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What Our Keshet Staff Have Gained From Working at Camp

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Long before and throughout the pandemic, Keshet continues to provide new opportunities for self-growth, new friendships, unique opportunities. However, this impact extends beyond our participants and can leave our staff with an equal amount of growth and belonging.  

Anxious, nervous, and not knowing what to expect are common phrases that we hear when staff reflect on their first experiences with Keshet. The great news is that it’s often followed up with comments that those feelings immediately went away once they saw how meaningful and impactful the programs were. “Stepping into Keshet on the first day, I automatically noticed how they make every person in the room feel included and accounted for,” Alix Eisenberg, who has been a Keshet staff member for five years, says. “Being able to be included into such a welcoming environment made my first experiences at Keshet truly memorable.”

In addition to the impact created for campers involved in the program, our staff members have equally gained so much from spending their summers at Keshet. Our staff create bonds with their campers that extend beyond the eight weeks of the summer and into some of our other year-round programs like Buddy Bowling, Baseball and Winter Camp. The integration with the staff at our partner day and overnight camps create long-lasting bonds and friendships that keep them coming back year after year. 

Keshet Experience

However, what may be the most rewarding are the skills and experiences that our staff gain from the experience. “After being able to take part in the many programs Keshet has to offer, I have gained responsibility, leadership, teamwork, and confidence,” Alix says. After spending their summers working for Keshet, many of our staff end up choosing a career path that allows them to further develop these skills, including Alix, who is now a sophomore at Miami University in Ohio studying Inclusive Special Education. The passion that our staff gain for inclusion while working for Keshet is unmatched and even on the toughest of days, our staff still leave with a smile on their face.

We promise you a summer of fun, and we know you will gain invaluable experiences and memories that will stick with you long after the warm days of summer end.  To capture all of the reasons in one post is impossible. What we do know is that Keshet stands for something greater than only one person, and we would love nothing more than to have you join our family. Apply today at:  https://keshet.campintouch.com/ui/forms/application/staff/App

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Special thanks to Alix Eisenberg for sharing her story.

You can learn more about Keshet and what we do by visiting us online at https://www.keshet.org

Please note:  All names of participants have been changed.

 

How Keshet Staff Can Create a Lasting Impact at Camp

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Keshet provides countless opportunities and programs for individuals with disabilities but our largest program by far is our summer camp program!  Keshet believes that everyone at camp benefits when everyone can participate. We provide opportunities for inclusion out in the community on field trips, assist campers in forming friendships, and ensure accommodations are available so that everyone can be successful at camp.

Our staff and volunteers are the backbone of our programs because they make all the magic happen! They all have their own unique stories about how they became involved and why they stay connected. They are passionate individuals who deeply care about the individuals that Keshet serves. Without each and every one of them, our services would not be possible. 

Keshet Photo

Keshet models inclusion from the beginning for staff and participants. With Keshet, campers can go to camp with a one-on-one staff member who helps them get through their day, makes the accommodations necessary, assists them in getting to know the group and ensures an amazing summer experience. “Nobody is a better friend to Keshet campers than their peers their same age,” says Abby Zucker, senior at Highland Park who was a Keshet counselor at “Z” Frank Apachi Day Camp this past summer. “At art, they would practice writing [my camper] Mitchell’s name and no matter where we were, the group always make sure Mitchell got a turn.” Inclusion at Keshet is not just a program, it’s a way of life!

In addition to fostering inclusion within the camping environment, our participants show immense growth throughout the summer. Katie Penn, a junior at Illinois State University and a long-time staff member of Keshet recounts back to her first summer spent with her camper, Sam. “From the beginning to the end of those eight short weeks, I saw tremendous growth in Sam. He became more independent and confident. And quite frankly, so did I.” When our campers succeed, we, as staff, feel just as accomplished. 

Keshet Photo 2

Our staff love Keshet, and we know you will too. Keshet is so fortunate to have incredible staff who help blossom meaningful opportunities and friendships. We’re getting ready for Summer 2022, and are looking for new people to join the team. So, what are you waiting for? Apply today at:  https://keshet.campintouch.com/ui/forms/application/staff/App

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Special thanks to Abby Zucker and Katie Penn for sharing their stories.

You can learn more about Keshet and what we do by visiting us online at https://www.keshet.org

Please note:  All names of participants have been changed.

Learning and Making a Difference with Tikkun Chicago! By Ellie Agulnek

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Tikkun Chicago is not your typical Hebrew High experience.  You can take classes in a variety of topics that best fit your interests and schedule, like Hebrew, Jewish text, teen philanthropy, arts and more.  Last trimester I took a class called Tikkun B’Ir where we volunteered around Chicago.

Cradles and Crayons

I loved volunteering with Tikkun Chicago! I really appreciated that through the class I was able to volunteer at a variety of places that help people in all sorts of ways. We also learned why we were volunteering and what kind of impact we would be making.  My favorite organizations were JUF's Uptown Cafe and Cradles to Crayons - they were different experiences, but through them I provided people in need with food and clothes for their children. I earned community service hours and enjoyed the work I was doing with friends.

This upcoming trimester there will be classes on Climate Justice, Living in a Universal Society, Cooking and Hebrew. Classes are open to Jewish teens in the Chicago area, so sign up with friends from camp or school! 

Learn more and register for Winter Trimester at https://tinyurl.com/TikkunChicagoWinter2022

Tikkun Chicago 2022


TOP 5 Reasons to Sign Up for the NCSY & JSU Relief Mission to Houston

(Program Experiences, Community Spotlight) Permanent link

 Houston Relief Mission 2022

Who’s excited for the Relief Mission to Houston?!?

We are! And we’re here to tell you our TOP 5 Reasons why you should be too!

#1: You're going to make meaningful change! You’ll help build homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Harvey, combat food insecurity at the Houston Food Bank and more! All while earning 15+ service hours!

#2 - You'll spend 4 incredible days in Houston and visit some of the city’s greatest attractions, including the Kemah Boardwalk!


#3: You’ll make new, lifelong friendships with Jewish teens from across the Chicagoland area. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet our incredible staff and college-age advisors!


#4: You'll live the Jewish value of tikkun olam and experience an amazing Shabbat that you won't soon forget!

#5: As if reasons 1-4 weren’t enough, you’ll also have tons of fun! 


Can’t wait for you to join us this MLK Day Weekend for the trip of a lifetime on our Relief Mission to Houston!

Learn more and register for this wonderful service opportunity at  https://midwest.ncsy.org/reliefmissions/.

Happy Eighth Night of Chanukah: How NFTY Brings Light to My Life by Molly Schless

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the eight night, we will hear from Molly about her experience with NFTY.

My name is Molly Schless, and I am on the regional board for an organization called NFTY. NFTY stands for the North American Federation of Temple Youth. It is a place for Jewish teens to stay connected to their religion whilst having fun with their peers.

Molly Schless

What has kept me involved in NFTY is how welcoming the environment is. From my first program in 6th grade, I could just tell how inclusive and inviting everyone was. There is such a diverse group of participants within NFTY that it is easy to find your people and quickly feel at home. For me, NFTY is a second home and a place where I can truly be myself.

My favorite event ever was the spring weekend retreat that I went to in 8th grade. My sister was very involved in NFTY at the time, so she told me stories about all the events that she went to, but this was my first high school event ever. I loved every second of it, from small things like a conversation I had with a new friend, to getting to participate in programs that were planned and led by teens. At the end of every spring retreat, every senior gets to talk about their experience in NFTY and what they will take from it since this would be their last event. I remember watching all the seniors, my sister included, with such joy in their eyes while they talked about NFTY like they could go on forever. Their words really stuck with me, and they inspire me to be the leader I am today. This event was the start of 3 years filled with amazing memories and even more amazing people. 

Menorah Lighting - Molly Schless

About the Author: Molly Schless is a junior at Buffalo Grove High School. She enjoys singing in many of her school’s music programs such as vocal jazz, acapella, and choir. Molly also loves to read, cuddle with her pets, and spend time with her friends. 


Happy Seventh Night of Chanukah: How No Shame On U Brings Light to My Life by Toren Strauss

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the sixth night, we will hear from Toren about his experience with No Shame On U.

My name is Toren Strauss and this year I am representing No Shame On U on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC). Founded in November 2014, No Shame on U is a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating the stigma associated with mental health conditions and raising awareness in the Jewish community and beyond. The goal is for the people who need help to seek it, for family members and friends to know how to provide proper support and to save lives.

Menorah Lighting - Toren Strauss

As a teen I understand that struggling with your mental health is incredibly challenging, and to not be able to be open about it without fear of being isolated or cut out is even more challenging. It not only is an important cause to me because of my experiences, but mental health stigma has also affected my friends and highlights how many people the stigma affects. My favorite NSOU event that I have taken part of is the Virtual Yoga with a special focus on mental well-being and mindfulness every Tuesday led by Mary Zimmerman. I enjoy giving myself 30 minutes to relax and I can feel the physical, emotional, and therapeutic benefits directly after and throughout the rest of the week. Being in the present allows me to reflect on my week and recently myself for the upcoming challenges of the week. The yoga sessions have allowed me to even practice it on my own time. Before I play sports or do any work or homework, I always start with some mindfulness exercises to help me get started. I am an extremely busy person and the relaxation and stretching for just 30 minutes a day makes all the difference. 

Toren Strauss

About the Author: Toren is a sophomore at North Shore Country Day School; prior to high school, he attended Chicago Jewish Day School for 10 years! In his free time, Toren is active and enjoys golf, basketball, baseball, and skiing with his friends and family. He also loves to read fantasy books. Toren is a member of Am Yisrael Conservative Congregation, and he enjoys eating Jewish foods - his favorite is matzo ball soup. 


Happy Sixth Night of Chanukah: How NFTY Brings Light to My Life by Justin Rubenstein

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the sixth night, we will hear from Justin about his experience with NFTY.

My name is Justin Rubenstein and I represent NFTY on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC).  

Throughout the year,  NFTY-CAR (Chicago Area Region) runs a ton of programs and events, both in person and virtual, in Chicagoland.  

These events are based on social action, Israel, Jewish culture & prayer, song leading, and fun. NFTY is open for primarily 9-12 graders with a 6-8 grade program. NFTY also is led by a group of teens who are elected to be on the regional board. There are also Va'adot which are committees of people focused on a specific aspect of NFTY. For example, I am on the Social Action & Programming  Va’ad, but there are also many more, including song leading, Israel, 678, and social media.

Justin Rubenstein Menorah Lighting

I first came to NFTY in 7th Grade where I wanted to see camp friends, meet new people, and be part of the Jewish community. My favorite event in NFTY was the NFTY 678 Kallah I went to when I was in 7th Grade at OSRUI. I had a lot of fun staying overnight and going to a waterpark and enjoying the community. Another event I really liked was the Kolbo, our final event of the year and the first event on Zoom right as the pandemic was starting. This was my first high school event, and I had a lot of fun being welcomed into the full Jewish community and enjoying being with other people since we were all stuck at home. NFTY is a community I love and cherish so much, and I hope you consider coming to a NFTY event because it is a great way to get involved in the Jewish Community. 

Justin Rubenstien Photo

About the Author: Justin is a sophomore at Vernon Hills High School. He is a member of Student Council and #vhgive and is the Director of Activism for JSA (the school’s political, debate, and activism club). Justin is actively involved in his synagogue, Congregation Or Shalom and their youth group ‘Jew Crew’. He loves NFTY and spending summers at OSRUI. 


Happy Third Night of Chanukah: How NCSY Brings Light to My Life by David Gaffen

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the third night, we will hear from David about his experience with NCSY.

My name is David Gaffen, and I am representing NCSY on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) this year. Undoubtedly, NCSY has played a major role in my life and the lives of countless Jewish teens around the world.  

My involvement began eight years ago when I was invited to my first ever Shabbaton in St. Louis, MO. I have been involved with NCSY ever since and have loved every minute of it! Throughout the years, I have crossed paths with inspiring Jewish leaders who have been an integral part of my Jewish journey. All in all, I have learned a ton about myself and Judaism through meaningful programming. Since my first Shabbaton when I was in 5th grade, I have made it a priority to attend each one that NCSY offers throughout the year: it’s the perfect opportunity to meet new friends, reconnect with old ones, and have fun. 

My absolute favorite program I have attend is the ‘Conclave’ Shabbaton. Jewish teens from across the Midwest come together and spend Shabbat together; it gives us the chance to learn, grow, and be inspired by one another. The opportunity to connect with rabbis and advisors and spend Shabbat together is the best. It has allowed me to take a step back, redefine myself as a Jewish teen, and grow during my Jewish journey. 

As an NCSY board member, I help plan events and programming for the Chicagoland community. My favorite part of being on board is getting to be creative with planning programming for other teens. NCSY has been a crucial part of the development in my Jewish Identity. I have been able to grow with my peers and really understand who I am as a Jew in this secular world! 

David Gaffen

About the Author: David is a senior at Ida Crown Jewish Academy. He is actively involved with NCSY and holds a leadership position on their regional board. David enjoys Jewish learning and being involved in the community! 


Happy Second Night of Chanukah: How Student to Student Brings Light to My Life by Laura Bellows

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the second night, we will hear from Laura about her experience with Student to Student.

My name is Laura Bellows, and I am representing Student to Student on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) this year. Student to Student fosters meaningful conversations with non-Jewish students for them to better understand Judaism and the Jewish people. I became increasingly interested in this work when my eighth-grade teacher posed the following question to our class: “If you were given all the money in the world, how would you stop antisemitism?”  

The impetus for his question was the recent bombings and threats against Jewish organizations at the time that made us all fearful. I realized then I was passionate about helping to find a way to end antisemitism through education and advocacy. As a sophomore, I joined the Student to Student program. A program that embodied everything I needed to succeed in accomplishing my goal to end anti-Semitism. This program takes us to schools throughout Illinois and neighboring states to explain our lives as Jews. Our goal was to find common ground with teens of other faiths and cultures, while sharing our common dreams. In this way, anti-Semitic views are challenged. 

As a part of this program there are informative sessions. At one of these sessions, my fellow presenters and I had the privilege to listen to Dr. Malka Simkovitch, who talked to us about historical anti-Semitism and interfaith dialogue. She was very informative and taught me a lot. At this session, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt who is an historian, author, and professor at Emory University spoke as well. She is an author on combatting Holocaust denial, and she spoke a lot about how to discuss the events of the Holocaust and antisemitism. Both speakers gave me transformative advice to be a better leader for Student to Student! 

Laura Bellows

About the Author: Laura is a senior at Ida Crown Jewish Academy. If not on the basketball court or soccer field, she is actively involved in the Chicagoland Jewish community. She enjoys spending time with family and friends and participating in Student to Student among other extracurriculars. 


Happy Chanukah: How Young Judaea Brings Light to My Life by Klara Walny

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Chanukah is a time for making the world brighter. Each night of Chanukah we’ll be featuring stories from teens serving on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) sharing how adding their Jewish experiences add light to our community. JTAC members are representatives of Chicago’s amazing teen programs. For the first night we will hear from Klara about her experience with Young Judaea.    

My name is Klara Walny and one of the organizations I represent this year on the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC) is Young Judaea Midwest.  

Young Judaea (YJ) is the oldest Zionist youth movement in the United States. YJ is based on Zionism, social action, pluralism, peer leadership, and Jewish identity – all of which are incredibly important to me. I have been involved with YJ for nine years and I have loved every second of it. After my first summer at Camp YJ Midwest, I could not get enough. I spent this past summer at Tel Yehuda (a Young Judaea camp in Upstate New York), and I am looking forward to traveling across Israel for an entire month next summer. Some of my best friends and closest connections have come from my involvement with YJ throughout the years. Especially during COVID-19, my YJ family was there to support and comfort me during such a difficult time.  

Klara Walny Group

One of my favorite YJ programs I have participated in over the years was called “Tikkun groups”, “Tikkun” being short for Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). My Tikkun group worked on projects specifically combating anti-Semitism. In completing this project successfully, we first educated ourselves on anti-Semitism in the United States and then brainstormed different ways to educate individuals on Judaism and Jewish history. Ultimately, we decided to present on the Holocaust and stress the importance of Holocaust education. 

My group met with representatives on Capitol Hill from the RJC (Republican Jewish Coalition), AJC (American Jewish Committee), ADL (Anti-Defamation League). Additionally, we met with Jewish representatives: Wasserman-Shultz and Zeldin. These conversations provided us with the ability to push for the change we want to see in the world. Personally, this experience showed me that I, as a Jewish teen, can make a difference in not only my community but in my country. Young Judaea has been vital in the development of my Jewish identity; I have been able to grow continuously and begin to understand who I am as an individual.  

Klara Walny

About the Author: Klara is a junior at Glenbrook North High School. When she's not running laps around the school during cross country practice, you might find her writing stories for the school's newspaper or lifeguarding at her local pool. Klara is involved with Chabad of Wilmette and is a JCUA Or Tzedek intern.

Meet Madeline Oppenheim: KAM Isaiah Israel's Youth Advisor

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link
Madeline Oppenheim

We are excited to introduce Madeline Oppenheim, KAM Isaiah Israel's youth advisor. Outside of being a youth advisor, Madeline is a graduate student at Illinois Institute of Technology's Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling program, specifically learning to be a mental health counselor, advocate, and researcher for populations with severe mental illness (SMI). Currently, she is interning at the Veterans Affairs as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for veterans with SMI. Previously, she received a masters degree from King's College London in a program called Early Intervention in Psychosis. Madeline grew up in Atlanta, and is very appreciative of how warm and supportive the Chicago Jewish community has been to her. 

In an interview with Madeline, she shared with us what she loves most about working with Jewish teens, her favorite place in Chicago, and her favorite Jewish food.  

  • What do you love most about working with Jewish teens and youth group work in general? Chicago Jewish teens renew a sense of hope for the future for me. I have found that the teens I work with are intrinsically motivated to make the world a better place and to foster community. Aside from this, I enjoy working with Jewish teens because I get an excuse to do art projects and murder mystery nights. Lastly, I enjoy teaching and learning about Judaism with Jewish teens as teaching and learning are my current forms of Jewish worship and practice. 
  • What is your favorite place in Chicago and why? As of right now, Promontory Point is one of my favorite places because you can enjoy and swim in Lake Michigan without too much of a crowd. There are also campfire pits with prime views of the lake and Navy Pier. 
  • What is your favorite Jewish food and why? Hamantaschen, because there's nothing better than cookies with jam. 

You can check out the great stuff that KAM Isaiah Israel's youth group is doing on Instagram @kamii.ty.


Kicking Off the Year with Springboard’s Peer Ambassadors

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Springboard Peer Ambassadors

This past Sunday, the third cohort of the Springboard Peer Ambassadors had an amazing kick off meeting. We are very excited about our cohort of seventeen teen leaders. Between us all, we are members of ten different congregations, attend twelve city and suburban high schools, and are excited to get involved in more local Jewish youth programs. The Peer Ambassadors’ activities are rooted in the value of Areyvut ערבות (community-mindedness). We work to increase awareness about amazing Jewish teen programs happening in the Chicago area community and help create Jewish connections for their peers. Sophia R., a senior at Vernon Hills High School, shared, “As a Peer Ambassador, I hope more people can experience all that there is to offer within the Jewish youth group community.” 

In addition to enjoying tacos in the sukkah and getting to know each other at Sunday’s workshop, we practiced relationship-based engagement. A key responsibility of Peer Ambassadors is to connect with other teens in the community, so we started that process by getting to know each other by asking each other about the story behind our names. We learned that the key to relationship-based engagement is to really understand a person individually and meet them where they are.  

Now that we have officially started our ambassadorship, be on the lookout for opportunities to connect us through one-on-one conversations, at community programs, and at our individual programs that we are planning. Sophie D., a senior at Jones College Prep, shared, “I am excited to be a Peer Ambassador to introduce new teens to great Jewish programs around the Chicago area.” We are all excited to explore meaningful connections with our friends and peers!   

Learn about all of the Peer Ambassadors and why they are excited for this year here. If you are interested in connecting with a Peer Ambassador, email Springboard at Springboard@juf.org.

Meet Our Lewis Summer Intern, Alex!

(Program Experiences, Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Alex Gold Portrait

I am so excited to be joining the Springboard team as the Lewis Summer Intern for JUF teens and Springboard this summer! 

I am from Glencoe and have always belonged to Am Shalom where I have been able to grow my Jewish belonging and network beyond friendships within my hometown. I worked at my synagogue as a madricha for three years during high school. I was able to work with preschool aged children who were just starting their Jewish journey, all the way through middle schoolers, who were gearing up for their b’nai mitzvahs.  

I spent 8 summers at Tripp Lake camp in Maine There, I was also able to connect with young Jewish girls from all over the country. Connecting with these girls from such a young age and continuously growing relationships every summer, allowed me to make lifelong friends who I still have today. 

Alex Gold Photo

I am a rising senior at Franklin and Marshall College studying sociology and anthropology. I intend to graduate this winter and go off to graduate school where I will be able to get my degree in Social Work. I hope to work with teens and young adults who are navigating middle school and high school. Listening to other people’s life experiences, and giving advice, has been a passion of mine since I was young, and I cannot wait to start that chapter of my life! 

From Player to Coach by Jodi Marver

(Program Experiences, Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Looking back on my high school years, the one big event that impacted my life in such a positive manner was participating in the Maccabi games. Back in 2008, I remember one of my high school basketball teammates telling me to join and I am so glad I did! My experience with Maccabi gave me the opportunity to play basketball at a high level, travel to a new city, participate in fun events at night, but most importantly, make lifelong friends. It was such a highlight of my summer to do Maccabi and really helped shape me into the person I am today. After graduating college, I knew going back to Maccabi as a coach was something I really wanted to do because it was a program that had such a great impact on my life. Now, I get to see the huge smile on these girls' faces as they get to participate in all the amazing events that Maccabi brings to kids. More so, I get to coach alongside my best friend Lena Munzer who I met at the Maccabi games back in 2008. Maccabi is bigger than sports, it’s about finding a connection to other kids who are similar to you from all over the world. This is a great way for young adults to feel a part of their Jewish background while also gaining new experiences. My memories from Maccabi as a player and coach have been some of the best memories of my life!

Jodi Marver

Jodi Marver is Chicago’s 16U Maccabi Girls Basketball Coach. Outside of Maccabi she is the Head Varsity Girls Basketball Coach and Physical Education Teacher at Willows Academy. Jodi went to Knox College where she studied Elementary Education and was an elementary school teacher for 4 years before transitioning to secondary education. Jodi is thrilled to continue to give back to the Maccabi community that has given so much to her when she was younger.

 

March Madness by Alex Newman

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Whether I’ve been the one competing or watching from my couch, sports have always been a huge part of my life. The first sport I played was soccer when I was 3. After that it was t-ball, then baseball, then basketball, then flag football, and now Ultimate Frisbee and Track and Field. I started playing Ultimate Frisbee for Walter Payton when I was in 8th grade, switching to Lane’s team once I became a Lane student, and I’ve heard all of the jokes. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s an incredibly niche sport, but I still love it. I’ve also been on the Girls’ Track and Field team for two years, which has been just as awesome of an experience. When Covid winds down, the thing I’m most excited for is definitely going back to practices, meets, tournaments, and just seeing my teammates again.  

I also love watching sports just as much as playing them. I love Chicago teams, especially the Bears, and I play fantasy football and hockey with my friends. The one area of sports that I’ve never fully jumped into was college basketball, until now. Since we’ve started working on this bracket tournament I’ve definitely been doing my research and, while I can’t make any bold predictions right now, I’m certainly rooting for Illinois. As I’m writing this, they have the No. 2 seed but, after their wins against Michigan last week and Ohio State as their last regular season game, the No. 1 spot is definitely in view. Plus, a lot of my friends and old teammates go to Illinois, so I’m emotionally invested as well. 

Alex Newman is a Junior at Lane Tech High School where she’s on the Track and Field team, is the co-president and captain of the Ultimate Frisbee team, and a member of the Omega program. Outside of school, Alex is the secretary of the Piece by Peace organization, a youth outreach program run but students. Alex’s work with these programs has been rooted in her Jewish values, specifically that of community.



#MarchMadness with Hannah Goldwin

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

I am a highly superstitious person for no reason at all. No tangible wish I’ve made on an eyelash has come fantastically true and changed the course of my life. Running to the nearest wall to knock on wood or not doing so has not altered my entire life- that I know of. Yet each year as I submit my March Madness bracket in a variety of pools I will read each potential match-up and winner to myself out loud and then kiss my fingers and press submit. Unlike my other superstitions, I can give you the exact root of this tradition. 

In middle school, I was given the wonderfully transformative opportunity to submit a bracket in the faculty competition. I was up against basketball fanatic security guards, maintenance staff, and my own teachers. While the bracket was submitted under my mother’s name, it was my baby. I did hours of research just like expecting parents. Statistics rolled off my tongue after watching as many hours of ESPN as my homework schedule allowed. Yet when it came down to the deadline, I felt unprepared. I had sporadically watched March Madness over the years and the thought of a 16 seed beating a 1 seed was completely impossible in my mind (Spoiler: it happened). I chose to speak my predictions into existence and read the bracket out loud to myself. I then decided there was no time like the present, kissed my hand, and clicked submit. After around 3 weeks of stress and constant distraction by that day’s games, it came down to the championship. I wasn’t ready for the roller coaster to be over. Each day as many of us sat in class secretly watching scores while writing essays and doing work, I felt a sense of community. You could see slight flashes of disappointment across the room when the score updated in favor of the huge underdog and the tapping of sneakers against the tiled floor when games came down to the wire. There was always a bracket discussion going on in the hallway whether it be an argument or statistical analysis. But the end was looming and I was sitting just off the podium in 5th place- out of 80 brackets if I may add. Fast forward a stressful three hours where I was brought to the verge of tears multiple times and my predicted winner came out victorious, The UNC Tarheels. The point values of our competition were perplexing to me so I was completely baffled as to how this would affect the final standings. I fell asleep that night satisfied. And the next morning I raced to check my email as if it was Instagram. Though it may sound cliché, my heart was thumping in my chest so hard my entire body shook with each beat. I opened the PDF at the top of my inbox and found my name highlighted in yellow with 3rd place next to it. My heart swelled with pride. The sense of accomplishment and fulfillment I felt in that moment has been almost unmatched since. I collected my prize money later that day and carried the envelope home as if it was my most expensive possession- which it may have been. My read-aloud and kissing had worked. It hasn’t worked every time since but I’m surely not willing to give it up yet. 

March Madness

Hannah Goldwin is a Junior at Walter Payton College Prep and plays tennis as well as dabbles in ultimate frisbee and basketball. She leads clubs devoted to Alzheimer’s awareness, Jewish Community, and the discussion of a top notch educational show, the Bachelor. She watches football religiously and recently graduated from the Diller Teen Fellowship.

Introducing this years' Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Springboard is pleased to introduce this years’ Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago (JTAC). This group of incredible teens are connected to numerous organizations within our community. They represent the voices and missions of Youth Groups, cohort programs, volunteer opportunities and so much more. We would like to take a moment to share with you a little more about each of these talented teens: Abby Cyrluk, Blake Finkel, Ella Rubenstein, Ilana Friedel, Kathrine McKeag, Kaylee Zavduk, Klara Walny, Maya Comrov, Noah Shapiro, Ronit Lunken, and Sophia Rose. They have all grown and been shaped by their Jewish communities in different ways. We asked each member of JTAC to share a personal mission statement, to provide a window for us, into their lives, values, and what is most important to them.

logos for teens

Klara Walny:  

Hi, my name is Klara Walny. My Jewish youth groups have shaped who I am today and are helping me grow for tomorrow. I simply would not be who I am without Young Judaea, CTeen, Voices, and JTAC. All these groups have taught me something very important, that I should be proud to be Jewish. 

Young Judaea taught me about pluralism and how to accept everyone no matter their beliefs or backgrounds. While CTeen taught me there are millions of Jewish teens around the world, that I should value my Judaism, and I should be proud to be a Jew. Voices on the other hand, taught me about philanthropy, the importance of giving tzedakah and not just blindly giving money without research and consideration. Last, but not least, JTAC taught me that there are a ton of Jewish teens in the Chicagoland area and that there is a Jewish youth group for your interests and/or beliefs. 

Personally, all these youth groups have also helped shape my friends. My closest friends come from time at Camp Young Judaea Midwest and from my fellow board members in CTeen. They have made me laugh, always keep me on my toes, and are always there for me when I have a bad day. I could not ask for better friends, they are so smart and have good hearts. I try to be there for them as much as they are for me. 

Abby Cyrluk: 

My name is Abby Cyrluk and I want to share with you the things that have made me into the person I am today. To start, I was lucky to attend Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School for 10 years of my life. Bernard Zell is a Jewish day school where I received all my Jewish education. The Jewish community at Bernard Zell is so strong. No matter what I was doing, there was always a teacher or classmate there to help me and support me. Bernard Zell shaped me into the young adult I am today, not just in the Jewish community, but in general. Bernard Zell made me understand the importance of having a strong community and that is something I will carry with me through life. 

The second thing that has shaped me into who I am is Chippewa Ranch Camp. I have been going to sleepaway camp at Chippewa since I was 8 years old. During my time at camp, I have gained friendships that will last a lifetime. At camp, I can feel how I'm a part of a community that is bigger than me. Camp is like my second home and I will forever be thankful for all the experiences and friendship camp has given me.   

Throughout my life, I want to be able to create and become a part of more strong communities like Bernard Zell and Chippewa Ranch Camp. I want to be able to help communities and generally make each community I become a part of a better place. I have learned being a part of communities and being able to learn and gain help from others in those communities, is ultimately the best way to grow as a person.  

Ella Rubenstein: 

My name is Ella Rubinstein. I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, baking, pursuing social justice, helping my community, engaging in meaningful and thoughtful conversations, and connecting with my Jewish heritage. I love BBYO because it has allowed me to discover my inner leadership skills to lead on what I am passionate about.  

I hope to always be seeking justice and helping others in my life. My parents instilled wonderful values in me, and one being that I really care about doing what is right no matter what. Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest path, but it is the way to be a more honest person. 

I aspire to lead those around me with enthusiasm, as well as a desire to be a positive person in society. I feel I am a hard worker with a friendly personality which enables me to make change while also exhibiting a kind spirit.  

Blake Finkel: 

My name is Blake Finkel and I want to share with you a little bit about who I am. Camp Chi has made me the person I am today, teaching me the importance of community, respect, and kindness. I believe that the connections I have made through camp have supported me throughout high school and will continue to support me throughout life.  
 
As an individual, I strive to contribute to the communities I am a part of. I believe the relationships we create with others helps to build a better and more compassionate community. By building these relationships, we can turn to each other for help and support. The Jewish community is one of the most compassionate and supportive communities and has helped me to grow as an individual and as a leader. From helping at my synagogue to serving on regional board for BBYO, I believe that contributing to these communities creates stronger bonds and a larger impact on others. To strengthen my school community, I have participated in peer tutoring and hold a leadership role in the Freshman Mentor Program, which helps welcome the new class into our school each year.  

I hope to continue to value the importance of community throughout life. Sustaining and emphasizing the values of kindness and respect are crucial in preventing hate and hostility. I believe it is our duty to lead future generations on the right path, building and preserving a strong community for them to inherit.  

Kathrine McKeag: 

I'm Katherine McKeag and I'd love for you to get to know me a bit better. I participate in a wide variety of Jewish organizations; primarily NFTY. NFTY programming gives me an opportunity to engage in Judaism with my peers. It also gives me opportunities to meet diverse individuals from around the country and grow as a person.  

Being involved in NFTY has allowed me to continue building on my core value; kindness. I believe that everyone deserves to be welcomed into any environment with as much support as possible. NFTY has provided me an outlet to use my philosophy. At every in-person event, I would constantly come back with dozens of new contacts, who I could then encourage to come back to NFTY.  

NFTY not only provides a space for me to meet others but gives me an opportunity to work on myself. Throughout my life I have struggled with mental health, NFTY gave me a safe place to grow and gain support from. I have always enjoyed close-knit, loving communities and that is exactly what NFTY, and most other Jewish youth engagement programs are. 

Maya Comrov: 

Hi, my name is Maya Comrov. I am 18 years old and live in Buffalo Grove, IL. I am a senior at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School in Deerfield. In my free time, I like to run with my dad and take walks with my family. I am actively involved with my school through various clubs, musical theater, choir, and sports. Besides JTAC, a few other organizations I am involved in are NCSY, Camp Gan Israel of Northbrook, Voices, Student to Student, and Chai Lifeline. I have also been a counselor for Camp Gan Israel of Northbrook for years.  

I wake up every day grateful to be alive and inherently committed to enhancing the lives of others through kindness. I love meeting new people, making them smile, and forming meaningful relationships. Through the organizations I have been involved in, I have developed leadership skills, flexibility, and appreciation for community. Serving as a board member on the North Shore chapter of NCSY, I have been given opportunities to brainstorm events for teens from 6th to 12th graders. With my work on Voices, I have learned how to fundraise and donate thoughtfully. Student to Student, Chai Lifeline, and Camp Gan Israel have allowed me to gain a better understanding of who I am and what I’m capable of achieving while also doing chesed. These organizations have allowed me to push myself into becoming more sensitive, empathic, and proactive. 

Ronit Lunken: 

Hi my name is Ronit Lunken and I would like to tell you all about me. I have always had a strong connection to my Judaism. Although I live far from major Jewish populations, I have learned so much from my Judaism, especially from Young Judaea (YJ). Young Judaea teaches me so much about inclusion, tikkun olam, and leadership. I have been involved in the YJ youth movement for almost ten years, including the past two years which I have been on the board. In this position I have learned how to be a better leader by making connections, listening, helping others, and being compassionate. I have utilized these values many times, and they have helped me grow as a leader. I make an effort to reach out to every individual and make sure everyone feels heard and valued.  

Tikkun olam, repairing the world, is one of my most valued Jewish teachings. It has greatly shaped who I am as a person, and it affects how I live and make decisions. I volunteer every week at my local animal shelter and in my Jewish community whenever I get the chance. I strive to one day be zero-waste. I am constantly making decisions to better myself and minimize my impact on the environment. I know that I have an impact on the world, though volunteering and leadership, and I want to make a positive one. 



Meet Naomi: Springboard’s New Teen Engagement Manager

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

I am so excited to be joining the Springboard team as the Teen Engagement Manager. Ever since I was an intern at the JUF in college (shout out to the Lewis Summer Internship program), I have dreamed of working at the JUF and supporting the Chicago Jewish community.

I am originally from Oak Park, a suburb just west of Chicago. My home synagogue, Oak Park Temple, was always a special place for me and the space that felt like my second home. Before high school, my entire Jewish world was based in Oak Park. However, the summer before my freshman year, my entire life changed when I attended my first NFTY event.

Naomi at NFTY

The event was a five-day retreat called Summer Kallah. In those five days, my Jewish identity and interest in being a leader in my community was suddenly roused. After that one retreat, I began to connect with Jewish teens from all around the Chicago area and the country. I went on to serve as the NFTY Chicago Programming Vice President and President. I even met my husband in NFTY and majored in Jewish studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison because of the impact NFTY had on my life.

I am so thankful that my parents signed me up for my first NFTY event. Some days I look back at my life and think about how different things would have been if I had not gotten involved with NFTY and my temple youth group.

That is why I am thrilled to be on the Springboard team. The opportunity to connect Jewish teens with programs and opportunities that have the potential to change their entire lives and inspire them to explore the Jewish identity is what drives me each day to do this important work. Each person that Springboard helps to connect with a meaningful Jewish experience is incredible. Whether it’s through TOV Teens, USY, JSC, NFTY, BBYO, Keshet, summer camp, or the dozens of other Jewish opportunities for teens in the Chicago area, I am excited to help each teen find the program or multiple programs that will leave a positive and lasting impact on their life.

When I’m not connecting Jewish teens with programs, you can usually find me baking bread, playing with my new puppy, or trying to find the tastiest taco in Chicago. I recently moved from Chicago to Evanston and love exploring the beautiful parks nearby.

Naomi Looper

Before working at Springboard, I was OSRUI Assistant Director and NFTY Chicago Regional Director. Prior to that, I worked at Temple Jeremiah in Northfield as the Youth and Family Engagement Director. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison (go Badgers!) and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jewish Studies and International Studies. While in college, I worked as the youth director at Temple Beth El in Madison, WI and served as a student representative on the UW Hillel board. I am currently pursuing my Masters in Jewish Professional Studies from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

Meet Mady Frischer: NSCI Youth Engagement Coordinator

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Mady Frischer

(To the tune of Sk8r Boi by Avril Lavigne)


(VERSE 1)

I was a girl

In the North Shore

Can I make it any more obvious?

I did USY

Went to O-S-R-U-I

What else could I try?

Did theater too

Got into AU

Went to school in DC for a year or two

Until study abroad

In Jerusalem

Took my career goals and totally changed them...

 

(CHORUS)

I was an IR Major

That’s what my job plans were

Then I found out I liked Jewish jobs

I had some internships

I learned a lot of tricks

At AJC, JNF, The Embassy of Israel and Kahal

 

(BRIDGE)

Graduation was approaching

My future plans were encroaching

I applied for a CLASP position

Working at NSCI was a smooth transition

Everyday I work with teens

Making the Jewish programs of their dreams

I enjoy work everyday

And that’s all I want to say!


(CHORUS)

I was an IR Major

That’s what my job plans were

Then I found out I liked Jewish jobs

I had some internships

I learned a lot of tricks

Now I work full time at NSCI!

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

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

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


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