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Introducing this years' Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago

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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.

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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. 



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