisconsin, Habonim Dror Camp Tavor and Camp Mountain Chai. Brittany credits her fire building abilities, tie-dye expertise and creative problem-solving skills all to her camp days. She loves to meet with teens and families to hear about their experiences at camp and help them find programs throughout the year the offer the camp essence.   

We’d love to feature your favorite camp memory on the Springboard Blog email Springboard@juf.org if you would like to contribute.  


My Hebrew Story by Stephanie Kallish

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Hi, my name is Stephanie Kallish and I will be a Junior in the fall at Highland Park High School. The Highland Park High School Hebrew program has been such a positive experience for me in many ways. I have learned so much, improved my conversation and comprehension skills, and forged relationships with other Jewish teens my age. 

Ever since I was little, I have always had a passion for Hebrew and Israel. Unlike the average kid, I looked forward to going to Hebrew school. My teachers told me how amazing Israel was and how important it is to our faith. After traveling to Israel in eighth grade with Ta’am Yisrael, I understood what they meant and developed an appreciation for how modern and fast paced Israel truly is. This deepened my connection to the Hebrew language. It is not only the language of the Torah, but it is vibrant, current and cool! 

I recommend Hebrew to any incoming high schooler. Not only is Hebrew an amazing and fascinating language, but the class is engaging, fun and tight knit.  There is something very special about having a class with the same people every year. Typically, the summer can be super stressful finding out who your teachers are and who is in your classes, but Hebrew classes have stability of teachers and friends. After being in a class with the same people for four years, you will make friends that you never thought you would.  In Hebrew we are all so close because we automatically have one thing in common; we chose to take Hebrew all four years.  

If you are even considering taking Hebrew, I recommend you sign up. For me, taking Hebrew was one of the most positive decisions I have made so far for myself. It has had an impact on my social, academic and Jewish life.  It has also helped me foster a much stronger connection to Israel than I ever had before. My Hebrew story is a positive one, and I hope you one day you can create your own. 

USWNT: Another Mark In History

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“Goal! USA leads!” the commentator screamed. In the 61st minute, in front of thousands of screaming fans, and millions more watching around the world, Megan Rapinoe gave the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) the lead that eventually propelled them to their second straight FIFA Women’s World Cup title over the Netherlands.   

Since its inception in 1991, the USWNT has won 4 FIFA Women’s World Cup titles and has placed top-3 in each tournament.  Beyond their successes as athletes, the USWNT team has been making a difference by elevating the need for equality of female athletes, both in terms of pay and public recognition.

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As an avid sports fan, watching the USWNT celebrate their most recent title got me thinking about the role that influential Jewish athletes have played in my life and the impact they have had on their sports and our society. We are fortunate to live in a time when Jewish athletes are celebrated for the contributions they have made to the world of sports and, much like the women of USWNT, have become household names. For example, a few years ago Aly Raisman, a two-time Olympic gymnast, performed her floor routine to Hava Nagila in the 2012 Olympics. Some of you may even have heard her speak at BBYO's International Convention in Orlando. She is an athlete who embraces her Jewish identity and has intertwined it with her athletic identity. Agnes Keleti is another great example of a Jewish athlete who has made history. As a Holocaust survivor and an Olympian, her 5 gold medals, 3 silver, and 2 bronze showed the world in the 1950’s what Jewish women were capable of and what real strength looks like. And, of course, Sandy Koufax is famously known for refusing to play in a World Series game because it fell on Yom Kippur. Like the USWNT, these athletes have made a difference in the way that we envision world class athletes and used their athletic platform to elevate important topics. 

This week’s win was a great reminder that sports is about so much more than just amazing athletic performances. It felt amazing to join millions of fans across the world in cheering on the USNWT, to look to them as examples of strength and inspiration. 

Think you’ve got what it takes to be an athletic superstar? All the athletes above started somewhere, whether it was team practice after school, playing in leagues or clubs, all working incredibly hard to get where they are now. If you’re an aspiring athlete, consider weaving some Jewish values into sports through the JCC Maccabi and Artfest Games. The Maccabi Games are an Olympic-style sporting competition that provides teens a once in a lifetime opportunity to not only play the sport they love, but do so in a nurturing, yet competitive Jewish environment. This summer 78 Chicago area youth athletes are headed to Detroit and Atlanta to participating in this summers’ JCC Maccabi Games. To learn more about the JCC Maccabi Games, click here or contact Julie Minor at jminor@jccchicago.org. 

Maccabi Games photo

Sam Grobart is not only a Teen Engagement Specialist, but a die-hard Chicago sports fan. His favorite soccer team is the Queens Park Rangers FC. When he is not cheering for QPR, the Bulls, or the Sox, he is playing sports himself. Sam would love to chat with you about sports and can even help you connect your passion for sports with the Jewish community.   

My Hebrew Story by Elie Rosenberg

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I first chose to take Hebrew in high school because I had taken Hebrew at my Jewish day school which I went through eighth grade, and I wanted to continue learning the language. I had enjoyed learning Hebrew at my Jewish day school, but taking Hebrew in a public high school truly allowed me to appreciate the uniqueness of the language and the opportunities that I had been given to study it in day school, at my public high school, and at overnight camp.

Hebrew is a language rich in history, meaning, and nuances that is fascinating to break down and analyze. The intuitive patterns in Hebrew make the language surprisingly straightforward to learn. However, my strongest connection to Hebrew comes from the people I have met through my studies. Hebrew class in high school has been an extremely important community for me. Most Hebrew classes are mixed grade levels which brings a sense of “family” into these classes. My Hebrew teachers and faculty advisor with my independent study have been supportive presences that have urged me to dig deeper about myself and into Hebrew. Being able to speak to Israelis because of my knowledge of Hebrew has been the best part. I stayed with an Israeli family for a week going into junior year and because I knew Hebrew, I was able to deepen my connection with the host family. Additionally, knowing Hebrew has allowed me to connect to Israeli camp counselors at my summer camp. 

Also, the Israeli culture that I have learned about through studying Hebrew, is absolutely fantastic. I love listening to Israeli music and watching TV shows in Hebrew. Knowing Hebrew has allowed me to delve into a culture that I love!  

Regardless of religion or beliefs, Hebrew is an incredibly useful language that has the power to open a multitude of doors; professionally, socially, and on a more personal level. I highly recommend that others take Hebrew to build the same kinds of connections that I was able to build through my study of Hebrew and to be exposed to an awesome language!