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Where are they now: Featuring Max Marino, Past 18 Under 18 Honoree

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 Max Marino Photo

Hello! My name is Max Marino and I was a JUF 18 under 18 Honoree in 2018. Currently, I am a sophomore at Tulane University majoring in Political Economy with a minor in Public Policy in the Murphy Institute.

Since graduating Highland Park High School in 2019, I have enjoyed taking classes while exploring the city of New Orleans and becoming an active member of Tulane's student body. On campus, I am very involved in Hillel as a member of the Tulane Jewish Leader's program and as a song leader for shabbat services my freshman year. Additionally, I am a tour guide and orientation leader, a chair for the Tulane High School Model United Nations conference, and a member of social Greek life.

Professionally, I have had the honor to serve as a Congressional intern for Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10) in his district office over the previous nine months. My main role in the office was to track the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccination effort in the district. Additionally, I worked on data management and constituent outreach for the office and advocated for court reform to the legislative team. I am forever thankful for the opportunity to have been involved in the Chicagoland Jewish teen community.

The leadership skills I learned as a fellow and Junior Counselor in the Diller Teen Fellowship, the advocacy skills I learned in Write On for Israel, and the professional skills I learned as a Voices Alumni board member I still use today and have made me successful in my endeavors on and off campus.

Additionally, I continue to maintain the relationships I made in these programs and have made lifelong friends through them. I would like to give special thanks to Sam Rodin, Shiran Posner, Stephanie Goldfarb, and Hallie Shapiro for being invaluable role models during my high school career.

My advice for high schoolers today would be to take advantage of the many amazing programs that JUF and Springboard have to offer. I can confidently say that I would not be the person I am without the experiences I had through these programs. Congratulations to the 2021 JUF 18 under 18 Honorees and I look forward to seeing the amazing work you all will continue to do!

Yom Ha’atzmaut with Hannah Adams and Josh Glucksman

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Yom Ha'atzmaut is a day of celebration. We celebrate Israel, its freedom, independence, and beauty. While for those of us in Chicago, Israel is 6,208 miles away, it's still close to our hearts everyday and especially today! This year to celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut, we decided to reach out to some of our friends in Israel to share with our community some of their favorite places in Israel! Check out videos from Josh Glucksman, and Hannah Adams who are both currently in Israel on gap year programs! If these programs, or others are of interest to you, let us know and we can help you learn more! 

Stop the Stigma By Hannah Dalinka

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Hannah Dalinka

One night, I was at my close friend’s Bar Mitzvah party (before COVID) when I heard the DJ yell, “Dance like you’re having a seizure!” The DJ probably meant that we should all dance “crazy”, but I was mortified, to say the least. This was not the first time I heard someone tell a joke about a seizure, but this was the first time it really hit me hard. I have a personal connection with epilepsy and this DJ had just joked about a serious neurological disorder in front of probably 200 people. I did not know what to do. I came home crying because of how upset I felt. My parents and I then contacted the DJ company. The people there were very apologetic and explained that they just did not realize how bad what they said was. I knew, from then on, that I needed to do something to end the stigma and “jokes” surrounding seizures and epilepsy.

In 2015, we noticed that one of my relatives started having, what we called, “space outs''. They would stare into space and their eyes would go blank. This family member was soon diagnosed with epilepsy. They had non-convulsive seizures, which do not involve the typical symptoms of a seizure that are portrayed in the media. Luckily, my relative was put on medication and has been seizure free for a very long time now. Unfortunately, my relative still does not feel comfortable discussing their condition because of all of the stigma surrounding epilepsy. They did not want people thinking they were uncontrollable or weird.

Epilepsy is a very common neurological disorder, in fact, as it states on the Epilepsy Foundation’s website, “More people live with epilepsy than with autism spectrum disorders, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy - combined.” In addition to this, 1 in 26 people in the United States will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some point in their lifetime. This number probably shocks you. This is because epilepsy is often considered a hidden disorder. Sometimes, with treatment and medication, seizures can be minimized or controlled. This disorder, therefore, is not as normalized as other, visible disorders. However, it does not make epilepsy any less real. 

I decided for my mitzvah project to not only raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation, but to also educate others on epilepsy to try and break the stigma. I realized, from the experience with the DJ, that some people just genuinely do not know how horrible it is to make fun of seizures and use that word in a joking way. I created posters and gave out booklets with tons of information about epilepsy. I also gave people some surprising statistics on the number of people living with epilepsy and just how many people are affected by it. I urged people to call others out when they make jokes about someone else looking like they’re having a seizure. I talked about how it is not okay to make fun of seizures, just as it’s not okay to make fun of someone with cancer or with Alzheimer’s. All of these are unchosen, unwanted, and serious and should never be joked about or made fun of. I felt that the more people I could spread the word to, the more epilepsy would be normalized and hopefully, I would be doing my part to break the stigma. 

I will admit though, it is hard to call other people out when they use “seizure” in a joke. I have been able to call out people before but just the other day, I was on zoom with friends and one of them was showing us a tik tok where the screen was flashing lots of different colors. One of the girls said, “Stop! Are you trying to give me a seizure?” She laughed and was clearly joking. To be honest, I was not able to call her out on it. This was a newer friend and we were in front of other people and I couldn’t pull her aside and talk to her on zoom. These things are hard. Also, this was not the first friend who has said things like that. I have heard both kids and adults, some who were even at my Bat Mitzvah, make fun of seizures. 

I feel guilty, still, about not being able to call my friend out, but that only encourages me to keep going in my efforts for breaking down the stigma surrounding seizures and epilepsy. People should not feel like they should need to hide the fact that they have epilepsy in fear of what others will say about them. I genuinely believe that a majority of people who make fun of seizures do not understand that it is a serious medical disorder and one that can not be controlled by someone’s free will. I will continue to educate others to make everyone more aware of seizures and epilepsy so that they will not use those words jokingly or to make fun of others. 

Thank you so much for hearing my story. I urge you to become more familiar with epilepsy and seizures. Learn about it, and educate others. Also, try to call people out when they talk about seizures in a joking manner. I know it is hard, but it is necessary in helping to make people living with epilepsy more comfortable. I will close with this: There were about 200 people at the Bar Mitzvah when the DJ joked about seizures. Using the fact that at least 1 in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy in the US, I can conclude that 7 people had epilepsy or will have epilepsy in the future who heard that comment. That is not to mention people like me, who have family members, friends, or other loved ones who they know who struggle with epilepsy. The stigma needs to stop, and it will not stop unless we work together to educate ourselves and others. I also invite you to check out the Epilepsy Foundation’s website: https://www.epilepsy.com/. This is a great resource to use for finding tons of information about seizure disorders and epilepsy.

Hannah is a Sophomore at Glenbrook North High School where she is involved in theatre, student government, Relay for Life, and speech team. Additionally she is the President of Varsity Spartan Choir, the Vice President of Ladies First (GBN Show Choir), and volunteers as an ARC Tutor. Outside of school, Hannah is a songleader and on the Mahonick Leadership Board at North Shore Congregation Israel. She is also currently in the URJ Songleading Fellowship Program. Hannah is proud to attend JCC Camp Chi and is currently the Vice President of Chi Town Connection.

Where are they now featuring Abbey Finn, past 18 Under 18 Honoree

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From 18 Under 18 honoree to college student:  What I’ve been up to the past three years

When I was in high school, being involved in the Jewish community was a definitive part of my life. It was sparked by my love for USY (United Synagogue Youth), and led to a multitude of other experiences such as Diller Teen Fellows, the Maimonides Scholars Program, and Springboard school break trips to New York and Los Angeles. Being an 18 Under 18 honoree in 2018 was an amazing experience, and I’m so happy that I’ve been able to serve on the reviewing committee for two years since then to see the incredible work that teens are doing in the community today.

I’m currently a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying special education. Starting college in a pandemic has had its ups and downs, but I love it here. I’m part of Epsilon Delta, an education fraternity, and Alpha Epsilon Phi, a Jewish sorority. I’m also active in Chabad and Hillel, and I love the Jewish community here on campus. I’m passionate about my future as a special educator, and I have a job working with U of I students with disabilities. I participate in the Best Buddies program here as well. I’m also a part of the Student Education Association, where we work with teachers across the nation to advocate for an equitable education for every student.

I have many different interests and passions, but the one arguably closest to my heart is interfaith work. I joined the Children of Abraham Coalition (COAC) my freshman year of high school. COAC is an organization dedicated to educating about Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, while creating dialogue and hosting events that advocate for peace. In a world where there is so much religious hatred, I find this work to be incredibly important. I served on the board of directors for COAC throughout high school, and with the virtual nature of meetings and programming, I’ve been able to remain on the board in college. I helped create an initiative called Peace Camp three years ago where we bring middle schoolers to a mosque, a synagogue, and a church, and teach them how to stand up to faith-based hatred in their schools. Since the start of the program, we’ve reached over 80 middle schoolers, and have spread our mission to high schoolers through zoom peace camp events. On campus, I’m working with Bend the Arc Champaign-Urbana, the Muslim and Jewish Student Alliance, and a student organization called Interfaith in Action to fight against racism, antisemitism, and Islamaphobia. I’m proud of the work that I’ve been a part of, and where I am now in my life since my own 18 Under 18 experience three years ago. I’m so excited to see where my future takes me and I’m so proud of all of this year's 18 Under 18 honorees!

Abbey Finn Photo

Abbey Finn is a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she is studying special education. She is on the board of directors for the Children of Abraham Coalition, and does interfaith work on campus. Additionally, she is a part of Alpha Epsilon Phi, and serves on the Diversity and Inclusion committee. Over the summer, you can find her at JCC Camp Chi. She loves the Jewish community both at home and at her college town!

How to Ensure Never Again

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Never Again. The phrase graces hundreds of Instagram stories and posts come Yom HaShoah each year. The phrase people shake their heads and mutter after another anti semitically charged shooting. Never again we say. But how? How do we ensure that something like the atrocities of the Holocaust never occurs again? And to that loaded question, I answer, remembrance. 

Memory is not a foreign concept for us. The instance of a Jewish grandparent sitting down with their grandchildren recalling a story from long ago is quite frequent. Our religion is founded on the concept of collective memory and remembrance. The memory of a covenant between Abraham and God. The memory of our exodus from Egypt and the spiritual awakening at Mount Sinai. Our memories are the nourishment that has lasted us through centuries of persecution. They define us. They save us. 

As the number of survivors still with us dwindles and we are tasked with teaching the next generation leaders about the atrocities of the Holocaust without their first-hand accounts, we must teach them not to remember the destruction but to remember what was destroyed and to revitalize and commemorate the culture and lives lost. Teach them to say 6,000,001 lives lost as each one of those numbers was a dreamer, an artist, an athlete, a writer, a scholar, and someone’s child. To preserve our ancestor’s legacies, our religion, and above all, democracy, we must never forget. To ensure never again, we must never forget. 

Forgetfulness

Further readings: 

Ross, L., n.d. The Importance of Remembering | My Jewish Learning. [online] My Jewish Learning. [Accessed 5 April 2021].

Tomlin, C., 2021. Why It’s Still Important to Remember the Holocaust – The Arc. [online] Tyndale.com. [Accessed 5 April 2021].

Hannah Goldwin

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.

My Jewish Journey by Kayla Chandler

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During my sophomore year of high school, I was faced with a problem. I wanted to be more involved in the social justice world, but specifically through a lens where I could see the Jewish values I had learned so much about at my Jewish day school come into play. 

I had no idea where to start my journey, but I was able to find a group of Jewish teens in the Chicago area with a similar goal as mine. We wanted to do better for our city wide community, and in the process, also better our own community, starting with ourselves. Through social media posts increasing our outreach, canvassing for projects, phone banking to raise awareness, and more, we each grew to be familiar with collaboration, patience, and community. Learning to handle disagreements and misunderstandings as a group helped us grow as leaders and individuals, but also created a family-like atmosphere of determined people in the process. 

Since then, I have wanted to stay active within the Jewish activism community. As I learned more about organizations and programs, I noticed that there were not many spaces where Jewish youth could come together and share their modern day experiences, pleasures, or hardships. Being a part of Peer Ambassadors excited me as it is a space where teens can come together and create the spaces that are currently missing for youth like themselves. It allows your creativity to flourish and connects you with others to build communication skills.

In the future, I hope to continue my participation in the Jewish community and learn as much as I can about others and their identities.

Kayla is a lover of makeup, cooking, music, and running. She is currently participating in the Peer Ambassador program, and is excited to learn more about Judaism from youth around Chicago!


Where are they now featuring Josh Glucksman, past 18 Under 18 Honoree

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Two years ago, the beginning of my junior year, I was nominated as an 18 Under 18 honoree. My work in the Jewish world had just recently begun, when I picked up my phone and started to create and share fun videos about the amazing Jewish youth experiences I was starting to attend. I was fairly good at it and ended up making some friends and engaging previously disengaged Reform Jews in the process.

I got more involved in a youth group called NFTY, and was elected President of the Chicago chapter my senior year. Here is when I started learning about Israel, Palestine, and the Z-word, Zionism. I had a very limited understanding of what this “Holy” desert in the middle of the east was really about, so I started to talk to some of my Rabbis and educators, and got really involved in what I consider one of today's most nuanced global issues.

As I was continuing my work in my own community, and as my senior year was nearing its melancholy, virtual end, I had a big decision to make post-high school. COVID sure made that decision easier, and it landed me in Jerusalem a few months ago on a gap year program called Aardvark Israel! Since I have gotten here, my entire outlook on Judaism has fundamentally changed (for the better)! I have a renewed passion and drive to learn about the historical, religious, linguistic, and spiritual roots of the Jewish people, and there is no place better to do it here than in the most complicated, disputed, and holy place on Earth. 

While my time here has challenged my beliefs unlike anything else, I wouldn't have done it any other way. I hope to come home after this year and pour all of the energy and passion in my life right back into my community, starting with teaching Hebrew at URJ OSRUI this summer! 

Josh Glucksman

HEY! Look over here! These author blogs are always so dry so let me make this as readable as possible. My name is Josh. I am from “Chicago” (the suburbs). I am currently living in Israel on a gap year before college. I spend my time learning, fighting for a liveable planet, and trying to live the happiest life I can. You can contact me at jzglux@gmail.com for any questions about what I say or write!

From Player to Coach by Jodi Marver

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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.

 

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Jake Draluck

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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.  

March Madness by Alex Newman

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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.



A Celebration of Jewish Teen Community

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18 Under 18 Announcement

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

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

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


#MarchMadness with Hannah Goldwin

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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.

My Experience at Genesis - One of the Best Summers of my Life

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On July 2nd, 2019, I was getting ready to leave for the airport, and I was TERRIFIED. In just a few hours, I would be in Boston, where I would be living with a bunch of kids whom I had never met. About a month later, I was crying because I never wanted to leave.

The Genesis program is truly a unique and amazing experience. I met people from all around the world! Everyone had a different Jewish background and story, and I made friends with some amazing people. The best part? I got to live with all of them! Staying on a college campus was such a new and fun experience for me. I got to live with a roommate, eat at the dining hall with my friends, and chill out around campus, just like a college student! We weren’t on campus the whole time, though. On the fourth of July, we went to see fireworks, and one time, we got to spend the day shopping around Boston. Going on these trips with all of my friends was so much fun (even the Walgreens trips!). One of the best parts of Genesis was the Shabbat ceremonies, because being together and celebrating as a community was so special.

I can’t talk about Genesis without talking about the classes. Genesis gave me the opportunity to take courses that I don’t think I ever would have taken otherwise. The first course that I took was Culinary Arts and Anthropology, with cookbook author Jeffery Yoskovitz. Even though I had little to no cooking experience, I had so much fun. Over the course of two weeks, we learned about all different kinds of Jewish foods and their history. We had discussions about what makes Jewish food Jewish and how these foods play a role in Jewish culture. Getting to have these discussions with people from different Jewish backgrounds was so interesting. Of course, we got to cook a lot of these foods too! Being able to sit down and talk about food in a school-like environment and then immediately go into the kitchen to cook made it such an immersive learning experience. We made everything from sufganiyot to cheese (from scratch). We even had a contest one day to see who could make the best dish using only the leftover food from the kitchen. Making a whole dish all by myself was definitely out of my comfort zone, but this ended up being one of my favorite days. 

During the last two weeks, I took the Global Religions course, which was both incredibly interesting and meaningful. Coming from 10 years of Jewish day school, I knew tons about Judaism, but I never learned that much about other religions, so I was looking forward to this class. Each day, we had engaging discussions and lectures about a new religion. It felt just like taking a religious studies class at a college! The field trips really made this course special. Even though the course was only two weeks long, we visited so many places of worship, like an AME Church and a Hindu temple. We even participated in a Buddhist meditation! These trips gave us a first-hand experience of different religious services and allowed us to talk to people who practice these religions. One of my favorite parts of these trips was looking at the architecture. Each place we visited was beautiful and unique. I loved looking at all of the details around and inside the buildings and learning about their meanings and history. To finish the course, each of us created a family tree with explanations of our Jewish origins, giving us a better understanding of how diverse Judaism truly is.

If you are considering applying for Genesis, I highly encourage you to do so. I could not recommend the program enough, and it was one of the best summers of my life.

Yanira is a junior and a full IB student at Beacon Academy. She attended Brandeis’ Genesis program in 2019, graduated from Diller Teen Fellows last year, and is currently a part of RTI (research training internship). She frequently reads Torah at her synagogue and is currently continuing to learn Hebrew outside of school.

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Ethan Comrov

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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.



Pandemic Purim Fun in 2021 by Leah Seidman

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Of all of the Jewish holidays, I think Purim might be the hardest to celebrate during a pandemic. This year, there will be no Purim carnivals, costume contests, or large megillah readings. Instead, most people will be celebrating with their immediate family if they are quarantining at home.

To help you celebrate, I have compiled a list of some fun Purim activities to do with your family as well as a list of ways to learn about Persian Jews.

Learn About Persian Jews!

  • Learn about the music of the Jews of Shiraz and listen to the Shirazi melody for the Ashrei

  • Hear about ancient Persian Jewish history from Dr. Henry Abramson, an expert in Jewish history.

  • Explore Diarna’s map of Jewish landmarks in Iran.

  • Read about Judeo-Persian from Encyclopaedia Iranica. For Hebrew speakers, the Mother Tongue Project has a variety of interviews in Judeo-Persian and Hebrew.

  • Try some delicious Jewish Persian food from OneTable!

Celebrate at home!

  • Make some fancy mocktails from the New York Times!

  • Choose one of many Purim playlists on Spotify and have a dance party!

  • Go to the Jewish Women’s Archive to learn about some awesome Jewish women!

  • Make some traditional Purim foods! Experiment with different hamantaschen recipes or try other Purim recipes from Jews across the world! Websites like Aish.com, Jewish Journal, and The Forward have a ton of recipes!

  • Have everyone wear costumes and make a Purim Parade in your house!

  • Attend services at a synagogue in a different city or a different country!

     Leah Seidman is a senior at Highland Park High School and a 2021 18 Under 18 Honoree. She is a board member at large on the BEANS USY Board and an alumna of Diller Chicago Cohort 6 and RTI Cohort 4. Leah loves teaching other teens about Jewish texts, history, and culture and hopes to be a professional Jewish educator.




#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Leah Ryzenman and the StandWithUs Kenneth Leventhal High School Internship

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Leah Ryzenman

For most of my life, I felt disconnected from my Jewish identity. Everything changed when I visited Israel with my summer camp in 2018. From experiencing a thriving country that welcomed me from the second I landed, to embracing a rich culture thousands of years old, I knew I was home. My newfound connection to my homeland empowered me to want to do more, so I applied for the StandWithUs Kenneth Leventhal High School Internship on the recommendation of a former Intern and was over the moon thrilled when I was accepted!

As the Intern at my school, I learned how to channel my passion into developing engaging programming that educated my community about Israel. The program connected me to like-minded teens from places around the United States and Canada and I met incredible students who were actually changing how their communities thought about and interacted with Israel. But most importantly, I was actually making a difference in my community.

With the help of the StandWithUs Senior Midwest High School Coordinator Adam Blue, I created and implemented many programs with the goal to reframe the conversations about Israel as only a place of conflict, to Israel as a place of impact and with the goal of connecting US and Israeli students.

One program that I am particularly proud of was for my school's Key Club which encourages acts of kindness in community service. Since Columbus is a sister city with Kfar Saba, I had hundreds of my peers fashion beaded bracelets for kindergartners in Kfar Saba. My public school community is not the most informed about Israel, and this program was an excellent way to remind students in my own school that when we learn about countries across the world and the different issues or conflicts they may face, we should still also remember that there are individuals on the ground. People who we can make a connection with and can empathize with and support.

Later, I led an initiative involving the middle and high school students in my school to create a mural modeled after the “Path to Peace” (you can learn more here) in Israel's Gaza-bordered community of Moshav Netiv HaAsara. Every participant decorated their own square as they learned about peaceful co-existence. I then assembled it into a mosaic. It was so meaningful to see different students with their own designs and inspiration work together towards this mural, just as the peacework often requires a multitude of individual voices working towards a common goal, but perhaps doing their own work with unique variations.

I am excited to continue my work professionally at StandWithUs as the StandWithUs Midwest High School Assistant, working with teens in the region and mentoring them in impactful Israel education.

I highly recommend getting involved in StandWithUs to everyone, Jewish and non-Jewish. And if you give it your all, it truly changes your life.

If you have not yet been nominated for the StandWithUs Kenneth Leventhal High School Internship, you can be nominated by a teacher or youth group advisor using this link: www.standwithus.com/nomination. I am available anytime to chat, whether about the internship experience or how to help you get nominated: midwestassistant@standwithus.org

Leah Ryzenman is a Freshman at Northwestern University. She was the 2019-20 StandWithUs Kenneth Leventhal High School Intern at New Albany High School.

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Sam Gordon

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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. 

My Never Ending Journey by Lena Bromberg

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My Jewish Journey does not start with me. It begins with my ancestors who left Spain during the Spanish Inquisition who wanted to practice Judaism safely. Instead of denouncing their culture and assimilating, my family fled Spain to preserve their Jewish identity. My relatives continue fleeing their various homelands in order to uphold their Jewish traditions. 

The Jewish traditions that they worked so hard to maintain have been passed down from all those generations and countries to me. My Jewish Journey is the Journey of my ancestors. My part of the Journey is to continue their traditions and pass them along. I can not let go of these traditions that my relatives fought to maintain. 

My part of the Journey is to continue to pass along these traditions and keep them alive. Even though life in 2020 is very different from life during the Spanish Inquisition, I need to uphold and pass along these traditions that my family has been living by. 

While I think it is crucial to maintain my family’s history, which includes their traditions, it is also important I live my life how I want. I can not be restricted by the guidelines that my ancestors implemented for my family. As I previously mentioned, 2020 is very different from the Spanish Inquisition, thus some traditions may be no longer relevant or I may not be able to maintain them anymore. I have the ability to adapt these historic traditions into modern times and pass along these adaptations. My Jewish Journey does end with me either. 

Lena is a senior at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School, where she plays volleyball and is editor of the yearbook. She has participated in several Springboard programs, most recently as a Peer Ambassador.

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Leo Necheles and Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Never forget: Holocaust Remembrance Day needs to be a bigger deal

Leo Necheles

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today is a day to look back and make sure this world never forgets the horrors that took place in Nazi Germany. Today is a day in which the United Nations urges humanity to honor the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and educate each other so such a tragedy may never happen again. Yet, on this day, no one seems to remember.

As I have scrolled through social media, our modern-day platform for activism and awareness, it’s been scary to see the scarce amount of posts regarding Holocaust Remembrance Day. Even scarier—I haven’t seen a single post from a non-Jewish person. 

I immediately went to text my non-Jewish friends, asking if they happened to know what day today was. To my dismay, I received answers such as “Wednesday,” or “the 27th,” with an abundance of confusion. Even my Jewish friends seemed clueless about the importance of today. We wonder why so many people are becoming unaware of our horrific past, yet the answer sits right in front of us. We aren’t providing them with enough opportunity to become aware.

America has so many other relevant holidays that successfully highlight and force us to remember our pasts, both festive and reflective of past tragedies. Even Groundhog Day appears to be more recognized than Holocaust Remembrance Day. Why is it that a day acknowledging one of this world’s most poignant events is less recognized than a day where an animal mindlessly pokes its head outside to give us false hope about the weather? Why is it that just three weeks after neo-Nazi flags were flown in our nation’s Capitol, we aren’t seeing our very own nation come together and pledge to “never forget”? Why is it that just three weeks after blatant anti-semitism was explicitly on display in one of our nation’s most sacred buildings, there has yet to be an outroar from society at-large?

The answers to these questions lay in the foundations of our culture and our education system. Not once in school today has a teacher mentioned the Holocaust. Not once have I received an email from anyone today acknowledging this global holiday and shout for remembrance. Not once have I had a friend even understand the significance of today without a friendly reminder.

Even in Illinois, where Holocaust education is required in public schools, it seems to lack on the one day where it should be the most prevalent. What’s the point of requiring Holocaust education if it’s not even present on a day the United Nations urgers it to be discussed?

Holocaust Remembrance Day needs to be a pillar of our nation, a holiday that every citizen grows up knowing and discussing. If we hope to fight hate, we must first show where hate has existed in our past. There is no reason that our lives shouldn’t be flooded with discussions about the Holocaust on this monumental day. These conversations can start on social media, but must move past the simple urges from our phones. We must move past the easy repost from social media and take further steps by discussing the Holocaust with our peers. Today must be a reminder, waking people up from their ignorance of anti-semitism in the past and present. 

We tell people to never forget, yet it appears that humanity is in fact forgetting. As the last of the Holocaust survivors are sadly dying out, remembering is becoming more important than ever. In a poll of 102 countries and territories done by the Anti-Defamation League, it was discovered that 35% of people in the polls had never heard of the Holocaust. We must urge not only ourselves to remember, but also the rest of society. Today must be a day where the entire world can come together—a day where we can honor those we lost, remember the horrors people faced, and envision a future where history is not repeated. Make sure you know what today is, and make sure others know what today is. This time, let’s truly never forget.

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.

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. 



#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Talah Goldfarb

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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.

Where Are They Now: Meet Isaac Freedman

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When I was included as one of 18 Under 18 honorees in 2018, I underestimated the transition it marked. Yes, I was thrilled to be recognized on a community-wide level for the work that I was immensely proud of doing. I was filled with gratitude for my role models and teachers who enabled my work and helped me find my place in the world of Jewish music.

At the time however, I did not realize that place was about to change as I moved ahead to the next stages of my life.  My excitement to begin the next chapter of my life at Northwestern blinded me from the reality that my platform to contribute to and participate in Jewish life was about to change drastically. I left behind the luxury of a regular songleading gig in a building full of supportive childhood mentors actively providing me opportunities to function as a leader. Now, it was up to me to decide how, when, and how often I was to be involved.

Isaac Freedman at work

This challenge would have been far more difficult if it were not for the 18 Under 18 program. First, it instilled the confidence in my leadership skills that I needed. Because of the recognition I received, I knew my place in the community as a leader, even when it did not necessarily feel that way. In addition, the program introduced me to 17 other peers facing a similar dilemma and a host of adult leadership with the resources to resolve my uneasy transition into over 18 life. Finally, 18 Under 18 provided me with a point of reflection. It functions as a constant reminder of the importance of this community in my life and provides the concrete reasons why I chose to invest my time in high school and why I choose to continue to invest my time now. For my cohort of 18 Under 18, we each spoke on the Jewish value that keeps us involved. In 2018, I said:

 “The one primary motivation for me to be a Jewish leader is Tradition. I firmly believe that I have a responsibility to carry out and pass on the great traditions that accompany our faith… My true goal is to inspire and light that same flame that was once lit for me that encourages our youth to recognize their responsibility to carry on tradition.” 

While much about my life today feels different than it was in high school, I am proud that these words still hold true. Judaism survives on the basis of tradition and ​L’dor V’dor (from generation to generation). ​I am so glad that because of the connections I made through 18 Under 18 I was able to find new and larger platforms to continue my work to achieve this goal. I am excited to continue supporting the work that our teens do to elevate and carry-on tradition. In this work, I have already been so impressed with the potential of the next generation. Now, as an 18 Under 18 nominator, I know my role in carrying on tradition is fulfilled and the program is sure to instill that same lesson in each subsequent cohort.  

Isaac Freedman portrait

Isaac Freedman is an undergraduate student at Northwestern University where he is pursuing degrees in both Biology and Human Culture, Health, & Disease. As he moves ahead on his path to a career in medicine, Isaac has continued to be involved in the world of Jewish music. In 2018, Isaac was recognized as one of 18 Under 18 for his contributions to the North Shore Congregation Israel and greater community as a music and hebrew teacher, among other roles. Isaac now volunteers his time with NFTY-CAR to develop and support the songleading cohort. He has taught annually with Alan Goodis for Chicago’s Nashir Songleading Institute and joins Cantor Rosalie Will as a mentor for 2021’s cohort of URJ Songleading fellows

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Mental Health Tips to Start 2021 by Ellen Geis, Engagement Coordinator, No Shame On U

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Alright everyone we made it! The year that somehow went by so slow, and so fast, is finally coming to a close. I’m sure many are sighing with relief at the symbolic turning of a calendar from 2020 to 2021, but many are probably still filled with unease at an uncertain future ahead as we continue to adapt to a new normal and pick up the pieces of our lives and world post-2020. 

For that reason No Shame On U is partnering with Springboard to provide you with some quick tips to set you up for 2021 on a mentally strong note. No Shame On U is a Jewish mental health non-profit dedicated to eliminating the stigma associated with mental health conditions and raising awareness.. This year has been unlike any we have ever encountered in the mental health community, with depression, anxiety, and loneliness skyrocketing in reaction to the pandemic and societal unrest. If you’re feeling a little rattled coming out of this year, it’s ok. 

Here are some tips to start 2021 with mental strength and resiliency*:

  1. Wherever you’re at, it’s ok.

If you’re depressed, it’s ok. If you’re anxious, it’s ok. If you’ve barely done anything this year but survive, it’s ok. One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to accept that wherever you are at, it’s ok. Feeling guilty or ashamed for what you are feeling will only perpetuate it more. One of my favorite phrases for when I’m having a bad day is “that’s just where I’m at today.” This takes the pressure off of how I “should be” so I don’t feel guilty and then even more depressed. In a year like this remember however you are feeling heading into the new year is perfectly ok, and “that’s just where you’re at today.”

  1. Cultivate a Healthy Lifestyle

You know the drill. Eat healthier, exercise, get more sleep, drink water, etc. There’s a reason experts continuously recommend these things, it’s because they really do make a difference. If it feels overwhelming though and like you’ll never be that perfect healthy person, then make it easier on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect, just make one small change at a time that feels fun! If lifting weights feels boring to you, then turn on some music and have a dance party. If eating healthier feels like you’ll have to give up your favorite foods, then look up recipes for healthier versions of those foods. Whatever you choose to do, just make healthy lifestyle changes one step at a time so your brain doesn’t get overwhelmed by too much change at once.

  1. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

I know, everyone is talking about gratitude right now, but again that’s because it really does help! Taking a moment every day to reflect on what you’re grateful for cultivates a mindset that focuses on what you do have, instead of dwelling on what is wrong. The more you cultivate this attitude of gratitude the more you’ll notice the good in life, and the bad will affect you less and less. One of my favorite practices is everytime I catch myself complaining I say three things I’m grateful for about what I was complaining about. Try it out for yourself! You’ll be amazed at how your mood and perspective can shift!

  1. Bonus Video! 5 Proven Ways to Build Mental Toughness and Resilience:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpwC5ztY-3c

This is a great animated video with additional tips and explanations for how to build mental strength, especially during a year like this one.

There are a million more tips out there for cultivating mental strength and resiliency, but these are the ones that have been most impactful and effective at getting me through 2020. I hope they’re able to help you start 2021 mentally strong. And remember, you don’t have to change everything all at once. For strong, consistent habits and mindset changes that support your mental health, the best thing you can do is take it one small step at time.

Happy New Year!

*This article is not a replacement for therapy or medication. If you are having thoughts of suicide please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. 

National Suicide Prevention 24/7 Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 

24/7 Crisis Text Hotline: Text “HOME” to 741741

Ellen Geis

Ellen Geis is the Engagement Coordinator at No Shame On U and a certified Health and Life Coach. Ellen understands first hand what it takes to survive and overcome mental illness and believes strongly in people’s ability to heal themselves and transform their lives. She is passionate about creating interactive community programming that supports peoples’ holistic well-being, and is deeply inspired by the intersection of spirituality and mental health.

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