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Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

Meet Danielle: The New Teen Engagement Specialist for Springboard!

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I am so happy to be joining the Springboard team. After working for Congregation Beth Am this past year (2022-2023) as a Social Media Specialist, I found a passion for building and supporting Jewish communities, while also being creative through content creation and social media. These two areas of interest mesh perfectly in this role, and I look forward to utilizing my interests to connect with Jewish teens in the Chicagoland area. 

I grew up in West Rogers Park and attended Akiba Schecter Jewish Day School in Hyde Park. During my childhood, I spent a lot of time in Apachi JCC Rogers Park, Apachi JCC Skokie, and Camp Nageela Midwest. I enjoyed the atmosphere and activities at camp. During high school, I was involved with NCSY and would go to several events and shabbatons throughout the years. I was also a camp counselor and drama specialist for Apachi Skokie’s Performing Arts Camp (PAC) for several years. I met many amazing people and made lifelong friends along the way. We made long-lasting memories and immersed ourselves in Jewish songs, foods, and stories.

Superheroes

Apachi JCC Skokie Superhero Day

NCSY Group

NCSY Shabbaton

Being a part of a Jewish community has profoundly impacted who I am and has led to my joining the JUF as their Teen Engagement Specialist. I want to share the joy of being a part of the Jewish community, no matter what that may look like for each individual. There is no wrong way to participate or show up. 

When I am not at the JUF, I can often be found trying a new restaurant, going to concerts, or relaxing with my cats, Gus and Zeus.

Gus and Zeus

Gus and Zeus

The Importance of Getting Involved

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Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. About six years ago, I was sitting in a crowded auditorium at Vernon Hills High School, carefully listening to a passionate speech from the student body president at first year student orientation. I remember the advice he gave, and it all seemed like the standard clichés: don’t procrastinate, study for exams, practice academic honesty, make meaningful friendships, challenge yourself with your course work, cherish these four years etc. However, there was one piece of advice that was said more times than I can even express: “Get involved.” Now, that was not just something the student body president was saying. I heard it from everyone: teachers, parents, grandparents, upperclassmen, and my friends. Even though this advice seemed pretty obvious, it was easier said than done. “Getting involved” in high school activities is more nuanced than just joining any club you can, for I would say it is most interesting to join activities that cater to all your different interests. 

When I came to high school, I knew that I wanted to be on the dance team. I had danced all throughout my childhood performing and participating in countless recitals, competitions, summer intensives, you name it. However, while I was quite comfortable dancing, I knew that it was imperative for me to try something new. During my sophomore year, I did a project on gender inequality in Peru, and it was this that inspired me to be one of the founders of VHHS’s first gender equality club. Nevertheless, this club and project was the very beginning, for I wanted to learn about how gender equality and Judaism intersect. During my senior year, I wanted to try something new, and with our world being flipped upside down by the pandemic, I wanted to find something where I can make an impact in a virtual sense. Therefore, I applied to be part of Moving Traditions’ Kol Koleinu Feminist Teen Fellowship, and it was there where I met people from all around the country passionate about various gender equality issues. I got to lead teachings about climate change and create a social change project about reproductive health. It was experiences like this one that made my less-than-normal high school experience special. High school gave me the opportunity to explore all my passions, and it allowed me to meet different groups of people and to practice different skills. It was this involvement that helped me at George Washington University when I started to join activities and create meaningful relationships with my friends and professors. It also inspired me to major in international affairs and take classes related to international human rights and gender equality. 

Imagine you are about to graduate from high school. When you take your stroll down memory lane, you want to remember all the relationships, passions, and skills you learned in high school. So simply put, try something new because you never know what will be most interesting. 

Sammie Reinstein Photo

Sammie Reinstein is a rising third year at the George Washington University in Washington D.C. where she studies history and international affairs. She is excited to make her second appearance on the Springboard Blog, but this time as a Lewis Summer Intern at JUF in the Integrated Fundraising Department. In high school, she was involved in the Kol Koleinu Feminist Teen Fellowship through Moving Traditions and USY. In her free time, you can find Sammie dancing, listening to Taylor Swift, or re-reading Little Women. 


How Diller Teens Fellows Helped me Explore my Jewish Identity

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Hi everyone! My name is Ariana Freimuth and I am a sophomore at Vanderbilt University. I am majoring in Human and Organizational Development with minors in Business and Data Science. During my time in high school, I was a Yearbook Editor, VP/co-founder of Women in Business, Peer Group Leader, and I played varsity Field Hockey and Lacrosse. Outside of school, I worked as a Madricha at my synagogue’s Sunday school and at Apachi Day Camp during the summers. I also participated in Voices and, last but not least, Diller Teen Fellows.  

After spending nine years at Solomon Schechter Day School, I struggled with how I would maintain my connection to Judaism upon entering a public high school. I was able to continue my involvement in the Jewish community through working at Apachi and the Sunday school, but Diller was what allowed me to explore my Jewish identity. It gave me the space to reflect on what type of role I wanted Judaism to have in my life with a more adult-like perspective for the first time. The experiential activities combined with meeting other teens from all over the world enabled me to independently shape my Jewish identity. Forming relationships with the other teens in my cohort (shoutout cohort 8!) aided this as well. Despite our three-week trip to Israel being canceled due to Covid, I gained clarity in what being Jewish meant to me and how I wanted to serve the community going forward. At Vanderbilt this past year, I kept that inspiration going through Hillel and TAMID, which is a consulting club for Israeli businesses. Because of my experiences in Diller, I am motivated to continue my involvement with the Jewish community at Vandy, and I am excited to continue this beyond as well. 

Ariana Freimuth


A Taste of Israel: My 8th Grade Journey Through Culture and Connection

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As an 8th grader, I was faced with a big choice - a three-day trip to Washington D.C. or a week-long adventure to Israel through a program once named “Ta’am Yisrael” or “Taste of Israel”, and now known as “IsraelNow”. The decision required some thought, but the chance to explore my Jewish heritage was more appealing than visiting D.C.'s historical sights. 


The anticipation built up as the plane landed in Israel. I had no clue what this place was like; I only knew of Israel through stories and my religious studies. As soon as I stepped onto Israeli soil, I was on cloud nine. I felt such a powerful sense of connection in the brief moments of stepping out of the plane. Ta’am Yisrael offered a full immersion into Jewish culture, exceeding all my expectations in a short period of time. This trip gave me the chance to learn about Jewish traditions, Israel's history, and interact with other Jewish teens. All of these things helped in shaping my identity at such a pivotal point in my life. 


Every day was an adventure. Sleep came at a premium, but who needs sleep as an 8th grader? The adrenaline and excitement fueled me. Oh… and the shakshuka! We trekked up Mount Sinai, explored the bustling markets of Jerusalem, had plenty of falafel and Israeli cuisine, and left a prayer I wrote at the Western Wall, a piece of me that still remains there.  


What made the experience even more meaningful was meeting and forming connections with Jewish teens from different backgrounds across the Chicagoland area. Their stories, viewpoints, and the deep conversations we had made me realize that I was part of a community connected by our shared history and values.  


My week in Israel wasn't just a trip; it was a crucial point in my life where I found a sense of independence and curiosity that has stuck with me. This trip allowed me to experience Israel as a vibrant, living part of my Jewish identity. I returned home not just with memories, but with a deeper understanding of my Jewish identity. 


The true value of my Ta’am Yisrael experience wasn't just from what I learned or saw, but from the perspective it gave me. It allowed me to see the diversity of the Jewish community, connect with my roots, and understand that my Jewish identity will forever be a key part of who I am. It affirmed that I am a small piece of a much larger puzzle that makes up Jewish culture. 


Now, I should mention one part of the trip that you must keep in mind - our visit to the Dead Sea. Now, nobody warned me about sunburns, so I’m going to warn you! Imagine the surprise (and everlasting sting) when I realized that the sea's salty water doesn't quite agree with sunburns. It's a memory that still brings a smile to my face, and a gentle reminder to pack extra sunblock next time. This experience, along with the countless others, continues to shape my life story as I continue my journey as a young Jewish adult. 

Stone Gomberg

About the Author: Stone Gomberg is a junior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is studying Advertising in the College of Media and has a passion for research and consumer insight. He is heavily involved with Jewish life on his campus and was a member of the Lewis Summer Internship Program at the JUF.  In his free time, he enjoys watching sports, traveling, and indulging in a variety of foods.