Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

Ta’am (Taste of) Yisrael or Ta’am Lily?

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National Institute of Mental Health

Shalom everyone, my name is Lily Booker and here’s a little Ta’am or ‘taste’ of who I am!  

I was born and raised in Deerfield, IL and spent many summers up at OSRUI. I was a camper for 6 summers and then spent an additional 6 summers on staff as a madricha (מדרחה) or counselor. I was even the unit head for Moshavah (מושבה), the outdoor, camping unit.  

Growing up, when I wasn’t at camp, I spent my time as a competitive swimmer. My favorite stroke was backstroke and I particularly loved the 200-yard freestyle relay. While I can’t swim as fast as I was when I was younger, I still love to get back in the pool when I can. I attended Boston University where I graduated with a degree in International Relations, with a focus on the Middle East and security. I recently got a five-month-old Maltese, named Bear, the cutest, smallest and mushiest thing of all time. I live in Lakeview and love spending time reading, walking Bear and hanging out with friends and family. 

I love all things outdoors, food and traveling. Which is why I love my job working as Community Engagement Associate for JUF Ta’am Yisrael, or Taste of Israel! JUF Ta’am Yisrael is the 8th grade trip to Israel, where teens get the opportunity to experience Israel for a week and get a taste of its people, history and culture. I’ve been to over 20 different countries and plan to visit many more in the future. My favorite (of course) is ISRAEL! Hence why I love my job helping teens explore Israel.  

Interested in learning more? Feel free to follow us on Instagram @juftaamyisrael or go to our website  http://www.taamyisrael.org

Sababa Surf and Self Care

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Sababa Beach Camps is stoked to partner with Springboard Chicago and the Teen Midrasha Coop to provide a week of "no worries." Teens today are over programmed, over stressed, and are swept up in the Race to Nowhere culture. This trip is a direct response to help you find balance, have fun, and gain self-worth. Not only is this trip a respite from the pressure; it also provides tools from a Jewish lens to help you live a more emotionally healthy lifestyle. 

Weather on a surfboard or deciding what to do on a Saturday night, life can seem like a series of balancing acts! We often want to see friends, but we also have a ton of homework. We want to eat healthy, but we are craving ice cream! We want to see the world, but we would miss our family! Sababa is all about finding your balance. Not only do you need a week at the beach, just to get away, but in Cocoa Beach with Sababa you will also meditate to yourself and discuss with friends how to live a more healthy lifestyle that reflects your true sense of self! 

For those of you who cannot attend this wonderful experience, please accept this gift from Sababa that will help slow the world down when life gets a little overwhelming! 

Let Every Breath Praise You

A beautiful concept in Judaism, and a primary teaching at Sababa, is that even a breath can be your prayer. Not every word you say is prayer, and obviously not every breath you take is prayer.

However, a deep breath taken with intention, focus, and reflection is certainly a prayer. We are taught ...

Kol haneshama tehalel Yah Halleluya

כל הנשמה תהלל יה הללויה

With every breath I praise You

A Kol Haneshema breath is inhaled  through your nose and exhaled through your mouth. The goal of Kol Haneshama breathing is to focus entirely on you and your breath; to let nothing else distract you.

Of course new thoughts or a distraction will enter your mind, but acknowledge them and return your focus back to your breathing!

Breathe in through your nose

Follow your breath down to your stomach

Now exhale slowly out your mouth. 

That exhale is your prayer; let it be filled with positive energy that you are putting out to the world!!! 

Let’s take 5 kol Haneshama breaths in as much silence as possible, doing our best to rid ourselves of any distractions. We will break the silence with…

Kol haneshama tehalel Yah Halleluya

כל הנשמה תהלל יה הללויה

With every breath I praise You

Chicago Makes Youth Mental Health a Priority in Our Community

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National Institute of Mental Health

Today, teens and young people are struggling.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health,more than 3 million adolescents, representing over 13% of the population, have experienced a major depressive episode.  The numbers are equally high for adolescents experiencing eating disorders, substance abuse and a variety of other mental health challenges.  Attempted and completed suicide rates continue to rise.  

Jewish teens are not immune.  This is why Springboard, Chicago’s Teen Engagement Initiative, is making adolescent wellness a priority in our community. In January 2019, Springboard hosted its first training course in  Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). The certification program, first developed in Australia, teaches participants to better understand typical adolescent development, spot signs and symptoms of mental health challenges, and respond to a youth experiencing a crisis.  The session was attended by 24 participants representing Jewish overnight camps, teen program directors, synagogue clergy and mental health professionals.  

This year, Springboard increased its support of adolescents and youth experiencing mental health challenges. The Jewish Teen Education and Funder Collaborative, the convening body for Springboard and nine other community initiatives around the country, created a community of practice, inviting each community to send a representative to a three day “train-the-trainer” program led by the National Council of Behavioral Health. To enrich the YMHFA training and ensure its relevance for the unique needs of the Jewish community, the Jewish Teen Funder Collaborative partnered with The Jewish Education Project to create a  companion guide for YMHFA facilitators to help infuse Jewish wisdom, values and context into the program.   

Springboard’s representative in this community of practice, the first of its kind in the Jewish community, is Lisa Ehrlich, Manager, Outreach and Community Education at Response for Teens. On January 16th Lisa will lead Springboard’s second YMHFA training in Skokie.  Learn more. “This subsidized training is one of many ways that Springboard is ensuring that Jewish experiences continue to be places where teens feel supported and safe to explore their own identities,” explains Sarina Gerson, Director of Springboard.  

Springboard is a community initiative created with the support of JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, the Jim Joseph Foundation and a consortium of local funders.

A Civil Rights Encounter Never to Be Forgotten

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Five Teens

I could have sworn I was at a Holocaust memorial.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL is a powerful reminder of generations of violence waged in our country.  And the Legacy Museum that accompanies it gives voice to the stories of oppression that have scarred our nation’s history.  Both serve to inspire a new era of justice and peace, underscoring the need for partnerships across race and religion.

That’s why I’m so excited to work with Pastor Joyce Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on the Civil Rights Encounter.  Jewish teens of all races and members of a historic African American church on Chicago’s west side will explore the history of the Civil Rights movement and its meaning for all Americans today.  

Here are a few highlights we’re most excited about:

16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL

—The site of the infamous attack that left four girls dead, one child scarred for life, and a nation forever changed.


Temple Mishkan Israel in Selma, AL

—Half a mile from the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge, the local leaders of this temple offer a historical account of the dilemmas facing Southern Jews during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, AL

—A passionate educator offers a vivid retelling of the dramatic efforts of the Freedom Riders in the preserved Greyhound bus station where the major action took place.

Ebenezer Baptist Church and The Temple in Atlanta, GA

—Two prominent houses of worship that will give participants the opportunity to pray and reflect on the relationships they’ve built, the history they’ve encountered, and the commitments they’re ready to make.

Pastor Hatch and I are thrilled to offer this opportunity to Chicago-area teens, and we look forward on embarking on this one-in-a-lifetime journey with you.

Daniel Kirzane is the associate rabbi at Oak Park Temple in Oak Park, IL.   Oak Park Temple is a progressive, near-urban Reform congregation dedicated to expansive welcoming of people of all backgrounds.  Rabbi Kirzane is an alum of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and the CLAL: Rabbis Without Borders Fellowship, he is on the rabbinic cabinet of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and he serves in alumni leadership positions for the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

It's College Road Trip Season! By Kyle Kolling

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College Road Trip Season

Picking a college is never an easy decision. Currently there are around 7,690 colleges and universities across the United States. Each of these have their own unique courses of study, ways of doing things, class sizes, extra curriculars, and hundreds of other variables that make them each unique in their own set of ways. Because you will spend a period of your life in these universities and colleges, it is important to find one that fits who you are, and where you want to be.

Although you can do some great research online, you never truly know what feels the best for you, and where you feel that you belong until you can be somewhere in person. This is why I believe that the College Road Trip can be so incredibly meaningful and helpful for all prospective college students before they make their decision. On this trip you will see a variety of universities, including but not limited to Indiana University, University of Michigan, Penn State University and Ohio State University. At each of these schools you will get an official tour led by student leaders, you will meet with admissions counselors, scholarship officers, and many more professionals along the way. Not only will we learn about the universities, but we will explore Jewish life on each of these campuses. For example, throughout this program we will learn about Hillel, Chabad, birthright, and many other Jewish organizations to help you find a strong and supportive Jewish community at school.

Finally, each night after our college visits we will explore the local college towns. We may go to a sports game, go bowling, a movie, or just hang out at the hotel pool. No matter what, you will meet a group of Jewish teens that are all going through the same process that you are! Who knows, you may even meet your future college roommate!

My Jewish Community by Sammy Kasselman

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In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Sammy Kasselman shares how thankful she is for the Jewish community she found for herself through Hillel was. While transitions are hard for everyone, finding people who make us feel at home make everything easier. Whether it is going from 8th grade to high school, starting at a new camp, attending an after-school club for the first time, or graduating high school and starting college, the Jewish community is there for you.  


Researchers say the greatest determinant of Jewish continuity is having a Jewish community. Although it took me until college to find one; I couldn’t be happier that I finally did. 

A few weeks after I attended the Freshman Shabbat Dinner at Hillel, I realized that I had a special connection with the girls I sat with. If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t FaceTime someone after one conversation. But this time I didn’t even think twice as I put my high school’s motto to the test and truly embraced the awkward. I FaceTimed these 3 girls because I couldn’t wait to tell them I found an open dorm room on their floor and I was moving in. I still remember them sprinting down the hall to show me how close my room would be to theirs. While this was touching, I still had no idea how close we would become as friends. 

As weekly Shabbat dinner attendees for 2 years now, I can confidently say Hillel’s activities fostered a connection amongst my friends that runs deeper than just shared experiences and circumstance.  When the year gets busy and schoolwork takes over our week, Hillel feels familial in a way nothing else does. Not only did I learn new things and meet new people, but I also found a space to express myself authentically. From stealing challah from all the tables at Shabbat dinner to playing games at the Purim carnival and volunteering to educate students on Jewish genetic screening, Hillel has provided me a community that role models healthy relationships and strong leadership.  

I’m now going into my junior year and I am counting down the days until I move into a house with all my best friends. Between our plans to decorate the attic to more games of ‘Set’ (A great card game) to hosting our own Shabbat dinners, I truly cannot wait to see what the year has in store for us. 

Are you interested in finding a Jewish community on your college campus? Check out College Road Trip a Springboard School Break to tour Jewish life on college campuses this Spring.

A Re-imagined Bat Mitzvah Speech by Yardayna Ben-Simon

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Becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a significant milestone in one’s Jewish journey. This is because at age 12 or 13 one is considered to be an adult in the eyes of Judaism; this is a substantial responsibility at which point one is asked to stand in front of your community to reflect and share wisdom. By this point in life, you are able to developed your own outlook on life, and question your identity, Jewishly and otherwise, which is encouraged by Judaism. But, the questioning doesn’t stop here which means that your perspective is bound to change many times over. How will your reflections change if you were asked to share sentiments again later in life? What better way is there to see personal growth and change in perspective than being asked the same reflective question at a later point in life. Here to share new nuggets of wisdom, and what her Bat Mitzvah speech would look like two years out of college is Yardayna Ben-Simon.

I’m being honest: I barely remember what I wrote for my Bat-Mitzvah speech, probably because it wasn’t really true to who I was. But how could it have been? I was only 12, having very little life experience to say something “wise” or true to my heart or beliefs. 

If I could rewrite my Bat Mitzvah speech as my current 20-year-old self, I would talk about mistakes, particularly within the context of leadership. There are a myriad of characters and leaders in the Torah who made life-threatening and even nation-threatening mistakes, which put themselves and the people of Israel at a disadvantage. Aaron and Miriam spoke Lashon Hara (gossiped). Moses broke the Luchot. David committed adultery. Saul disobeyed G-d’s commands. As Jews, we recognize all of these names and acknowledge each person’s undeniable greatness and fierce connection to G-d and Judaism. But I recall that in day-school, my teachers and fellow peers were afraid to also acknowledge their mistakes. We were hesitant to debunk these leaders’ greatness. But I don’t think mistakes are a bad thing. I think mistakes are so human, separating us from G-d’s imperfections. The mistakes that the above-mentioned leaders made lowered them from the level of G-d to the level of the nation and society.  

A B-Mitzvah child enters young adulthood and is suddenly accountable for the future of the Jewish people and its continuity. They are the future leaders. That’s intimidating! However, as leaders, they have to understand and learn from our past leaders in Jewish tradition. Mistakes make people human and they drive one towards self-awareness, which is, I think, one of the most important qualities in a leader. Mistakes make you look back and say “huh, I see what I did wrong there,” hoping that you’ll grow from it and become even more self-aware. So, I would tell my 12-year-old self: don’t let things just happen to you in a passive way. Don’t just say “oops” and not think about what you did wrong or how you could fix it. Get to know yourself, how you interact with people, your strengths and weaknesses, and be OK with making mistakes and hold yourself accountable for them. That is how you can develop into a true leader, and it’s only human.