My family began attending SJCS, the Secular Jewish Community and School of Oak Park when I was in first grade. Each year with my age group, I participated in either a social action project or service project. In third grade, for example, I made headbands to sell in order to raise money for a children’s hospital. Other projects I participated in included donating food to and volunteering at the Oak Park Food Pantry, and cleaning up a forest preserve. I was taught at a young age that the proper thing to do was to always help others and to do my part to repair the world (Tikkun Olam) which I have always directly aligned with my Jewish Identity. This past summer, I participated in JUF’s Camp Tov in which we discussed Jewish values and how they relate to our purpose in doing good for others. We met with several organizations, learned about their pursuit, and what we could do to help them. When we met with Sophie Draluck, a freshman at UPenn who began Cycle Forward, an organization that collects feminine products for women in need, I was immediately drawn to the organization’s ambition and started my own Period Products Drive. By running my own drive, I inspired my friend to get her swim team to do a Period Products Drive for their yearly service project.
In addition to discovering impactful organizations, participating in conversations on Camp Tov Zoom Calls made me feel like I truly belonged somewhere. Living in a community with a very small Jewish Population, I have never truly felt accepted besides at SJCS. During Camp Tov, I was able to make connections and share similar beliefs with the other Jewish Teens. This experience encouraged me to become more involved in my Jewish community and to apply for the Springboard Peer Ambassadorship. I am excited to get connected with more Jewish teens during my Peer Ambassadorship and to continue to develop my Jewish Identity.
Sophia is a Senior at Lyons Township High School where she is a news editor for her school newspaper. Through her Participation in SJCS (the Secular Jewish Community of Oak Park) and JUF’s (Jewish United Fund) Camp Tov, her Jewish identity has become central to her passion for social action and service to others.