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

Meet Springboard's New Lewis Summer Intern, Maddy Pestine!

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Hello everyone! My name is Maddy Pestine, and I am so excited to meet you all this summer as Springboard’s Lewis Summer Intern! As part of the Lewis Summer Intern Program, I work alongside 35 other outstanding college students who are committed to making Jewish life in the Chicagoland area (and beyond) a vibrant, inclusive, and empowering community for all. I believe I’m the luckiest out of my cohort, though, because I get to work directly with the changemakers of our future: teens! 

I am a rising Junior at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) studying Psychology and Business with a minor in Legal Studies. I am very involved in the dance community on campus, which has always been a major part of my life.  

I have found a welcoming and supportive Jewish community through Chabad, Hillel, and my sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi. The friendships I have fostered through these groups have been major cornerstones for me in a year that challenged the strength of Jewish life and students on college campuses across the world.  

One of my favorite parts about having a robust Jewish life on campus is the opportunity to learn about the lifestyles of individuals who live out their Judaism differently than myself. Whether I am learning about life in Israel from our Israel Fellow, conversing with the Rabbi and his family after Shabbat dinner, or talking to women in my sorority about their experiences growing up in other Jewish communities across North America, I am sure to learn something new every day about how Judaism is lived by those I love.  

I cannot wait to work with the Springboard Team this summer to meet and learn from all of you. Your experiences and feedback of Jewish teen life in the Chicagoland area will have a major impact for years to come. This is going to be an incredible summer of personal growth and development, friendship building, and fun that will last a lifetime. I look forward to being a small part of your Jewish journey, and I can’t wait for you all to become a big part of mine! 

Maddy Pestine

Maddy and Eden

Maddy pictured with WashU Chabad’s Israel Fellow, Eden Yair, at Rosh Hashanah.  

Maddy and Mushka

Maddy pictured with WashU Chabad’s Director of Engagement, Mushka Novak. 

Maddy and Sorority

Maddy pictured with women from her sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi, at an Israeli Cooking Night event. 

Highlights from BBYO - Great Midwest Region's 2023-2024 year!

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GMR BBYO had an incredible year! A few of our highlights include:

  • Surpassed our membership goal and now have 865 members, 252 of them joined this year

  • Hosted high quality and meaningful teen-led chapter programs

  • Sold out all of our regional events and conventions

  • Started up two new chapters, one in Oak Park and another on the South Side of the city

  • Sent 45 members to BBYO summer programs

  • Raised $37,459.25 on #givingBBYOday, surpassing our goal of $30,061.22

  • Celebrated BBYO’s centennial birthday! We are excited for another 100 years of BBYO

    BBYO 100th Birthday

Highlights from NFTY-CAR's 2023-2024 year!

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NFTY- NFTY-CAR (Chicago Area Region) has seen amazing growth this year! Not only have we doubled the amount of events we had, we are also incredibly proud of the amazing community partners we’ve worked with this year including other Jewish teen organizations and synagogues. In addition to our amazing community partners, we’ve also worked with 10+ new teen leaders, including 2 teens honored with the 18 under 18 award, and 10+ adult volunteers across our organization. We cannot wait to keep up this amazing growth.


Highlights from USY-CHUSY's 2023-2024 year!

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USY-CHUSY (Chicago USY) hosted 16 regional programs, a CHUSY regional record number of programs, and engaged 58% more participants than last year! CHUSY also collaborated with at least 10 different organizations this year to provide a variety of programming for a wide range of ages from a joint Shabbat dinner with Northwestern Hillel with CHUSY high schoolers to visiting a slime museum with close to 200 2nd-8th graders. CHUSY was proud to have 5 involved teens honored at this year’s 18 Under 18. CHUSY would not have been able to pull this off without the incredible teen leaders on the 2023-2024 Regional Executive Board, Regional General Board, Chapter Boards, Youth Professionals, Clergy and community partners. We look forward to having another phenomenal year in 2024-2025!

USY-CHUSY Group Photo


No Better Time than IsraelNow

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By Sam Rodin

Jewish educators are often tasked with creating magical moments that combine deep educational content, authentic Jewish experiences, and genuine joy. IsraelNow does this each year for scores of 8th graders from across the country. In normal times, participants travel to Israel for a week to build relationships with Israel, gain Jewish self-confidence, and broaden their peer networks. Sadly, we do not live in normal times, and IsraelNow made the heartbreaking decision to cancel travel to Israel for our 2024 trips. The IsraelNow team was left with an important question: In acknowledgement of our mission to bring teens to Israel, should we cancel our program entirely? Or do we strive to create an experience that can achieve our outcomes, at least in part, and provide a meaningful opportunity for this year’s 8th grade class?  

IsraelNow took a leap of faith and journeyed into the unknown with more questions than answers. We didn’t know where to travel or what content to bring. We didn’t understand the complexities of discussing Israel today. We didn’t know who of our teens might be interested in a domestic IsraelNow trip. But sensing that now, perhaps more than ever before, Jewish teens are looking for safe spaces to experience Judaism, discuss Israel, and simply have fun, we knew we had to try. 

The program we put together — 5 days in Northern California with volunteering and touring, hiking and text study, group bonding and personal exploration — was nothing short of exceptional. Teens walked away feeling a deep connection to their Jewish identities, to Israel, and to each other. It was truly transformational. This is the power of experiential education.  

Just a few weeks ago, we were sitting at the Seder table celebrating Pesach and singing Dayenu. Had this been all we accomplished, Dayenu, it would have been enough. But what is much rarer in this field is the opportunity to transform the staff along with the teens. Spending this week with over 130 Jewish teens was transformational for me as well. I witnessed teens practicing Judaism in new ways, having deep and profound discussions about the current war in Israel, and being joyful with new friends from across the country. And I was right there with them, finding new meaning in Jewish text, sharing and learning about my own Israel story, and dancing and laughing together.  

There is no replacement for Israel, and I pray IsraelNow can return to trips to the Jewish homeland in the year to come. But for now, I am proud to have been with IsraelNow and feel closer to Israel, my Judaism, and the Jewish people because of having spent time with these 8th graders in California. 

Visit or email us at to learn more about IsraelNow.  

IsraelNow Group Photo

IsraelNow Hiking Group Photo

Meet our new Program Director of Teen Social Change Initiatives, Shoshi Shapiro

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My name is Shoshi Shapiro, and I am very excited to join JUF as the new Program Director for Teen Social Change Initiatives. Core to my beliefs is that every individual can make a difference (yes, Tikkun Olam was engrained in me early), and I am looking forward to connecting my personal values to work. 

To give you a little more about me, I grew up in NYC and came to the Chicago area for college. I studied Learning Science in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern and completed certificates in Civic Engagement and Human-Centered Design. The nerd in me loves talking about human-centered design, museums and why voting in local elections matters thanks to my time in college. I also staffed USY on Wheels and Pilgrimage, which were two of the most meaningful summers spent exploring Jewish history and identity and of course racking up new states and countries.  

Fast forward a few years, I now live in West Lakeview. Shabbat and sharing Judaism with friends are part of my everyday life. I also foster dogs and adoption counsel through a local rescue, am an avid women’s basketball fan (both college and pro), sail in the summer with my dad, and assemble excellent cheese plates.  

Below are two photos- one of me and friends meeting the legendary Candace Parker (I am the one on her right), and the second is of my currently adoptable foster Auden who was very upset I was packing and insisted I not by sitting on the clothes. 

I am again so excited to be here and can’t wait to meet and make impact with you all!  

Candace Parker and Auden

Don’t Miss Upcoming program and Scholarship Deadlines

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Summer is just around the corner! Summer and School year leadership programs for the 24-25 school year are now accepting applications.  Here are some great experiences to check out.  

AMHSI Classic Program in Israel: Classic 6-week academic program, formally known as Foundations Israel, will take students on a 4,000-year journey throughout the History and Culture of Israel beginning with the Middle Bronze Age and ending with the Modern Middle East.Located outside of Tel Aviv in the city of Hod HaSharon, the AMHSI campus features renovated dorms, dining room, basketball courts, running track, music room, and the ability to walk to shops, restaurants, a smoothie bar, and much more Students are eligible for high school credits and optional college credits. Learn more and sign up here. 

Genesis Precollege Summer Program: Join an incredible Jewish learning community this summer at Genesis! You'll take classes taught by passionate Jewish educators, make incredible friends, and experience life on a college campus. Scholarships available, learn more and register here. 

Hartman Teen Fellowship: The Fellowship will run from September 2024 through May 2025. Applications are due May 31st. Jewish teens have big questions, face challenging dilemmas, and are searching for a place to explore new ideas. The Hartman Teen Fellowship is an extraordinary opportunity for North American high schoolers in grades 10-12 to cultivate Jewish identities that value Jewish Peoplehood, Israel, and humanity. Fellows will develop the tools to build an informed, meaningful, and bright Jewish future. Learn more and register here. 

JUF Israel Scholarships: Apply for a JUF Israel experience scholarships for fall and academic year programs. The deadline is June 1st and awards will be announced in mid-July.  

Springboard Access Grants: Now it’s even easier to try new programs in the Jewish community. With a Springboard Access Grant Springboard will provide up to 50% of tuition costs of your first overnight Jewish teen program up to $300 Learn more and apply here. 

My Experience as a jGirls+ Magazine Editor

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I am sitting at my desk at home in Evanston IL, talking with teens across the country about submissions to jGirls+, a national online Jewish literary magazine. The meeting starts with catching up and lots of laughter, but then we transition to reviewing each piece. We think about its structure, the content, the perspective, and then think about the edits we would make. We discuss the author’s meaning and the context. Together, we joke and share stories, but mostly we debate. These meetings are a teen-only space and leave me feeling empowered. Sometimes I change my mind about the strength of a piece or the underlying issue, and sometimes I don’t. But after each discussion, I emerge understanding the world and myself a bit better than when I evaluated the piece on my own. When our meeting is over, I haven’t left my chair, but I have grown and changed in ways I didn’t expect.

The people on the Editorial Board and Photography board are like me in that they are Jewish and are passionate about writing, but they are also different from me. Together we represent 15 states, 25 different Jewish practices (each of us is unique), and multiple ways of thinking. Each year we gather in New York City for an in-person retreat. Throughout the year, we also have the chance to learn from experts and build our skills. Just a couple weeks ago, I led a meeting with the editor of Hey Alma (how cool is that!).

If I had to choose one word to describe my experience at jGirls+ it would be fulfilling. From having the opportunity to produce timely and meaningful content to creating such genuine friendships, I feel so lucky to be part of such an incredible Jewish community. I applied with hopes of becoming a better editor, but I have gained so much more. 

** We accept writing and art submissions all-year round from Jewish girls and non-binary teens on any subject and any genre. We are also seeking content reflecting Jewish teen responses to the Israel-Hamas war. All perspectives are always welcome.

Apply to be on the editorial and photography board here (applications are due March 26th, extensions available upon request):

Submit writing here:

Browse the website here:

About the author: Isabel Rosenberg (she/her), a senior at Evanston Township High School, loves to create – everything from dance choreography to stories. Through her work as an editor and department head for jGirls+ Magazine, a national Jewish literary magazine, she is able to help others share their stories. Isabel is one of this year’s 18 Under 18 Honorees. 

Isabel Rosenberg

What Makes BBYO Special to Me?

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The B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO): a pluralistic teen movement; a home. A non-profit organization that helps Jewish teens build their identity; somewhere memories are made, laughter is shared, and meaningful connections are built. 

A few months ago, I was having a conversation with a new prospect, trying to find the words to describe how incredible our movement is. She was asking questions such as “How do I become a member?” “What does membership entail?” “Which chapter would I be in?” Having all the answers, I easily led her through everything she was wondering. But, one last question was stated, making me unsure of how to properly answer it. “What makes BBYO so special?” To be truthful, I had no idea how to reply. How can I easily summarize the impact this organization has on me? Where would I even start? “This might take a while,” I replied, knowing that I wanted to answer her with all of my heart.

“Before I joined BBYO, there was nothing that stuck with me. I had sports and extracurriculars, but I did not have a true connection with anything. This organization was always mentioned by family members and friends, but I had no clue what it actually was. I gave one event a shot and by doing so, I immediately fell in love. After my first event, I began to participate in unique programming. I tried new things I had never thought about doing before. I learned more about what it means to take leadership in my community and speak up for myself and for the Jewish community when necessary. I felt more connected with my Jewish identity than ever before. Most of all, I made lifelong relationships, meeting some of my best friends.”

Here, I am truly able to express myself for who I am. I love being a part of this community, along with attending events that are hosted by my chapter (and the region) have always been the highlight of my week. 

By coming to GMR’s Whirlyball kickoff, I assure you that you will have a great time, and will want to become more involved. A regional event like this one is the perfect opportunity to meet new people, and get a feel for what this organization really is. I promise that if you come, you will have so much fun, and feel the same love for this community that I do.

Hallie Horwich

About the author: Hallie Horwich is a Freshman at New Trier High School and was Bat Mitzvahed at Beth Emet Synagogue in Evanston. Hallie is an active member in BBYO, and has served as her chapter Sh’licha (Jewish Enrichment VP), and Mekasheret (Eighth Grade Recruitment). She enjoys spending her summers playing field hockey and traveling.