Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

Meet Molly: Springboard's Newest Teen Engagement Specialist

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Molly BBYO

Hi everyone! I'm stoked to be joining Springboard as a Teen Engagement Specialist. I love theater but I'm not musically gifted so please enjoy this rap/poem/spoken word piece below to learn more about me:

(Shout out anyone born after the 90's who knows this) 

In Cincinnati, born and raised

Jewish day school is where I spent most of my days

Chillin out, maxin, relaxin all cool, 

Camp Livingston summers out by the pool 

When my parents decided to make a new plan, 

Moved us up north to a town called Cleveland.


Next to Milwaukee with my parents and bro's,

Every weekend spent in BBYO.

Went to college at Wisco, love me some cheese,

Lived in Israel while I got my degrees, 

Wanted to try something a bit new,

So I flew to Riga, Latvia to work with the Jews. 


I pulled up to Chicago a few weeks ago, 

Trying to find Graeter’s for some cookie dough, 

Cubs games at Wrigley and trips to The Bean,  

And, of course, super pumped to meet you and your teen!

 Molly Portrait

Molly is excited to be The Fresh Prince (aka Teen Engagement Specialist) of Springboard. She would love to find a time to meet you (ideally at Graeter’s) and help you discover amazing Jewish opportunities.


Rebecca Gross, a Research Training Internship alumna, shares important research on antisemitism

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Rebecca Gross

Last week, I had the chance to attend an incredible event in my role as Program Director for the Research Training Internship (RTI). Rebecca Gross, a participant in the RTI Cohort 5, was recently invited to speak at the National Council of Jewish Women Chicago North Shore Section’s (NCJW) City Salon about RTI’s antisemitism research. Each month, the women of the NCJW come together for a discussion group facilitated by Salon members at Salon members’ homes. The group chooses a new topic for each salon, and source materials links are then emailed to everyone to read. Topics include a wide variety of current progressive, feminist and social justice issues, very similar to RTI. RTI is a partnership between JUF and DePaul university for Jewish girls and non-binary teens to explore social justice issues through the lens of feminist research. Each year, the interns choose a topic they care about and research how it manifests in the Chicago area Jewish community. Rebecca was invited to speak at the Salon after her grandmother, a NCJW member, attended RTI’s end-of-year community presentation. 


Rebecca presented to a crowd of 50 women, the City Salon’s biggest event since starting earlier this year. Jonathan Mintzer, Assistant Regional Director at ADL Midwest, started the evening with an informational presentation about ADL’s work in tracking and combating antisemitism as well as tips for how we can combat antisemitic remarks we hear in our daily lives. Rebecca’s presentation was interactive. After explaining the work and methods that went into this year’s research, she asked the group questions from one of the surveys used in the report, and she invited audience members to share personal stories before she shared the statistics from the RTI report. Rebecca and Jonathan ended the evening with a question and answer session. 


It was very inspiring to see Rebecca take our research to the broader community. Her presentation is the second event in which interns have been able to share their research with the broader community. Earlier in August, Rachel Fadem, Ellie Goldsmith, and Sara Grostern, facilitated small group conversations about antisemitism in progressive spaces as a part of lunch put on by the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago and NCJW. One of the goals of RTI is to raise awareness around important social justice issues in the Chicago Jewish community. These presentations are a great example of how interns continue this important advocacy work even after their RTI year has ended.


Applications for this year’s RTI cohort are open until September 16th.  You can apply here.

Beckee Birger is the Program Director, Teen Leadership & Philanthropy at JUF.  She runs the Research Training Internship and Voices: The Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation – two innovative programs for teens who want to change the world.  She's passionate about connecting young people to opportunities that allow them to explore complex topic and tackle the world's challenges head on. Outside of her teen work, Beckee is working with the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs to create spaces for Jews of Color in Chicago.

Pelah Cohen: A Masa Merit Scholarship Winner

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Pelah Cohen

This summer I had the privilege to go on Yad B’Yad, Yachad’s Inclusive Israel Leadership Experience. Yad B’Yad is a five-week program that travels around Israel with people who have special needs. This program teaches each participant how to create a proactively inclusive environment both on Yad B’Yad, and in each of our own communities back home. 

Walking in on the first day of camp was very intimidating. There were so many people from many different places; not being from New York or New Jersey, I thought I would feel like an out of towner, but I could not have been more wrong. Everyone took the learning sessions and sensitivity training to heart and after a couple of days, I felt like I had known everyone my whole life. 

My favorite part about the program is explaining to people why Yad B’Yad is not a chesed (kindness) based, volunteer program. We did no view hanging out with our friends as volunteer work, the kids with special needs were our friends. Everything we did was accessible, we stayed in the same rooms as them, and just hung out.  

Yad B’Yad was not just traveling and touring. We also had many learning sessions led by the amazing counselors. We learned what it means to truly find yourself in genuine happiness, how to be more inclusive, and how to connect to God. Through those learning groups and talking to the counselors and participants I created connections with, I grew both as a person and as a friend. I will never forget the lessons I learned on this program such as; giving someone a fifteen second summary of what you were talking about when they enter a conversation and always having an empty spot in a circle, so everyone feels comfortable joining. 

Unfortunately, every program comes to an end. Through the laughter and cheers, I can honestly feel the motto of Yachad, “Because everyone belongs,” becoming my favorite quote.  I will aim see everyone for who they are on the inside instead of what I see or hear about them  I learned despite our differences that everyone truly does belong.  

Pelah Cohen is a Junior at Ida Crown Jewish Academy and is going to be taking the lessons she learned from Yad B’Yad back to her school. Throughout the year, she will also be involved with Yachad as president of the High School board, helping plan and run events for the highschool peers and members with special needs. Pelah hopes to go to more international Yachad events and shabbatons year-round.  

We are proud to offer Israel Experience Merit Scholarships to high school students through age 23 who display leadership abilities and are committed to Jewish communal activities.  Anyone going on a summer or fall/academic year program are eligible to apply each spring.  For more information, please visit our website or contact Paula Harris at Paulaharris@juf.org

Looking for opportunities to go to Israel? Masa can help you get there - for more information contact Alissa Brown at Alissabrown@juf.org