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Question Connection and the Diller Tikkun Olam Award

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Hannah Frazer

My name is Hannah Frazer, I am 19 years old and I am from Highland Park, Illinois. It is such an honor to have my work with Question Connection be featured on Springboard with JUF! Question Connection is a conversation starter card game designed to facilitate conversations, build community, and promote empathy. 

The game addresses feelings of loneliness, and mitigates the isolating effects of social media and bullying many young people experience in their time throughout school. Simply put: the game gets kids talking to one another. In an increasingly polarized world, the tool facilitates a safe and encouraging environment in which people recognize their similarities, ultimately fostering deeper connections, understanding, and empathy. As a high schooler, I recognized that simple ice breaker activities weren’t effective; I wanted to use my experience growing up in the age of social media to get kids engaged. I believe that everything good starts with a conversation, and that a lot of the isolation we felt could be resolved if we had an easy way to begin to talk. With my AP Psychology teacher, I developed an educational device that was transportable and easy to use. Creating a card deck with content that young people could relate to (for example, “My favorite emoji is…” or “If school didn’t exist, I would spend all my time…”), as well as translating the deck into 5 different languages, invites multiple cultures and perspectives to engage all different kinds of voices in the conversation. 

Question Connection is proudly used to facilitate conversations amongst members of the Harvard Women’s Empowerment organization, as well as at local Boys and Girls Clubs, and the JEP youth service tutoring program in LA. Students use the game in Highland Park High School’s orientation program, Giant Buddies, and Drop In Center. The game was introduced as a conversation starter activity in a local Anti Defamation League Certification training program. 

I am thrilled to announce that, through my work with Question Connection, I have been selected as a finalist for the 2021 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award! Becoming a Diller Awardee not only gives me an incredible opportunity to further my non-profit and give back to my own community, but it also provides me with a cohort of 14 other incredibly hard working teens who are equally passionate about the ways they’re going about repairing the world. I love that I now have a phenomenal network to collaborate with! I would love to encourage everyone who has an idea to help someone or to solve a problem, no matter how big or small, to step out of your comfort zone and go for it! 

Question Connection Games is always actively looking for new schools, extracurricular programs, and organizations with which to partner. If you know anyone who might be interested in becoming a Question Connection Ambassador, please let me know! To find out more about the game, visit questionconnectiongame.com.



What the Diller Tikkun Olam Award Means to Me

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Winning the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award has been an amazing experience that is opening up so many doors for me. Each year, the Diller Foundation awards 15 young Jewish leaders from around the country with $36,000 grants to further their education or projects that practice the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, or Repairing the World. Recently, I was named one of the 2021 winners for my project Covid-TV, which is a platform connecting teens from over 10 countries around the world during the pandemic. 

At the first meeting with the rest of the recipients, the foundation told us we were not just winning an award, but being welcomed into a family. I have found that family is the exact correct word to describe the foundation. By the end of the first zoom call, I immediately felt connected to the other winners over a shared love of Judaism and working to help others. The workers at the foundation are kind, welcoming, and value social justice and taking action when they see wrong in the world. The Diller Foundation is an incredible community, and at the risk of sounding cliché, I can really say that I’m inspired by the other teens and their projects that are changing the world. From 3D printing PPE for healthcare workers to fighting for musical education in schools, I am so impressed by the other winners and grateful to be in their community and a part of the Diller Family. 

I also feel that besides receiving funding to continue and expand my project, winning the Tikkun Olam award is a responsibility to continue living by my Jewish Values and working to help others. Reading and sharing the stories of other teens and their experiences during the pandemic helped me feel not so alone during a time of social isolation. I hope that the community created by Covid-TV helped other teens through the pandemic, and will continue to help them in the transition back to a maskless world without Covid-19. As Covid-TV grows, and as I grow, I have to remember to continue leading with my Jewish faith and values of Chesed (kindness), Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), and Kehilla (community) behind me. 

I feel so lucky and grateful to be given this opportunity, and to be so welcomed into the foundation. It really is an amazing community, and I am eternally grateful for all the support I have received from the Jewish community to teach me the value of doing good for others and to get me to where I am today.

Lauren Tapper

Bio: Lauren Tapper is a rising Junior at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Chicago. She Co-founded Covid-TV, an online platform connecting teens during the pandemic and igniting them in social justice projects to help struggling communities in the face of Covid-19. In her free time, she loves participating on her school’s Model UN team, walking her dog on the Chicago Lake path, and is an avid smoothie drinker. 

You Will Be Found: Finding the Funds For College

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Upon applying for colleges, my eyes widened at the prices I saw outlining the cost of attendance. “How on earth am I going to survive with this much debt?” I wondered to myself. Just the application fees alone cost my family and I over $300 (and that was just for six schools). I knew that I needed to search for scholarships, but it felt as though they were impossible to find. “Oh! There’s one!” I would exclaim. “Oh… never mind. I’m not from Idaho.” Every opportunity had some odd specification to it, and I was afraid I wouldn’t find any help.

As time went on, I found a few here and there for around $1,000-$2,000 each and submitted my materials. I had nearly given up when I stumbled across the “You Will Be Found” essay contest held by Gotham Writers, Broadway Education Alliance, and Dear Evan Hansen the Broadway Musical. As a theatre major, the Broadway component immediately spoke to me, but my interest spiked when I read the prompt: "describe how you have managed to ensure those around you were a little less alone in recent months." I knew immediately that I had the perfect story to submit.

The full story I wrote about my “Grampuncle”, Alan and our relationship can be found HERE. It was an emotional story to write. I procrastinated for a good few weeks focusing on smaller scholarships and finishing senior year, but eventually, I sat down and just wrote. I wrote for a good 30 minutes, tears hitting my keyboard, and then I had to take a break. An hour turned into a day, into a few days, but I finally came back to the document the week before submissions closed and powered through. 

About two months went by and I heard nothing from any scholarships. Over the course of the weeks following, I received a few rejections as well. At this point I had almost completely given up the idea of the You Will Be Found contest. However, on June 17th, the morning of my high school graduation, I woke up to a voicemail from the Associate Producer of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway. I was in shock. “Just give me a call back when you get a chance,” the message said. I leaped out of bed and immediately called her back still in my pajamas and with sleepy bags under my eyes. 

I knew what the call was going to be about the second I heard the voicemail, but I was still in an immense amount of shock when she informed me that out of over 4,000 submissions, my story was chosen and I had won $10,000 for school. I thanked her endlessly over the phone through tears of joy and we had a conversation about theatre and my story that brought me so much happiness. She then wished me well at graduation and we said “talk soon”. 

Words can not describe the joy and validation I felt when my story, OUR story (Alan and I, that is) had been chosen. I couldn’t help but think that somehow, somewhere Alan was looking out for m

-Max

You can follow along with Max’s next adventures and stories by following them on Instagram @maxwellssilverman

Maxwell Silverman

Bio: Maxwell Silverman recently graduated from Lane Tech High School in Chicago, IL and will be pursuing a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee in the Fall of 2021. They have been previously recognized by Springboard as one of the 2021 18 Under 18 Honorees, and is the Co-Founder and former Executive Director of Teens Be Heard (teensbeheard.org). With a love for dance, art, and activism, Max is passionate about storytelling and making change.


Chicago Celebrates the Jewish Teen Community

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On Sunday, April 25th, the Chicago Jewish community came together for the 2021 Celebration of Chicago’s Jewish Teen Community. This annual event is the only one of its kind, bringing together Jewish teens of all ages and backgrounds, professionals, volunteers, clergy, Jewish teen stakeholders and community members. The celebration publicly recognized the 18 Under 18 Honorees, the Jewish teen community, and the youth professionals, clergy, educators and families who make it all possible. The event kicked off with Shout Outs submitted by people from across the community sharing milestones and accomplishments from the past year.

The celebration was led by talented and hilarious teen MCs, Sophia Fine, Noah Shapiro, and Jacob Zucker, who reflected that despite the unexpected twists and turns of the past year, one constant was the incredible support, creative programming and meaningful friendships that took place in the context of Jewish teen programming. This point was underscored in the Year In Review Video, featuring teens and professionals sharing highlights and memories from the last year. 

During the program each of the 18 honorees shared how they are making a difference in the community and how being named an 18 Under 18 honoree enabled them to bring attention to an issue that they were passionate about. In his welcome, Lonnie Nasatir, the President of JUF shared that these teens do not represent the leads of tomorrow because they are already leaders today. Check out: 18 Under 18 honoree speeches 1  and 18 under 18 honoree speeches 2 and the Recognition Book to learn more about the honorees and their Impact Projects.

Event attendees enjoyed a performance by the comedy troupe, Shalom Collaboration, a live performance by the teen band, Six On Friday, and a video from Tik Tok star Michael Winner. Finally, we had a chance to celebrate this year’s LEAD Award for teen serving professionals and volunteers. The LEAD Award is special because nominations and the review process are teen led. View the LEAD Award Video to learn more about this year’s LEAD Award Nominees: Isaac Freedman, Maia Volk, Kevin and Allisa Horwitz, Alana Ben Zeev, Mady Frischer, Zoe Russek and the LEAD Award winner Jessie Morris. 

The event was hosted by Springboard and JUF. Springboard was created to empower teens to find and create meaningful Jewish experiences, elevate teen voices in the Chicago area, and connect teens and their families to fantastic experiences. The Community Celebration provided a change to celebrate the teens, professionals, and organizations that make our community so amazing.

Special thanks to JTAC, the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago, a teen board with representatives from different youth groups and organizations, who helped plan the event and were instrumental in selecting the honorees and the LEAD Award winner.  

A Celebration of Jewish Teen Community

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18 Under 18 Announcement

Springboard is proud to be able to recognize the incredible work of Jewish teen leaders in our community. The 18 Under 18 award is one that elevates the work of a selected group of teens who have demonstrated innovation, passion, and resiliency in the face of the unknown. This year we had a record-breaking number of nominations, which speaks to the quality teen leadership in our community, which we are lucky to benefit from. 18 Under 18 Honorees are teens who are leveraging Jewish values to inform their leadership and making a difference through formal and informal leadership roles both inside and outside the Jewish community. This year's 18 Under 18 Honorees exemplify what a teen leader can accomplish, and we are honored to be able to support, recognize, and work with them. 

As part of the 18 Under 18 award, all honorees complete an Impact Project. An Impact Project can take many different forms, however they will all elevate our community, as well as address hot topics that the honorees select themselves based off their passions. This years’ Honorees are focusing on a number of different areas: Addressing resource inequality, inclusion and diversity, racial equality, mental and physical health advocacy, environmentalism, Israel education, and Holocaust education.  

One way we celebrate these incredible teens in by hosting a Drive In Community Celebration which YOU are invited to! At the Community Celebration you will have the opportunity to learn more about the Honorees Impact projects and how they are elevating community. There will be goodie bags, live entertainment, and more! Click here to register and we can’t wait to see you from a safe distance on April 25th!  


#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Connecting Chicago Written by Co-Founder Rem Johannknecht

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Repair the World Wednesday Image

Connecting Chicago was founded by Rem Johannknecht and Lucy Gold in March of 2020. Sophomores at Payton at the time, this team of friends was inspired and met the moment as individuals around the City of Chicago fell victim to isolation amid shutdowns and stay at home orders. When public school students began at-home learning, they understood that thousands of families would soon be struggling to keep from falling behind.

Pivoting to meet the needs of their community, the organization crafted a mission statement: “Connecting Chicago fosters opportunities unlocked by education. We are bridging Chicago's vast educational inequities by empowering students in and out of the classroom, providing critical services regardless of household income.”

Rem and Lucy organized their fellow students in Chicago to launch an innovative virtual tutoring program. Available to students of all incomes, the program impacts over 1000 students over the course of the year and is growing steadily. Both tutors and students alike have been motivated by a sense of community, connection, and service during these unprecedented times.

After collecting feedback from their volunteers, the founders organized two teams to guide their improvement steps. First, Rem oversaw a resource development team that crafted best practices and compiled resources for tutors in English/Language Arts, Mathematics, and World Languages. Then, Lucy created a recruitment team which has been hard at work finding amazing new volunteers crucial to the health of the program. Recently, the recruitment team finished crafting their holiday fundraising plan. With a goal to collect five thousand dollars, they are committed to ensuring the sustainability and growth of Connecting Chicago.

Recently, the organization switched to a quarterly sign up system where one-on-one pairings are made for several months. This means that students currently enrolled will continue through January! Anyone interested in signing up for the third quarter will have the opportunity to do so on their website!

Ella, a tutor with Connecting Chicago since the spring, says that her time has “been nothing short of amazing since I started tutoring with them. They are empathetic, organized, easy to contact, and completely flexible with scheduling."

The organization’s hardworking tutors’ hard work has not gone unnoticed. A parent acclaimed that their family’s “tutor has had an amazing impact on [their] son. She’s a wonderful role model and teacher. Her attentiveness to schedule, responsibility, learning needs, and engagement has been truly impressive. I have no doubt that this interaction is having a very positive impact on my son.”

The organization’s say that the future for Connecting Chicago is bright, and that their mission to connect students with high-quality resources will remain critically relevant! Currently, they are creating plans for the tutoring program to continue to thrive, as well as looking into starting an affordable summer camp!

For more information on the organization, please visit their website at connectingchicago.org!

About the Founders:

Rem and Lucy are both current juniors at Walter Payton College Prep. Their collaborative friendship initially started when they were partners in driver’s ed, completing mandatory hours behind the wheel together!

Rem Johannknecht is the Founder of Connecting Chicago and is known for his hard work ethic. At Payton, he is organizing a TedxYouth Conference, excels on the varsity sailing team, and participates in Model UN. Outside of school, he has organized fellow Chicagoans on several political campaigns, and enjoys learning languages.

Lucy Gold is the Co-Founder of Connecting Chicago and loves to help others. In school, she manages the football team and boys basketball team, she is a peer buddy in Best Buddies, and will be Vice President of the Payton's Special Olympics Committee. Out of school, Lucy loves her job at the Cubs, babysitting, and hanging out with friends and family.

#RepairTheWorldWednesday: The Impact of 18 Under 18 Honorees

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As part of last year’s 18 Under 18 program, each honoree designed an Impact Project where they elevated an issue of importance to their peers, parents, clergy, Jewish professionals or community members. Each honoree then identified at least one action they would take to address their chosen issue. Although each Impact Project represents different topics, timelines and scales, they are united by deep roots in Jewish values.

In honor of the 2020-2021 18 Under 18 nomination process kicking off this week, we want to highlight four honorees and their Impact Projects. Please see the videos below to learn how Gwen, Hannah, Josh, and Lena made an impact on their community!

Gwen Tucker

Hannah Adams

Josh Pogonitz

Lena Bromberg

Do you know an amazing teen who should be recognized as one of this year's 18 Under 18 Honorees? Nominate them here by Thursday, November 12th!


Springboard is Proud to Announce This Year's LEAD Award Recipient

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LEAD Finalists

The LEAD Award (Leader Educator Advisor Dugma/Example) was created to recognize outstanding adults who go above and beyond in their role of educating and caring for Jewish teens. Springboard and JUF are thrilled to recognize Daniel Warshawsky as this year’s LEAD Award recipient! Additionally, we would like to recognize and thank all our LEAD Award Finalists, Adam Blue, Eric Golberg, Samantha Isenstein, Jessie Morris and Adam Rubenfire, for their incredible work and contributions to the Jewish teen community. Nominees were recognized by teens in the community who completed applications sharing how the nominee had influenced them. Here are some of the wonderful things teens said about their educators, advisors, and mentors. 

Adam Blue

Adam has been a role model for me for a long time.  He continuously demonstrates to the people around him the importance of respect and works hard at instilling the value of treating others with dignity and respect, no matter their viewpoint, among the interns he oversees.         – Jacob K.  

Jessie Morris

Jessie has been a role model to me because she is so positive whenever we have club and she welcomes everyone into club with open arms. Jessie is considerate and always gives the best advice while engaging in conversation with club members. -Ella R.  

Samantha Isenstein

Samantha has helped me with my leadership and is very flexible and works very hard for teens in our community. She is very caring and understanding of everyone and their needs. – Josh L.  

Eric Golberg

Eric is truly someone who helps me create fantastic programming by finding time to sit down and work with me one on one. Eric welcomes people into our chapter with the utmost respect, showing me what it looks like to be a leader.  Eric is consistently enthusiastic about programming, even if he himself is not directly part of the program. – Geoffrey G.  

Adam Rubenfire

Adam helped facilitate a connection, worked tandem with me in crafting an amazing program, and was there to congratulate and recognize me for developing what all the teens who attended said was an awesome program! Teens rarely receive recognition and gratitude from others in today's society, and Adam is someone that is constantly uplifting; we need more people in the world like him. – Andy N.

Daniel Warshawsky

Daniel has taught me the importance of finding your own path in Judaism. You don’t always have to follow exactly what your parents do or what your friends do, but you have to find what is most meaningful to you. He has also taught me to stand up against the injustices in Judaism. You don’t have to accept something just because it is written, you can challenge it and do what you think is right. – Stephanie K.  

Springboard Celebrates 2020 18 Under 18 Honorees

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As part of this year’s 18 Under 18 program, each honoree designed an Impact Project where they elevated an issue of importance to their peers, parents, clergy, Jewish professionals or community members. Each honoree also laid the groundwork for a long-term plan or took at least one action toward addressing their chosen issue. The honorees have persevered despite the difficult circumstances presented by COVID-19, and continue to work to strengthen the Jewish community. As you flip through the pages of the Recognition Book, which shares more about each of the honorees, elevates their stories and showcases the ways in which they are making a difference in our community, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know these 18 inspiring teens. Click here to hear from some of our honorees about the incredible work they've done.


Gwen Tucker

Gwen writes for her school’s newspaper and is a board member of SOAR (Students Organized Against Racism). Through her work with RTI (Research Training Internship) and JCUA (Jewish Council on Urban Affairs), her Jewish identity has become central to her passion for social justice.


Hannah Adams

Hannah is a leader of Jewish Student Connection, financial chair of Model United Nations, operations & outreach chair of the economics team, founder of mindFULL (a club that promotes the accessibility of wellness and healthy food), and a varsity lacrosse player. Hannah is a madricha at the Anshe Emet Religious School, and she has also spent the past 7 summers at OSRUI.


Josh Pogonitz

Josh has been on both his school’s cross country and basketball teams all four years of high school. Through working on his own mental illnesses, and rediscovering happiness last year, he has learned that though there are still struggles in life, it is okay to not be okay and that it is okay to make mistakes. In November of 2019, Josh spoke at No Shame On U’s annual event about his journey through mental health.


Lena Bromberg

Lena plays on her school’s volleyball team, organizes visits to a nearby retirement home, and participates in several other clubs. Most of Lena’s free time is spent babysitting. She has spent the past five summers as a camper at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin.

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