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Springboard Blog

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Ruth Prass

(Social Action, Social Action) Permanent link
Ruth Prass

Happy National Alopecia Awareness Month 2021! In 2015 (4th grade) I was diagnosed with celiac, hyperthyroid, enlarged thyroid, a major iron deficiency, and Alopecia. Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition that affects 2% of the world’s population; It causes unexpected and uncontrollable hair loss on the body. It differs from person to person, with hair loss varying from the size of a dime, quarter, or larger patches on the scalp. Every fall, I would lose two large patches on each side of my head, leaving roughly ½ of my scalp bald. In 2018 however, I went completely bald, including losing all the other hair on my body (eyelashes, eyebrows, etc.) This is called Alopecia Universalis, meaning total hairlessness on the body. When I lost my hair, I felt like I lost myself in the process; It felt almost dehumanizing to look so different and feel the part too. 

My hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes began to grow back 9 months after they fell out. I remember the first time I didn’t wear a hat to school in April of my 7th grade year; It was an uncomfortable push that I gave myself, but through that, I began to build confidence. I soon realized that it didn’t matter if I had hair or not because I was the same person I was before I went bald. While the experience was so difficult for me, it truly led me to be more confident, comfortable with myself, and learn how to surround myself with people who support me, not tear me down. 

In 2020, I spoke up formally/publicly about my experience on Instagram and other platforms for the first time. It took a lot of courage and made me remember a time that was both a physical and mental challenge for me. With that being said, I am so beyond happy that I did. This is the 2nd year I’ve spoken up about my experience, in hope of letting others know that it is ok to be different and that it is nothing to be ashamed of. I have also been working on fundraisers for Children With Hair Loss (CWHL), a nonprofit organization that makes free wigs for kids with medically related hair loss. When I began to embrace my diseases rather than hide them, I took a step back and realized how much this difficult process shaped my being for the better. Happy National Alopecia Awareness Month Everybody! Contact me with questions or ways to help! 

Ruth Prass

About the Author: Ruth is a sophomore at Deerfield high school where she plays soccer and basketball. She is an active member of her Israel club and Hebrew honors society. She belongs to Congregation BJBE and Congregation Beth Am. Ruth loves cooking, baking, exercising and hanging out with her friends. She loves spending her summers at camp at OSRUI.

Use your voice to demand climate action by Eliana Bernat

(Social Action, Social Action) Permanent link

Skimming the latest headlines, the devastating effects of climate change seem endless. Record-breaking heat in the U.S. Northwest and Canada; deadly flooding in Germany; extreme droughts in much of the U.S. West; fires raging across Turkey. It’s painfully clear that the climate crisis is no longer a problem solely for the future— its effects are already here and are impacting marginalized communities the worst. 

Reading these stories, I feel a sense of fear for the people affected and my future. But as much as climate change is a most horrific crisis, addressing it is the opportunity of a generation to transform society for the better. Especially as the world is also recovering from the economic impacts of COVID-19, we have the chance to put millions of people to work in dignified jobs that also help the planet. Green jobs like upgrading our infrastructure to be resilient to climate disasters, building clean and affordable public transit, expanding renewable energy, retrofitting buildings to be energy efficient, and restoring ecosystems could all help communities who have been historically excluded from economic opportunity. Not only would all of these solutions reduce our emissions and lessen climate change, but they would create the just and equitable future us youth deserve. 

Green New Deal


Through Congress’ upcoming infrastructure package, we have the chance to make this dream a reality. As young people, our voices hold power on this issue especially, and our Members of Congress need to hear from us. You can join the Illinois Green New Deal Coalition and Clean Power Lake County in urging your legislators to demand that Congress include bold climate action in their infrastructure package by going to bit.ly/ILGreenNewDeal.

Eliana Bernat

About the Author: Eliana Bernat belongs to Or Shalom and is an incoming senior at Vernon Hills High School. She is part of her school’s environmental club, participated in JUF’s Research Training Internship (RTI) last year, and this summer was an intern with Clean Power Lake County (CPLC).

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Jake Draluck

(Social Action) Permanent link

Creating positivity in the Middle of a Pandemic by Jake Draluck

Prior to the pandemic, probably like most of you, I was keeping up an intense schedule which will sound familiar: classes, sports, clubs, friends and a ton of homework. Then the pandemic hit in March 2020, my school abruptly closed its doors, and I was unexpectedly stuck at home with tons of free time and nothing particularly relevant to do. With the TV on all the time in my kitchen, I heard Governor Pritzker mandate that face coverings be worn in all public places, and I began to wonder how everyone in the Chicago area would be able to get masks when, back in May, they had become so difficult to find at any price?

As I researched this topic, I confirmed that Illinois’ mask order did not provide any funding for people who could not afford or obtain masks on their own. Because my Dad is a doctor and we had access to masks early on, I contacted some of the local food pantries to see if I could be helpful in getting masks to their clients. In my conversations with these organizations, I learned that not only was the lack of access to masks causing anxiety for pantry clients, but that pandemic-related unemployment had created a large demand for other basic hygiene products—items like deodorant, razors, toothpaste, and other necessities were often overlooked by donors, even though these essential items had become impossibly expensive for those who had lost their jobs. 

When I learned that hygiene products, including masks, cannot be purchased with SNAP Cards or through any other government assistance programs, and that so few people are aware of this problem, I created a nonprofit organization called We Got You to try to become part of the solution. So far We Got You has donated over 6500 hygiene products, hygiene kits and laundry kits to people in our Chicago area community who have been struggling to afford them, and we have partnered with several social impact organizations to help us get these items distributed to those in need. 

Please visit us at www.wegotyoualways.org to learn more about our mission to see how you can help! If you like our message and are looking for an easy way to be involved, please consider hosting a hygiene product drive at your school or synagogue or youth group—we would be happy to pick up any donations that you have, and we accept any size items—from travel size to full size. If you know how to make masks, please consider donating homemade masks to us for distribution with our other supplies!

If you have your own idea for a project, I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start. When in doubt, my advice is to start small, start local, and work your way up from there. Any amount of positive change you can make in the world will help someone, somewhere, and is worth making!

Jake Draluck

Jake is a junior at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where he is a member of the Boys Crew Team, Exeter Jewish Community (EJC), Investment Club, Economics Club, and Exeter Student Service Organization, among other clubs, and serves as a Proctor for the Exeter Film Department. In Chicago, Jake is a rowing instructor at the Alliance Rowing Club of Chicago, and is a Diller Teen Fellow (2018-2019 Cohort). He is also the founder and President of Deadstock Chicago, a sneaker and streetwear resale company.  

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Ethan Comrov

(Social Action) Permanent link

Ethan Comrov

Eliminating Anti-Semitism; One Relationship At A Time

Growing up in a Jewish Community meant always being surrounded by a familiar tradition and practice. I went to a Jewish middle school during the week and attended synagogue on Shabbat. I would go through the motions of my everyday life nonchalantly, uninterested in the outside world which always seemed so foreign and irrelevant to me. It was not until I had experienced my first few encounters with anti-semtism that I would turn to the rest of the world and wonder: How come I, as a Jewish person, receive so much hate? 

I struggled to answer this question throughout eighth grade and the beginning of high school. It bothered me that Jewish people around the world were constantly being persecuted and attacked yet, the world seemed to just stand by and observe without taking action. I wanted to defend myself and my religion but I did not know how. 

Luckily, in my sophomore year of high school, my school launched a program called Student to Student. Inspired by a similar program in St. Louis, Student to Student aimed to educate and inform non-Jewish teenagers about Judaism. By having Jewish teenagers interact with other teenagers who shared little knowledge about Judaism, a relationship was formed that served to fight anti-semitism by simply connecting with the other teens.

I joined the program as soon as I had heard about it and after my first few presentations at public schools in Naperville and Catholic schools in Mount Prospect, I felt confident about my ability to defend myself and my religion. I encountered difficult questions that challenged my knowledge and I saw teenagers of a different faith interacting with me as they listened to what I had to share. 

After almost two full years of presenting to students at various different schools, I realized that I had entered a completely different world than the one in which I had grown up in. Student to Student had taught me that combating anti-semtism does not just occur in a classroom, rather it is a daily mission that can be fought anywhere in the world. As a Jewish teenager living in the United States, it is my responsibility to present myself to society as a mature and educated person. My character is a representation of the Jewish people and it is my responsibility to be a good influence and example on behalf of our nation.

The most important lesson that I have learned from my time educating, inspiring, and informing others is that ignorance is the root of anti-semitism especially in society today. If one does not know anything about a different person their minds instantly form preconceived notions about them based on their looks, background, and personality. When it comes to anti-semitism, most poeple are uneducated and lack understanding of how Judaism is observed. This is the fundamental basis of modern anti-semtism. I have interacted with over a thousand students by now and whenever I present to a different group, I can see the understanding build up in their minds. I can see them start to rethink certain ideas that might have encompassed before about Jewish people. The relationship that is created between me and another teen is crucial in preventing the spread of anti-semitism. 

In my time with Student to Student I have engaged with many students and educators and I have allowed my ability to connect and teach people to flow beyond the classroom and into my daily life. Whether it is participating in sports events or attending a concert, my influence and my reach goes further than anything that I could have envisioned. The relationships that I have formed over the years with countless individuals shows me that there is a way to fight anti-semtism. There is a way to stop the hate. As a Jewish teen, it is my responsibility to advocate for myself and my religion as every relationship that I form has the potential to change the mindset and perspective of countless others. We can stop the hate. It only takes one voice to make a difference in this world.

Ethan Comrov is a junior at Ida Crown Jewish Academy. He plays basketball and soccer and runs cross country. He is also a board member of his schools Israel Advocacy Club as well as being an adamant participant of Chicago’s Student to Student organization. Ethan is currently the Vice-President of Education for Midwest NCSY. Ethan is passionate about Israel advocacy and education.



#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Sam Gordon

(Social Action) Permanent link

Sam Gordon

In today’s day and age, it is so easy to feel overwhelmed with all of the problems surrounding you. When I first joined social media, I felt like every day something new had gone wrong somewhere in the world. I had no idea where to start. One day, I saw a post from a climate organizer I followed with some tips on how to get involved. Step one was to reach out to anyone and everyone about working with them. Shortly after seeing her post, I came face to face with the perfect opportunity to put this theory to the test.

While I attended Camp Tov this summer, a speaker from The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) spoke to us about our role as Jews in combating white supremacy. I took a deep breath and emailed the speaker, Mara, to ask her if there were any opportunities to work with JCUA, and it totally paid off. Every day, I am so grateful that I gathered the courage to email Mara. Taking part in Jewish organizing has been one of the most fulfilling opportunities I’ve ever had. While working with JCUA, I know that everyone around me is similarly fueled by a love of learning and the desire to repair the damage done to the world around us. Unlike my past experiences with activism, I never feel like I have to compromise any part of my identity while I work.

During one of the campaigns I worked on this fall, Fair Tax, I felt called to take part because of how closely its message aligned with Jewish literature. For example, Torah teaches that you should leave portions of your field unsown so that your neighbor or the stranger can come and eat. With this message in mind, all of us knew that it was our role, as Jewish people, to make sure that those around us were taken care of, even if meant sacrificing some of our time or resources. Because of my few months working with Jewish organizers, I want to encourage all Jewish youth feeling a little overwhelmed to reach out to any Jewish organizations they love, I guarantee they will not regret it. 

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Talah Goldfarb

(Social Action) Permanent link

Superman

My name is Talah and I would like to tell you a story about my best friend, Superman Sammy. When I was six years old, Sammy was diagnosed with Leukemia. The hospital was extremely overwhelming for me and it was hard to visit at such a young age. Instead, I mostly visited Sammy at the Ronald McDonald house where we played in the playroom. One time, we even spent the day having a behind the scenes tour at the Milwaukee Zoo. Sadly, Sammy passed away when we were  just eight years old in 2013. 

The summer before Sammy passed away, I went to my first summer at camp OSRUI. Sammy and I would have gone to camp together probably until we couldn’t any more. We would have developed our Jewish identities alongside one another, but instead I shape mine in honor of him as well as mindfully think of ways to incorporate his memory and my Jewish identity in my everyday life. Sammy and I have birthdays a couple days apart and when it came time for my Bat Mitzvah, I knew that reading Torah and celebrating in honor of him was a meaningful way for me to integrate his memory into a celebration we would have shared. 

In memory of Sammy, I am fundraising for the 2021 Students of the Year program for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. With my team, I hope to raise at least $20,000 during this seven week competition amongst high schoolers around the country. Through fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, there is increasing hope that these cancer diagnoses no longer become fatal.

Every three minutes, somebody in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Whether that cancer is Leukemia, Lymphoma, or Myeloma, every patient who receives a cancer diagnosis knows that his or her life is forever changed. Since 2017, LLS has helped advance fifty-eight of the sixty-eight blood cancer treatment options approved by the FDA and can continue to advance these treatments through donations made by you. 

To donate to my campaign please visit: bit.ly/talahlls.

Talah Goldfarb

Talah is a freshman at Highland Park High school where she plays field hockey and is an active member in both Rotary Interact and her school’s Medical Education club.  She spends her summers developing her Jewish identity and cultivating a passion for Tikkun Olam at camp OSRUI. Talah’s love for volunteering and making the world a better place started when she was a leader for her middle school’s service club and when she participated in a SaLT Student Travel trip to Orlando serving at the Give Kids the World Village.

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Springboard Peer Ambassador Sophia Schultz

(Social Action) Permanent link

Sophia Schultz

My family began attending SJCS, the Secular Jewish Community and School of Oak Park when I was in first grade. Each year with my age group, I participated in either a social action project or service project. In third grade, for example, I made headbands to sell in order to raise money for a children’s hospital. Other projects I participated in included donating food to and volunteering at the Oak Park Food Pantry, and cleaning up a forest preserve. I was taught at a young age that the proper thing to do was to always help others and to do my part to repair the world (Tikkun Olam) which I have always directly aligned with my Jewish Identity. This past summer, I participated in JUF’s Camp Tov in which we discussed Jewish values and how they relate to our purpose in doing good for others. We met with several organizations, learned about their pursuit, and what we could do to help them. When we met with Sophie Draluck, a freshman at UPenn who began Cycle Forward, an organization that collects feminine products for women in need, I was immediately drawn to the organization’s ambition and started my own Period Products Drive. By running my own drive, I inspired my friend to get her swim team to do a Period Products Drive for their yearly service project.

In addition to discovering impactful organizations, participating in conversations on Camp Tov Zoom Calls made me feel like I truly belonged somewhere. Living in a community with a very small Jewish Population, I have never truly felt accepted besides at SJCS. During Camp Tov, I was able to make connections and share similar beliefs with the other Jewish Teens. This experience encouraged me to become more involved in my Jewish community and to apply for the Springboard Peer Ambassadorship. I am excited to get connected with more Jewish teens during my Peer Ambassadorship and to continue to develop my Jewish Identity. 

Sophia is a Senior at Lyons Township High School where she is a news editor for her school newspaper. Through her Participation in SJCS (the Secular Jewish Community of Oak Park) and JUF’s (Jewish United Fund) Camp Tov, her Jewish identity has become central to her passion for social action and service to others. 

#RepairTheWorld Wednesday with Springboard Peer Ambassador, Talia Holceker

(Holidays, Social Action, Social Action) Permanent link

Hanukkah, Challah, and Volunteering

Celebrating Hannukah with my family is notably one of the most important events that have helped shaped my Jewish identity. Huddled around the Menorah, singing the blessing, and lighting the candles. Judaism has always connected me to the value of family and caring for one another. I have such fond memories of Hannuakh and watching the candles burn and shine in my kitchen. Last Spring, during quarantine, I tried making Challah for the first time. Even though it didn’t turn out great, Challah was a way for me to connect with Judaism and it brought me back to when I would eat Challah at Sunday School.

challah bread

More recently though, I think JUF has truly helped shape my Jewish Identity. For the last two years, I have volunteered through Camp Tov and this year participated in Voices. Being around other teens with the same values and beliefs as me was powerful. Those camps also introduced me to how much I love volunteering. It connected me with so many amazing organizations that I have continued to work with. This past summer, I participated in a program called “jaywalking” which was started by a fellow teen and raised money for food insecurity in Chicago. I am now an active volunteer with Cradles to Crayons which is one of my favorite organizations. Those are just two examples of how JUF has shown me how important volunteering is. I am so excited to be a Peer Ambassador this year because I will be working with other Jewish teens and connecting them to educational and exciting programs. I am looking forward to planning my event and connecting it with a lot of my interests. 

Talia Holceker

Talia is a junior at Francis W. Parker School of Chicago, where she is an active leader and member of her community. Through her work with Cradles to Crayons and the Anti-Creaulty Society, her Jewish identity has become central to her passion for volunteering

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

(Social Action, Social Action, Celebrate Our Community) Permanent link

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 with Sammie Reinstein

(Social Action) Permanent link

In history class, I have always read about these revolutionary elections that changed the course of history forever. However, I have never expected that I would be living through one. Before the pandemic hit, politics was not a common topic of discussion among people my age, yet when the stay-at-home orders went into place, many people my age were starting to see how government, federal and local, affects them. Whether it is tuning in to every school board meeting, watching Governor Pritzker’s daily remarks, or following the passage of the stimulus checks, people my age began to notice the role of political leadership all around them. That is why voting in this election was so important for me. I needed to vote because the while government can decide the future of the country, I can as well. All it takes is one vote.

Because this was my first election, I knew that it was important that I stayed engaged. Once the primary season ended, I realized that I wanted to have a role in this election as a volunteer, and thus, I joined a high school volunteer group for a presidential candidate. Not only did I get to call voters, but I also met politically active students all around the country. Inspired by these students and their passion, I took on a couple of leadership roles. I served as the events manager for high school women and Illinois high school students chapters. In these roles, I was able to organize events in which we called voters, participated in enriching discussions, and watched informative political documentaries. I have enjoyed my time in this organization, and I have realized that I want to continue to volunteer for candidates because it is truly amazing to help people participate in one of our most fundamental democratic processes.

I took what I learned from my volunteer work to my ballot. After calling voters about mail-in ballots, I decided to use a mail-in ballot myself. It was a fairly simple process to request a mail-in ballot, and the clerk in my community was very helpful with getting that ballot to me. When my ballot finally came in the mail, I was beyond excited. I immediately filled it out, reading each instruction carefully, thinking through each candidate and their views. The next day, I turned in my ballot to the circuit court with my dad. I went up to the dropbox, and I put my ballot in the box. I then stood there long enough waiting for the sound of my ballot hitting the bottom of the box that signaled my ballot was received. After we heard my ballot hit the bottom of the box, I turned to my dad and exclaimed, “That’s democracy for you!”

Even though it seems like the world came to a halt this past March, voting was important for me because I was voting for the future of the pandemic response, the future of my state’s tax system, and the future of my community leadership. People often dismiss that teenagers like myself have valid opinions, but this election, I offered a perspective of what a high school student wants the future to look like. It was my vote and the other record-breaking amount of votes that made this election one of the most revolutionary in our nation’s history. 

Sammie Reinstein

Sammie Reinstein is a senior at Vernon Hills High School, and she is a Kol Koleinu fellow. She is involved in her school’s dance team, female empowerment club (Dare to Empower), Best Buddies, and choir. In her free time, Sammie loves to read, watch documentaries, and catch up on the latest news in the world of politics.

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with... YOU!

(Social Action) Permanent link

For this repair the world Wednesday we are featuring.. you! Are you looking for ways to help your community this month? While COVID is still impacting our lives in a big way, we can’t forget about those in need around us. With Thanksgiving around the corner, and food on our minds, what time better than the present to donate some canned goods to a soup kitchen. Maybe, you want to hit the holiday toy sales and donate some gift this holiday season. Whatever you want to do, there someone out there you can help! Check out our quiz below to see what volunteer opportunity might be right for you!

Make an Impact

To navigate to the opportunities outlines above click the links below. 

Donations:

WINGS

Center on Halsted’s

EZRA Multi-Service Center’s

We Got You

In Person Opportunities:

Maot Chitim

Hanul Family Alliance

We Got You

#RepairTheWorldWednesday: Things I Learned From Being an Election Judge for the 2020 Presidential Election

(Social Action) Permanent link

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to work as an election judge for the 2020 presidental election. I decided to serve as an election judge since it was driving me crazy that I couldn't vote in this election. I wanted to find a way to make a difference and serving as an election judge was a great opportunity for me to support our democracy. Here are four things that I learned throughout my 15-hour shift:

  1. Teamwork is key:

Setting up for Election Day was tedious and required a lot of patience (with the machines and each other). My polling place was assigned six poll workers, three of which had never worked an election before. Luckily, we had some wonderful women on our team who were experts and were extremely kind and patient throughout the entire very long process. With all of us working together, we were able to set up in time before the election, and clean up afterwards without having to stay too late. 

  1. Not everyone will have empathy, and that’s okay:

Since a plethora of devices were struggling to connect to our WiFi pod, one of our computers used to check-in voters was running very slowly throughout the entire day, causing a short waiting period for voters as the machine processed everything. The wide range in the way voters reacted amazed me. Some exercised patience and thanked us all for being volunteers, some gave into anger and insults, and some just stood quietly while the computer did its work. I quickly learned that the best way to handle upset voters was to try my best to remain empathetic and handle the situation calmly and gracefully. 

  1. Happy voters are worth it:

My favorite part of this entire experience was the excitement and joy that some people expressed while voting. Around 6 AM, right when we opened, a woman came in and did a little dance as soon as she cast her ballot. It was energizing and inspiring to see a woman at such an early time in the morning be so peppy and ecstatic to vote.

  1. Yoga time is the best time:

At about 1 PM, after eight hours of work, since we were in a dry patch with no voters coming in, my team and I decided to do a bit of yoga. After doing yoga together, we really started getting to know each other better. Over the remaining seven hours, we talked all about school, jobs, interests, passions, fears, and spent lots of time laughing. I got a chance to learn my team’s stories, who they are, what makes them tick. I’ll forever carry with me the “breakfast club” feel I got from everyone sharing aspects of their life with people who were pretty much strangers. There was a vulnerability and genuinity to it that I’ll continue to hold on to.

Overall, this experience was one I will never forget. I learned about teamwork, how to handle certain situations, enthusiasm, and other people's perspectives. This was an incredibly valuable experience and I encourage others to try it out. If you do, you’ll most likely learn some lessons of your own that will stick with you forever.

Ania Sacks

Ania Sacks is a junior at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Ania participates in many Jewish activities such as Teen-Seed 613, RTI, Jewish Student Connection, Sunday school teaching, NFTY, and is President of her Temple youth group (OPTY). Outside of school, Ania loves to paint, write, play the violin, and explore social justice.

#Repairtheworldwednesday: Igniting Teen Advocacy Around the World

(Social Action) Permanent link

It's been a long time since Covid-TV was on the Springboard blog! Since that time, we have been working to expand Covid-TV to cover more aspects of Social Justice and Tikkun Olam than just the pandemic. We are so excited to introduce Empower Teen! 

Empower TV

Covid-TV is now just a branch of our bigger website, Empower Teen. Empower Teen’s mission is to educate our teen readers on social action, change, and entrepreneurship.

Right now, Empower Teen has 4 main channels. The first, of course, is Covid-TV, which connects teens from 10 different countries around the world and has raised over $15,000 for at-risk communities in the pandemic. 

However, the other three channels are brand new. We just launched Resist-TV, which has two main parts: BLM-TV and Pay Gap-TV. Both these channels contain resources to learn about the issue and take action to make social progress. If you visit BLM-TV, you can find almost 20 different resources to learn about Black Lives Matter, petitions to sign, and ways to influence the movement in your own school or community. Pay Gap-TV links readers to statistics about the wage gap, sexual harrasment and gender/race inequalities in the workplace, and ways to try and close the gap, like petitions and scripts to call one’s representatives or senators. 

Our second newest channel is called Mental Health-TV, which aims to end the stigma around mental health and provide resources and self-care tips for improving emotional well-being. This page has two parts. The first is called “Learn,” and includes definitions of mental health and creates the distinct difference between “good” and “poor” mental health. The second part, “Resources,” links readers to emergency hotlines, articles on warning signs of poor mental health and how to reach out for help, and self-care tips to encourage readers to take care of themselves and take the first step towards recovery. We have already hosted events for Mental Health-TV, and plan to hold more zoom workshops in the future centered around mental health and self-care. 

The last new channel, and probably the one we are most excited to launch is Entrepreneurship-TV, or E-TV. Because of our journey of starting this blog as teenagers, we understand how challenging it is for teens to start their own blogs or businesses. Through E-TV, we plan to connect teens interested in business or those who have started their own companies to adult entrepreneurs and business owners. Similar to a mentorship program, we want teens who are just like us to have more experienced people to reach out to and get advice from to expand their business. We will also be hosting E-TV talks with entrepreneurs so that readers can have a chance to ask questions and learn more about the process of starting a business.

We are so excited to start hosting events for Empower Teen and ignite teen-advocacy in all of our readers. You can check us out here: empower-teen.com, and subscribe to stay updated on blog posts, events, and E-Talks. We hope that by expanding to Empower-Teen we will continue to do our part in Tikkun Olam and encourage other teens to become activists and leaders in their communities. 

Lauren and Kia

Lauren Tapper is a sophomore at the University of Chicago Laboratory schools. She started Covid-TV because she wanted create a platform for teens who were experiencing the pandemic all around the world to connect with each other. As Covid-TV grew, she wanted to expand the site to cover other aspects of social justice, hence the creation of Empower Teen. She loves to read, play with her dog, and is an avid Chai Tea drinker. 

Krishita (Kia) Dutta is a sophomore at the University of Chicago Laboratory schools. She created this platform so that people who feel alone know that we're all in this together. Some of her hobbies are reading, painting, and constellation reading!

The Importance of Civic Engagement: Ways to Get Involved Before You Can Vote

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The first Presidential election that I was alive for was in 2008. I proudly knew that, though I was not yet able to vote, I supported “Broccoli Obama.” To be fair, I was only three at the time and I had no idea what was really going on, but that did not stop me from proudly proclaiming my preferred candidate to my family every time that they asked. This was the beginning of over a decade of civic engagement Now, I am able to comprehend who the different government officials are and what I can do to make sure that they are best serving my needs as a citizen, and the needs of the greater public. I have gone canvassing, written hundreds of postcards and letters, and educated others on what they can do to get involved. 

Although I am unable to vote, I believe that complaining about the government is a privilege only earned after civic engagement. For this election in particular, my family and I have written two hundred postcards to likely voters in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. In each postcard, we explained why it was important to vote and when election day is (Tuesday, November 3rd, tell all of your eighteen-and-over friends). Postcard writing is my personal favorite method because it is not awkward at all and you never have to interact with the person who is on the receiving end. Phone banking and canvassing (going door-to-door) are admittedly much harder. There will often be many people who do not answer their phone or open their door. However, when someone really listens to what you have to say and truly takes it into account, you feel like you have accomplished something.  At any rate, I have always found that I build up stamina as I go along and I get desensitized to the awkwardness. Even if you do not want to do any of the above activities, it is imperative that you remain informed about the election and the candidates, and political issues that may arise from different people being in office. This is one of the easiest things you can do to remain engaged, all you need is google and some time.  In addition, although I have not done this on account of my age, people sixteen and older in Chicago can be election judges! You even get paid. The link to sign up is: chipollworker.com/

Whatever you do, for whatever reason, civic engagement is extremely rewarding. If only to feel like you have made an impact on your community and the people in it. 

Dalya Elnecave

Dalya Lessem Elnecave is a sophomore at Lane Tech High School where she is a tutor in the writing center. She is the Social Action/Tikkun Olam Vice President (SA/TO) for Anshe Emet’s USY chapter (SHMUSY) in addition to being the Social Action Committee for Chicago Region USY (CHUSY). She is also a Hebrew Madricha at the Anshe Emet Religious School. She enjoys literature and theater.



#RepairTheWorldWednesday: The Silver Lining of Not Getting a Haircut

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As a young kid I felt about haircuts the way most kids felt about going to the dentist or eating brussel sprouts, I hated them. Going to get hair cuts was something I avoided at all costs. I could not be bribed, coerced, or convinced to even get a trim. After years of not getting haircuts, all of the sudden I had hair that almost reached all the way down my back. The best way in my mind to continue avoid going to the dreaded salon was to just chop it all off so it could grow for another handful of years. I fell into this pattern of getting one haircut every 2 years and chopping off 8-12 inches each time. Because of this, I have donated my hair 3 different times throughout the last 8 years.  

I have donated to  PanteneLocks of Love, and  Children with Hair Loss. I’ve donated 30 inches of hair overall, which equates to half a total wig. Donating hair is such a wonderful and important way to give back. We take certain things for granted, and these are small things that can make huge differences in others' lives.  

During the time of COVID this is a great way to give back. Not getting a haircut for months due to a pandemic has a silver lining, and that’s hair donation! 

Adina Lipschultz

Adina Lipschultz has worked for Springboard for the last two years. Before her role with Springboard, she graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana. Adina attended Camp Young Judaea as a camper and staff member for 9 years, is a Solomon Schechter Alum, and is an avid Harry Potter fan, DIY expert, and former figure skater.  


#Repairtheworldwenesday with Balance Boxes - Where are they now?

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Balance Boxes

In May, we shared the story of Balance Boxes,a non-profit started  in March by two Deerfield Teens Samantha Feinberg and Sydney Holubow. They provide educational and enjoyable activities to students in in low-income communities. We checked in with them and are so excited to share how they continue to impact our local community and beyond. 

PACKING PARTY

At the Balance Boxes packing party a plethora of boxes were assembled. Youth ages 6-18 came and helped assemble over 550 boxes in just two hours. Students from Deerfield, Hinsdale, Chicago, and more came together and volunteered! Each box was made with books, games, tutoring services, meals, and more! All of the youth came with masks and spread out outside to be COVID friendly. It was an amazing event that allowed us to help 550 kids!

CHAPTERS

Balance Boxes is remaining fully youth run with chapters across the globe. We have chapters across the USA and in Argentina, Canada, Germany, Egypt, India, Israel, Thailand, Turkey, England, and  Indonesia. At this time we have over 70 youth volunteering with our organization.

CAMP TOV

This past month Balance Boxes spoke with two wonderful groups of teens at Camp Tov. We led a workshop on the steps (we took) to starting a nonprofit. Additionally, we heard many of the ideas the campers had to offer and would do if they started their own organization. Finally, we ended off the event with a volunteer activity. Each camper helped assemble four art kits for our boxes. 

Learn more about Balance Boxes at https://www.freetorunfoundation.org/balanceboxes.

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Chi-Town GVP Summit

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Gun violence claims nearly 100 lives every day in the United States. No other developed nation experiences gun violence of this magnitude. 

In 2020 there have already been 26,000+ deaths from firearms. There were also 417 mass shootings in 2019 which is almost 100 more than in 2018. That number has steadily increased in recent years with mass shootings almost doubling since 2014.  

There are reforms that can be put in place to help curb mass shootings and shootings in general. These policies include ERPO’s which are also known as ‘Red Flag Laws’, mandatory background checks, making gun trafficking a federal crime & getting military style assault weapons off our streets.  

All those reforms are supported by gun owners with 60% supporting ERPO’s (American Public Media) nearly 85% supporting mandatory background checks (John Hopkins Bloomberg school of public health study) and more than 60% of all Americans supporting a Assault weapons ban (2019 Gallup Poll). 

These should all be common sense reforms if not because of how much support they have but because of how many lives could be saved by such easy reforms.  

Nathan Schleiden

Nathan Schleiden is the executive director of Chi-Town GVP Summit, a youth-run nonprofit project dedicated to helping youth activists working to end gun violence not associated with larger groups. Their website is chitowngvpsummit.com and can be found on Twitter; @chitwngvpsummit, Instagram; @chitowngvpsummit and Facebook; Chi-Town GVP Summit. 


#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Sofia More and Volunteering during Social Distancing

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As we have gradually become accustomed to our “new normal” and things are beginning to slowly (but surely!) open back up again, something that I encourage you to think about is volunteering. There is not one standard way to give back to your community, and some of the things we are so accustomed to may not come back for a long time. However, many of Chicago’s places that regularly accept volunteers have started opening back up again. Before quarantine happened, I had never volunteered at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Now I have already been there twice since it has allowed volunteers and I felt comfortable the entire time. While I was not necessarily prepared for the physical labor, it felt amazing to actually be doing things with a purpose that really required work. I went with my grandma and sister the first time I went and they found it easier than I did! What I really liked about the Greater Chicago Food Depository is that they have you do different things each time you go, and once you are done they give you a numerical value of the work you have completed. When my cousin visited us from St Louis, after quarantining we went to Cradles to Crayons. Although I had volunteered there in the past, this was a much more personal experience to me because they only allowed small groups and it was just 4 of us working together. During my summer of Covid, every day has almost felt the same. Volunteering at these two organizations has given me a chance to do something different. Not only did it switch up my pace, it has felt amazing to get out of the house and do something for the greater good of my community. Besides these organizations, there are a number of places you can volunteer at in the Chicagoland area and be safely socially distanced. However, if you still do not feel comfortable - don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to give back. Tikkun Olam is more important than ever.  

Sofia

Sofia More is a rising junior at Jones College Prep. She is a Diller Teen Fellows Alum and this past summer a JCC on the Go-Go counselor. She is currently in JUF’s Research Training Internship, BBYO, Temple Sholom’s Midrich program, and Jewish Student Connections Club. Sofia is an activist for lgbtq+, female, Jewish, and BIPOC voices in her community and beyond. She is extremely passionate about voters rights and representation

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering opportunities near you, contact Genna Kahn, Program Director,Teen Volunteering and Philanthropy at GennaKahn@juf.org 

Below are some opportunities to explore 

In person: 

Virtual: 

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Today’s Heros: Educators

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We are living in unprecedented times where certain pieces of life that have looked one particular way for a long time, are having to adapt and change. Education is one of those things. While educators of every kind have been unsung hero’s at times, today they are the real life super hero’s along with  first responders, healthcare workers, and essential workers. Teachers have been adapting their teaching styles and structures, while also having groups of students they may or may not have ever met. There is so much behind the scenes that we don’t see, so many hidden challenges educators are overcoming to make sure kids, teens, and young adults don’t have their education impacted by COIVD. We wanted to take this week to say a BIG thank you to all the teachers working so hard to make going back to school as seamless as possible.  

A great teacher can do so much more than provide a quality education, they are community builders. Community, and any kind of connection, is more important than ever. In the Chicago suburbs one of the places teens have found community in their schools has been in their Hebrew classes. This is what a few of last year’s Hebrew in the High Ambassadors had to say about their fantastic Hebrew teachers.  

“Giveret (Ms.) Berman truly cares about each and every one of her students. Regardless of a student's Hebrew skill level, she devotes the same passion into helping them succeed. For me, Gvt. Berman did more than improve my Hebrew — she improved my high school experience. Going into a public high school from a small, private, Jewish middle school, it took me time to find my footing. Gvt. Berman's classes were escapes from the outside stress of high school, and they provided me with a second home. I felt comforted and empowered by learning Hebrew in such a supportive environment, which gave me the confidence and learning skills to succeed in any class. My overall success in high school is largely due to the sense of community and belonging that Gvt. Berman gave me from the very first day.” Noah S.  

“Our class is a community and despite its easy-going vibe, it is amazing how much we learn in a short amount of time. She also sponsors our Israel Interest Group and Israeli Dance club and has been a tireless supporter of all of our passions.” Talia K. 

“[My teacher] is truly one of the kindest people I know. She cares so much about every single one of her students and cultivates an encouraging and warm environment in her classes. She also allows for us to truly be ourselves and talk about issues that are important to us. She really knows how to make learning fun. “ Stephanie K. 

“[My teacher] has created a space where I feel excited to learn Hebrew and feel connected to Jewish and Israeli culture. She works to make sure that classes are always filled with a mixture of fun and learning! Giveret Raiber has played a substantial role in ensuring that the Hebrew community is thriving and growing within our diverse high school. “Mia S. 

“Our class of 8 is like a community. We all have things in common, including our love for Israel and our perseverance to learn to speak Hebrew. Our whole class has grown so much […], and I will never forget the first day of class with her when we learned our “Hebrew word of the day” song, back when we only knew a few words. We now know how to have a full conversation in Hebrew. Throughout this pandemic, Geveret L and my Hebrew class have been a constant source of stability, comfort and normalcy from day one. Every morning at nine am we have a zoom class where we learn, sing, speak Hebrew, and continue to feel connected to each other. I will forever be thankful for Geveret L and will never forget all she has taught us.“ Kaila P. 

To learn more about taking Hebrew at Deerfield, Glenbrook North, Highland Park, Niles North, New Trier or Stevenson high schools or at Caruso or Shepard middle schools' email Springboard@juf.org  

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with JCUA, Springboard, and JUF Teens

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Antiracism Training

We are living through history. 2020 has become a pivotal time that will be remembered for many reasons, including shining a light on the racial injustices that have plagued our nation’s history for many years. Being actively Anti-Racist, and making racial justice a key part of your ally-ship is so important. There is always more to learn, more to share, and more ways to help- and here is your chance!  

JCUA, Springboard, and JUF Teens have partnered to create an Anti-Racism Training. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, many of us are thinking critically about structural racism in the United States. Join us to learn to be a better anti-racist ally through critical theory, American history, and Jewish texts and values. The Teen Anti-Racism training will be held Sunday, August 23rd (1:00-4:30 PM) and Tuesday, August 25th (4:00-6:00 PM). Click to register  here. We hope to see you there and work together to learn and make a difference.  

Check out these additional resources:  

Ways to Help from Black Lives Matter 

Jewish Action in the face of Anti-Black Racism 

Anti-Racist Reads for Teens and Children  

Anti-Racist Articles, Social Media, Movies, Documentaries and Books 


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