Blog with Springboard

The Springboard blog highlights the experiences of Jewish teens and Jewish teen professionals participating in community programs across Chicagoland and beyond. Dive into blogs about different Jewish teen events, leadership programs, trip opportunities, and more! Join us in celebrating the unique perspectives and contributions of Jewish teens and professionals in the Jewish community. To post a blog, please email

Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

Support Voices: The Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation this Sunday (February 5)

 Permanent link

 by Quincy Hirt, a senior at Whitney M. Young

Voices Craft Fair

My experience as a part of the Voices: The Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation through the Chicago Federation has been amazing one.  Voices is a teen philanthropy foundation, and was started by the Jewish Federation of Chicago in 2005. Each year, a group of around 20 Jewish high school students are selected to participate in the VOICES 101 program. The group learns the ins and outs of professional philanthropy and grant making and gets to allocate at least $25,000 to affect real change in areas they care most about both locally and in Israel.

Participants like me who are interested in staying involved after the initial one-year 101 program can join the VOICES alumni program. The alumni board has a similar format but relies on the teens to do their own fundraising to support the causes they are passionate about. As part of the Alumni Foundation we all contribute financially, fundraise, and commit time and energy to research, writing of RFPS and selection of grants.  Last year, our alumni group was able to raise over $40,000, leveraging a matching gift, which we allocated to 6 organizations in areas such as basic needs, aid to Israel, and medical research. This year our goal is to once again raise and award $40,000 in grants to benefit Jewish charities in both Chicago and Israel.   

On Sunday, February 5th, Voices will be hosting a Crafts Fair from 8:30-12:30 at Anshe Emet. The crafts fair will feature 18 crafters selling their wares including handmade jewelry and clothes, photography, candles, children’s books and toys, natural skincare products and more as well as activities for kids. There is a $5 suggested admission fee which will be donated to Voices: The Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation.

Recent research has concluded that hands on philanthropy is what matters to our generation. We want to be directly engaged. We want to see the impact of our dollars. We don’t want to just write a check.  Our philanthropy will not be the same as that of our grandparents or our parents. Knowing this, it is incumbent upon all of us…Jewish communal professionals, lay leaders, and teen leaders, to create, market, and lead programs that reflect this desire. Voices engages and empowers teens. We hope you will join us on Sunday! 

Or Tzedek is for You: Reflections on Or Tzedek 2016

 Permanent link

By Abby Tzinberg 

Or Tzedek 2017

Or Tzedek: Jewish Teen Institute for Social Justice is a unique, Chicago-based program that provides opportunities for teens from across the country to learn about and take action on current social justice campaigns. Or Tzedek gives teens a Jewish framework to explore their social justice identities and gives them the tools and inspiration to build a better world.

As someone who has had her fair share of experiences with programs targeted at Jewish teens I can confidently say that Or Tzedek was one of the most meaningful experiences that I’ve ever had--Jewish or not. Or Tzedek is unique in that it combines politics, identity, activism, independence, community organizing, urban exploration, group living and Judaism all in one. It is open to all Jewish denominations and attracts a wide variety of Jewish experiences. This gives an added layer of sophistication and wisdom to all program activities and conversations.

The itinerary for Or Tzedek caters to all interests - whether your thing is direct service or community organizing, Or Tzedek has it all. This past summer we did a ton: registering people to vote, handing out lunches to those in need, tours through the city, workshops on identity and privilege, picnicking in Millennium Park.

Another really fantastic thing about Or Tzedek is the Kehillah, or community. You really get a chance to get to know everyone, and the program is designed to build one community, not split off into small groups. Even if you don’t know anyone going in everyone is extremely welcoming. If I had to choose one thing that I took away from Or Tzedek it would be the people.

The staff are some of the loveliest people you will ever meet. They have so much love, empathy, grit and integrity, and it shows. The group of teens that Or Tzedek attracts cannot be replicated anywhere else. Every single person has a shared goal: to be kind, smart and respectful. I challenge you to find a group of people anywhere else that can provide the same support and kindness that the people in Or Tzedek have.

So to anyone considering signing up for Or Tzedek: Do it. Whether you’re a seasoned social justice warrior or just getting started Or Tzedek is for you. No matter how prevalent your Jewish identity is in your life, Or Tzedek is for you. If you’re looking for an awesome group of people Or Tzedek is for you. If you love the city and urban living Or Tzedek is for you. If you just want something productive to do with your summer Or Tzedek is for you.

Curious if Or Tzedek is right for your summer 2017? Check out the website to learn more and book your spot today! 

Moving Beyond Square One with M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education

 Permanent link

Beyond Square One

This year Springboard partnered with M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education to create a Chicago based intensive and immersive professional development program that promotes and develops local experiential Jewish educators. The Chicago cohort consists of three seminars that blend intensive theory with immediate practical application. Tamara Stein, Springboard Teen Engagement Specialist, reflects on the first two workshops.

About 5 months ago I found myself with a title that I had never held before: Jewish educator. As a Teen Engagement Specialist I would be serving in a formal Jewish youth educator role for the first time, after spending my whole life looking up people who played that role for me. I was passionate about teaching Jewish values, and providing memorable and worthwhile experiences, and was eager to gain new tools to support my transition into this role.  

M2 has given me the vocabulary, the methodology, and the confidence to be a more articulate and knowledgeable Jewish educator. I have learned how to infuse Jewish content in a way that is enjoyable and truly valued by the groups that I work with. I have learned that when planning programs, whether it be a Shabbat experience or a Tikkun Olam project, we must be intentional about our typology of activities in order to motivate participants to join in. I have also learned that Jewish values are the starting point by which we as experiential Jewish educators should teach, not something to meander back to at the very end of a program.  By naming, and then exploring, the challenges that Jewish educators face in their everyday work, and then offering resources and solutions, M2 has opened my eyes to how stimulating education can be if you are able to infuse experiences with intention, Machshava, and action, Ma’aseh.

On a personal note, M2 has enabled me to learn alongside, and befriend, 12 intelligent, like-minded, passionate, Jewish educators. Through my participation I have developed a collaborative network of youth professionals from different organizations with whom I can call on to troubleshoot problems, discuss new ideas and work together with on community events. 

Jewish youth professionals, educators, volunteers and layleaders are encouraged to check out the Professionals tab to learn more about upcoming opportunities for professional development, and networking through Springboard.  


18 Under 18: A Celebration of Jewish Teens

 Permanent link

by Brittany Abramowicz

Eighteen under 18

The best part of my job working as a Teen Engagement Specialist with Springboard is getting to visit different area youth groups and programs and meeting amazing teens. Most weekends, I attend activities organized by teen leaders who are dedicated to Jewish community, helping those in need, and making Jewish involvement accessible to everyone. This is why it gives me so much joy to be working on 18 Under 18: A Celebration of Jewish Teens. This distinction recognizes teens from different corners of the Chicago-area with diverse Jewish backgrounds, practices, and interests. I look forward to the program on April 25th when we will come together as a community to celebrate 18 special teens and inspire one another. 

The nomination process began last month. As this is a brand new program, I really had no idea what to expect. Teachers have been nominating their students, teens have been nominating friends and organizational leaders, youth directors have been nominating program participants, and many other people have submitted the names of teens they believe are deserving of this honor.  I have been struck by how impressive the applications that we have received are.  While these teens are all very different there are some important commonalities: they all have a strong sense of self, they understand and utilize their strengths and look at their weaknesses as opportunities, they don’t settle and they rally their peers and adults to work with them and see different perspectives.  We are truly lucky to have all of the nominees in our community.

Nominations are being accepted through Friday, January 27th. At that point, JTAC (Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago), an advisory board made up of representatives from many area youth groups, will review and select the 18 honorees. 18 teens will be honored at the first ever 18 Under 18 community-wide celebration event on April 25. Check back here to learn about the incredible teens once they are selected and for more information on attending what we believe will be an amazing event.

If you’d like to nominate a teen, you can find the forms and more information on the JTAC page

Making an Impact

 Permanent link

Making an Impact

This post was written by Danielle Wolff, Diller Teen Fellow Cohort 3

Over the course of our Diller Teen Fellows experience, we were challenged to become leaders and make a difference in our community. This culminated with an Impact Project about an issue we were passionate about.  My team of Elly Qunell, Hannah Silver, Arie Sztainberg, and Ben Zavell, came together over the passion to help individuals.

It was difficult to come up with a project that was realistic and would make a difference. In the midst of frustration, one of us thought about The ARK. The ARK provides free social and medical services to help distressed members of our Chicagoland Jewish family return to self-reliance. All of us had volunteered with The ARK before, so we knew the great impact that they have on their clients. We reached out to the staff and they told us we could partner with them on their upcoming Hanukkah party. Additionally, we decided to collect blankets to donate to their clients.

After months of preparations the day of the Hanukkah party finally arrived. It was inspirational to see people with huge smiles on their faces, even though they might be having a difficult time in their lives. We quickly realized that the only thing the clients really wanted was someone to listen to them. They told us stories, complained about the weather, and talked about how they were feeling. We were honored to be a part of the celebration, and are grateful to the clients for including us and being so welcoming.

As we were cleaning up, Diane, the Assistant Volunteer Director, told us that she was able to give out some of the blankets to specific guests that she knew were in great need. One man in particular told us that his son has only sheets to sleep on. He didn’t have a blanket, or a comforter, just sheets. He was able to get a blanket at the Hanukkah party because of our project, and it was so rewarding knowing that we made impact on at least one person that day.

The whole experience of creating an impact project as part of the Diller Teen Fellows of Chicago will be a memorable one for me. Not only did we collect over 50 blankets, feed over 200 people and help clear tables, but our actions impacted someone else's life. They might not remember the impact years from now, but I sure will.

Diller Teen Fellows is a 15 month international leadership fellowship focusing on Jewish Identity, Israel and Tikkun Olam. The program is open to 10th and 11th graders, and is funded by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment of San Francisco; The Crown Family; The Swartzberg/Zoller Family Foundation; and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.