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Why I Joined the Peer Ambassador Program by Talia Holceker

(Program Experiences) Permanent link

Hello! My name is Talia Holceker and I joined the Springboard Peer Ambassador program last summer when I was searching for more ways to get involved within my Jewish community. I knew that I needed a program that accommodated my schedule, enhanced my leadership skills, and connected me with other Jewish teens in the Chicagoland area.  

I knew the Jewish United Fund was the right organization for me since I had attended both Camp TOV for two years and the Voices program in the summer. Through my two summers with JUF, I met some amazing people and felt like I was a part of a close-knit community that valued kindness and giving back to people in need.  

Through participating in Camp TOV and Voices, I met some amazing people and felt like I was a part of a close-knit community that valued kindness and giving back to people in need. Through these JUF programs I met Brittany from Springboard who let me know about many other programs. She introduced me to a new program that she was running called Peer Ambassadors (PA). This was perfect for me because it fit the criteria I was looking for. As a competitive dancer, most programs interfered with my schedule. The PA program offered flexibility, leadership, and partnership, which were all reasons I wanted to get involved. 

The Peer Ambassador program was perfect for me because it fit the criteria I was looking for. As a competitive dancer, most programs interfered with my schedule. I was determined to find a program for me, so I decided to chat with the Assistant Director of Springboard, Brittany Abramowicz Cahan, who introduced me to a new program that she was running called Peer Ambassadors (PA).  

The PA program offered flexibility, leadership, and partnership, which were all reasons I wanted to get involved. Over the past year, I’ve attended and created different events that were centralized around the Jewish community. The events have both pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me many new things. For example, a few months ago I invited six of my friends to join a Zoom call where we all baked Challah together. I had the Springboard Teen Engagement Manager, Naomi Looper, instruct us on what to do and how not to mess up (I still managed to mess mine up). Regardless of whether our challah turned out well, it was a fun experience that brought a group of my Jewish friends together.

Challah Baking Group

This year, I am returning to the Peer Ambassador program as a Senior Peer Ambassador to help mentor new PAs and offer my advice from my past experiences. I cannot be more thrilled to represent such an amazing organization and a fun and interactive program!  

If you would like to apply to be Peer Ambassador you can learn more and apply here. Applications are due Monday, August 16th. Ambassadors can earn a total of $300 over the course of the Ambassadorship. You will also be eligible for funding to implement programming. The Ambassadorship will begin in late August 2021 and end in early June 2022. All applicants must be in 9th-12th grade for the 2021-2022 school year and live in the Chicagoland area. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. If you have any questions email NaomiLooper@juf.org.

Talia Holceker Photo

About the Author: Talia is a rising senior at Francis W. Parker School of Chicago, where she is an active leader and member of her community. Through her work with Cradles to Crayons and the Anti-Cruelty Society, her Jewish identity has become central to her passion for volunteering

Join Us at JCUA's Youth Organizing Workshop By Sabrina Goldsmith

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Hi! I’m Sabrina Goldsmith. I’m currently working as one of the Jewish Council on Urban Affair’s youth interns. I’ve worked with JCUA for over 3 years now, in various capacities. I’ve marched for police accountability, talked about income taxes at my synagogue, and participated in a prayer service outside of a detention center. And this summer, I’m working on youth engagement and education! 

I know over the past year, many people have been forced to face the inherent inequalities in our city and our nation as a whole. But, many people, especially teens, often don’t know where to start or how to actually create real, lasting, systemic change. If you’re looking to make a change in the world around you, supported by fellow teens, JCUA is the place for you! JCUA has been organizing since 1964, starting out by fighting for fair housing in low-income neighborhoods of Chicago. Today, JCUA is working on several campaigns ranging from Bring Chicago Home, which focuses on redirecting real estate taxes to help provide housing for the homeless to ECPS, the most progressive set of police reform measures in the country, which just recently passed city council.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, on August 1st from 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM, there is a virtual Youth Organizing Workshop. Join us to meet other folks who are interested in JCUA's youth organizing, learn more about what it is we do, and how you can get involved! We’ll talk about what community organizing is, how we build community, and how we are currently working to improve our city! This meeting will be completely led by JCUA’s youth interns, and we really hope to see you there.

Please RSVP here and invite anyone who you think might be interested in JCUA and our work.

JCUA-Event

About the Author: Sabrina Goldsmith is a lifelong resident of Chicago, and recent graduate of Lane Tech. She has participated in several social justice programs, including RTI and JUF Voices, in addition to her work with JCUA. She will be attending Brandeis University this fall, where she plans to major in Anthropology and Art History. 

Meet Our Lewis Summer Intern, Alex!

(Program Experiences, Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Alex Gold Portrait

I am so excited to be joining the Springboard team as the Lewis Summer Intern for JUF teens and Springboard this summer! 

I am from Glencoe and have always belonged to Am Shalom where I have been able to grow my Jewish belonging and network beyond friendships within my hometown. I worked at my synagogue as a madricha for three years during high school. I was able to work with preschool aged children who were just starting their Jewish journey, all the way through middle schoolers, who were gearing up for their b’nai mitzvahs.  

I spent 8 summers at Tripp Lake camp in Maine There, I was also able to connect with young Jewish girls from all over the country. Connecting with these girls from such a young age and continuously growing relationships every summer, allowed me to make lifelong friends who I still have today. 

Alex Gold Photo

I am a rising senior at Franklin and Marshall College studying sociology and anthropology. I intend to graduate this winter and go off to graduate school where I will be able to get my degree in Social Work. I hope to work with teens and young adults who are navigating middle school and high school. Listening to other people’s life experiences, and giving advice, has been a passion of mine since I was young, and I cannot wait to start that chapter of my life! 

From Player to Coach by Jodi Marver

(Program Experiences, Community Spotlight) Permanent link

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 Leah Ryzenman and the StandWithUs Kenneth Leventhal High School Internship

(Program Experiences) Permanent link

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 Nourish our Neighborhoods By the Springboard Team

(Holidays, Program Experiences) Permanent link

Jessica Tansey Image

This Chanukah, Springboard is thrilled to partner with JUF TOV to collect winter gear for those in need through Nourish our Neighborhoods on Sunday, December 13th. There will be contactless drop-off locations throughout the Chicagoland, include the city and suburbs.

This has been a tough year for so many in our community and the necessity to support those in need is even greater this year. At Springboard, the Jewish middot (values) of kehillah (community), chesed (kindness), and kavod (respect) are essential to our core principle of supporting the Chicago teen community. When thinking about what opportunities to provide for our community this Chanukah, it was important to us to create on-ramps for teens and their families to donate to organizations that will help the most in need this winter. We are proud to share that those receiving our donations on December 13th represent a diverse group of organizations serving a variety of populations including those working within the Jewish community, Black and Brown communities, adult disability community, domestic violence community, and more.

Since Thanksgiving starts tomorrow and the beginning of the “holiday” shopping season, take a moment this holiday to reflect on how we can all make a difference in the lives of others and the impact of our actions. On this black Friday, instead of buying cute socks or other gadgets for ourselves, the Springboard team plans to purchase winter gear that we will donate on December 13th. If you would like to join us in keeping others warm and safe this winter, you can sign up today at juf.org/nourish to donate winter gear to those in need.

We also recognize that this has been such a tough year for many of you. If you decide to donate on Sunday, December 13th to one of the ten locations for Nourish our Neigbhorhoods, Springboard will give any teen ages 13-18 a special Chanukah gift with some limited edition swag that will keep you warm as well this winter. Just make sure you email naomilooper@juf.org once you register for Nourish and she will get you a gift when you donate. 

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Noah Lichstein and Voices

(Program Experiences) Permanent link

When I signed up for Voices at the end of the summer of 2018, I didn’t know what I was signing up for. I had heard so many great things about Voices from friends who had been part of the program in the past, but I had no first-hand experience with the program itself nor any program like it. All I knew was throughout high school, I had been wanting to be involved with something Jewish, but I had yet to find what I really wanted to do; until I started Voices. 

Voices encourages and provokes lots of thought and reflection on personal values. Early into Voices, I identified that Tzedek is something very valuable to me. Not only did Voices help me identify this, Voices gave me opportunity after opportunity to take action on it, and to help others take action as well. Not only did Voices help me identify and stick to my values, working with others and collectively contributing to something greater and bigger than ourselves was even more rewarding. 

This past year, the Alumni board, which I sat on, had around 12 board members, including myself. As we received grant proposals, the Covid-19 pandemic also began affecting the US and our in-person meetings came to a halt and at the same time, many of the organizations’ needs shifted so they could support their members through the pandemic. As a board, we quickly shifted our outlook and our funding priorities, and we were able to help organizations navigate through the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only were these organizations that were either affected or helped those affected by Covid-19, each board member, including myself had a say in what issues we wanted to support. One committee I sat on was the disabilities committee, which looked into organizations that provided help and services to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Services like these became very important as Covid-19 closed schools and other support systems previously providing assistance to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Because of this, I know that the Voices Alumni Board contributed to a meaningful cause, and was impactful, in a time of need. 

I am so grateful I was able to make Voices a meaningful part of my junior and senior years of high school. As I transition into college and beyond, my values are clear to me and Voices had a large part in helping me identify and uphold those. Voices has also taught me how to contribute to something greater than myself and because of my experience in Voices that is something I will always strive for.

Noah Lichstein

Noah Lichstein is currently a freshman in the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. During his junior and senior years of high school, he sat on the board of Voices: The Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation. Outside of Voices, Noah enjoys taking photos, traveling, cycling, and playing squash.

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Springboard Peer Ambassadors

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#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Springboard Peer Ambassadors by Brittany Abramowicz

Last February at the Dunkin Donuts in Northbrook, I meet with the teens who were starting their journey as Springboard Peer Ambassadors. I told them that over the course of the next eight months they were going to take the lead on making sure their friends knew about Jewish teen programs, and would even have the opportunity to create activities to help more people connect to each other and the Jewish community.  At that time none of us could have predicted what the next eight months would have in store for us.  

One of the many challenges we’ve all had to navigate over the past few months is how to stay connected. So of course, the Peer Ambassadors Program that aims to connect teens to community was dramatically impacted. Jewish teen programs were moved mostly online, and there are now specific stipulations that need to be put in place to do something simple like having a few friends over for Havdallah and a Bonfire. Despite these challenges, this first cohort of Springboard Peer Ambassadors did find ways to help their friends connect online and make Jewish teen programs more accessible.  

In a time when people may be feeling isolated or out of sorts, this group of teens have been working to connect with people through acts of Tikkun Olam. Through their acts of kindness, they’ve made sure their friends know they are there for them, and made sure people are finding ways to relax and have fun, especially during a challenging time.
 

 After our last meeting, the Peer Ambassadors shared some reflections on their experiences, and this is what they had to say:  

“By getting my Jewish friends together for my events, I realized that being Jewish is also about the connection between Jewish people.”  - Jamie  

“I've realized that Judaism revolves a lot around connection. By connecting with other Jews, I've developed a strong sense of belonging in the Jewish community.”  – Ania 

We are now accepting applications for the next group of ambassadors if you want to make a difference by helping people find meaningful connections to each other and the Jewish community you can learn more and apply here

Brittany Abramowicz works with Springboard to help teens find their fit in the Jewish community. 

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Seed613

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There are many ways to embody what Tikkun Olam means and turn it into action. Our community has many programs that allow teens to do just that; one of them is JCC’s Seed613. This program empowers female identifying Jewish teens to work together to identify challenges in the community and create solutions, whether big or small, that will make a meaningful difference. Tikkun Olam and repairing the world come in many shapes and sizes. Here are some of the incredible examples of projects Seed613 fellows have done that do just that:

Disconnect2Reconnect: is a campaign to educate teens on the positive benefits of reducing technology use in everyday life. This 5-day campaign will be implemented in schools across the Chicagoland area, encouraging students to disconnect from one type of technology or social media each day. Technology usage has been linked to increasing mental health issues in adolescents, and we hope to educate both teens and their parents on the positive and negative impacts of technology.

disconnect to reconnect

Mindfull: an after-school club at high school focused on inspiring students to lead a healthy lifestyle. The clubs are student-led and each week, club-goers participate in a healthy activity such as smoothie making, or learning about different wellness options. MindFULL also prioritizes environmental initiatives – creating a school community garden and completing a relevant service project. MindFULL was created to address the lack of health and wellness information available to school-aged children.

Mindfull

 CopStop: The mission of CopStop is to spark empathy between police and community members in order to build in accountability and transform the culture, relationships, and popular opinions between inner-city citizens and police. It’s an app where users can see crowd-sourced reviews of local police departments, view individual officers, and leave feedback for police.

Cop Stop

 My Student Mind: My Student Mind a website designed to form a digital community for students working through understanding their mental health, encouraging them to take control of their mental well being both inside and outside of the classroom. My Student Mind has everything a student needs to take control of their mental health. The site creates a community of students all with the same goal in mind; mental well being. It provides both tangible and emotional tools that students can customize and choose if and when to use based on their personal interests and dependencies. Once you log on, you have control.

My Student Mind

While Seed613's focus is on innovative projects like the ones above, the fellowship offers so much more; a community - "When I met the other girls, I knew I was welcomed and appreciated for being my true self [...] I realized how lucky I was to be in a room full of people that wanted to support me, my ideas, and this program.". Community is something we are all craving given the state of the world. To learn more about Seed613, the community it can give you, and to get a taste of what participating might look like, sign up here  for the very first Taste of Seed613 tonight on Zoom. Some of the most impactful and innovative things happening today have been created by teens, and you can be next! 

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Camp Tzedek

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Camp Tzedek

Camp Tzedek proved you can have fun and change your community at the same time (and virtually!).  Over the course of a week, Camp Tzedek gave campers a chance to learn more about homelessness, food insecurity, and youth-at-risk issues in Chicago.  We put that new knowledge to use as we evaluated grant proposals and site visits with six organizations.  At the end of the week, we awarded almost $8000 in grants to three different local Chicago organizations. Here are a few six word memoirs from campers to share what they learned over the course of the week. 

Teens can also make a difference.  – Kayla Kupietzky

Philanthropy is very interesting and fun! – Ethan Sugar

Philanthropy is sharing/donating your passions.  – Eva Beresin

It's surprising some students are homeless.  – Dina Levin

The organizations all wrote a proposal.  – Louie Bloomberg

The power of education and community.  – Emily Helfand

Giving time/money can change lives. – Eva Cohen

Making a difference can feel amazing!  - Talia Holceker


If you’re interested in making a difference in your community and teen philanthropy, consider applying for the Voices: the Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation board.

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Jessica, Claire, and Ella's Experience on L'Taken

(Program Experiences) Permanent link

Repair the World Wednesday

We were very fortunate to get to attend the L’taken social justice seminar with The Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism this past January. The Religious Action Center, or RAC for short, advocates on a variety of social justice issues from the perspective of Reform Judaism. One of the amazing programs the RAC has to offer is the L’taken social justice seminar, and it is truly a one of a kind experience. Over the course of the weekend, we attended a variety of sessions to learn about Judaism, advocacy, and social justice issues, toured our way around DC, and lobbied congress. L’taken brings together teens, rabbis, cantors and youth group staff from all across the country who all share a passion for social justice. It felt so special to be with fellow teens from various geographic locations and backgrounds while sharing the commonality of being Jewish and wanting to change the world. One of the other amazing aspects about this weekend is that real change was made. After learning from the sessions and discovering what social justice issue we wanted to focus on, we had the opportunity to put our skills to the test and share them with our congressmen and congresswomen. We even got to meet Senator Tammy Duckworth and lobby to Congressman Brad Schneider himself! 

After attending L’Taken in January, we were so excited to hear that we would be able to extend the connections we made and our advocacy work through the Reform Action Center’s Teen Justice Fellowship. In this program, we attended 5 zoom lessons led by Logan Zinman Gerber, the RAC national teen campaign organizer, where we learned about the importance of voting and what teenagers (who can’t vote yet) can do to still make an impact on the nation. We were taught how good organizing and leadership is essential to get people to take notice of the country’s problems, and how teens are truly the face of change. Understanding why people need to vote and the difference that they can make in an election is necessary in order for our democracy to stay strong. In 2018, voter turnout for 18-29 year olds went from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018, the largest percentage point increase for any age group (79% increase). This extreme increase is promising, but there is still such a long way to go! We are hoping that through small acts of non-partisan encouragement, today’s youth will not only be inspired to vote, but will understand the necessity of voting. 

At the end of our fellowship, we were tasked with organizing a project around the topic of teen involvement in voter registration. We decided to work together in order to create an event for teens at three congregations in our area (Temple Jeremiah, North Shore Congregation Israel, and B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim) that traveled to L’Taken together. The reason for this was to encourage a strong community between the teens in the area because many of us don’t know each other, but we all have a passion for social justice and Judaism as well as great ideas that can be shared. That’s what our project is truly about: an opportunity to learn. We want to teach teens in the area how they can advocate for teen voting, even if they can’t vote, as well as how to use their voices for issues they are passionate about. We want teens that come to our event to walk away with the knowledge of the importance of voting and using their voices, as well as resources that they know how to use in order to make their voices heard. 

If you are a highschooler or first time voter and would like to attend our zoom event, we would love to have you! Feel free to reach out to any of us at ebrubenstein@gmail.com , jshade03@gmail.com , and cjschwartz123@gmail.com . If you want to learn more about The Religious Action Center and their L’Taken D.C. trip, visit https://rac.org/ and https://rac.org/2018-2019-ltaken-program-season .

 

Claire is a rising senior at Deerfield High School. She is a board member for her temple youth group, an active member of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, and co-founder of her local March for Our Lives chapter. At school, Claire is a member of her swim team and Mathletes team, and she is the co-president of her Girls Coding Club. In the future, Claire hopes to use her knowledge of coding with her passion for social justice to write programs that will help make the world a better place. 

Jessica is a rising junior at Deerfield High School. She is the programming chair of the BJBE teen youth group, and a teaching assistant for the temple’s Sunday school. She has been involved with the Illinois Holocaust Museum Teen Committee and her school’s genocide commemoration day committee as well. Jessica plays on the tennis team and is in the DHS band. She is very passionate about the importance of voting and educating teens on how they can make an impact on the country and world. 

Ella is a rising junior at Glenbrook North High School. She has attended L’taken and participated in different follow up seminars with the RAC both Freshman and sophomore year. Ella proudly serves as the vice president of programming for her BBYO chapter. She also is a member of the StandWithUs teen leadership council, a peer mentor at Special Gifts Theater, a member of JUF’s Voices, involved with her school’s Jewish Student Connection Club, a member of her school's speech team, and an active member of Temple Jeremiah. Ella loves all things Judaism, social action, and community service and looks forward to educating teens on how they can be civically engaged without being able to vote. 

#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Camp TOV and Camp Tzedek

(Program Experiences) Permanent link

JUF Teens

This #RepairTheWorldWednesday is highlighting the incredible work of Camp TOV and Camp Tzedek, a returning program and new program to the JUF Teens repertoire. Now more than ever, we need to be working to fix fundamental issues in our society and community; we can all do our part. Camp TOV and Camp Tzedek are two programs that can help you do your part in a fun and educational way! 

Camp TOV is a longstanding and central part of JUF Teens. You may be thinking Camp TOV means Camp of good, and while it does a tremendous amount of good, TOV stands for Tikkun Olam Volunteers. During Camp TOV, you will learn about different Jewish values along with a variety of local organizations. There will be hands on impact projects daily that you can participate in. Repairing the World, or Tikkun Olam, is something that can be achieved through making one dog toy, writing a letter to a senior, or helping organize a supply drive for a local organization. Every little bit counts, and through Camp TOV you will be a lot more than a little.  

Camp Tzedek, which is new to JUF Teens, is a program that is packing a whole lot of philanthropic education into a week-long camp. You will learn about social justice issues facing our community, how to read grant proposals, and ultimately allocate out over $7,000 to local organizations! Because Camp Tzedek is virtual this year, it is committed to building connections between teens from around the country, so sign up with a camp friend, family member, or get ready to make new friends who are also passionate about philanthropy.  

There are so many ways to do our part during this difficult time. Whether taking individual initiative and starting your own organization, donating to a food drive, supporting local businesses, or signing up for one of these incredible camps, opportunities to do good are out there! If you want to learn more about Camp TOV or Camp Tzedek send contact us and we can answer all your questions.  


#RepairTheWorldWednesday with Write on for Israel

(Program Experiences) Permanent link

For this week’s #RepairTheWorldWednesday we are featuring three Write On for Israel Fellows. The Write On for Israel program is inherently one that helps our community and it all begins with education. Israel education and advocacy are pillars of the Jewish community here in Chicago and beyond. Education is the first step toward advocacy and action, and it’s action that truly repairs the world. If you would like to learn more about the Write On for Israel program please contact Zach Sandler at ZacharySandler@juf.org or click here.


To read about Avi Shapira's Blog Post Titled "Counting Down the Days Until I Travel to Israel with my Write on Peers" Click here

To read Naomi Scholder's Blog Post Titled "You Get Out What You Put In" Click here

To read Isaac Shiner's Blog Post Titled "I wanted to Take my Love for Israel to the Next Level" Click here

three WOFI students

Tikkun Olam with Tivnu School Break Trip

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When I first learned about Tikkun Olam with Tivnu, a trip focusing on houselessness and how to combat it, it immediately caught my attention. I’m constantly looking for ways to change the world with a hands on approach so this program sounded like such an amazing opportunity. At first I was somewhat hesitant to try this new experience but that all changed as soon as I started meeting the other teens and leaders just as eager as me to make a difference. Every day was packed with amazing volunteer work, learning experiences, and time to explore the beautiful city of Portland.

Tikkun Olam at Tivnu

Ania Sacks (left) with friends on Springboard’s Tikkun Olam with Tivnu School Break Trip 

My favorite volunteer opportunity was when we visited Cascadia Clusters, a nonprofit that trains people to build tiny homes. Most of my time at Cascadia Clusters was spent on de-nailing boards that could then be used as structure on tiny houses. After de-nailing for a while, I along with two other people on the trip built a sawhorse; a table that supports wood for sawing. It was such a cool experience to do something like this that I had never done before and I felt so proud when looking at the final product. Both activities really helped me see that even an activity as small as de-nailing boards or building a sawhorse can contribute massively to the overall product of a tiny house. Another activity we did was go to a small organization called Outside the Frame. Outside the Frame is a production company that trains homeless youth to be directors and actors on films they create. While at Outside the Frame, we watched a series of short films written, directed by, and starring some of the incredible people we had the chance to talk to.

One of the things that resonated with me from this experience was when one of the women told us about how their mission at Outside the Frame is to show houseless people that they deserve more than just needs. I think a lot of people see houseless people as just needing food and shelter. While this is true, I think that places like Outside the Frame are so important to give a creative outlet to the houseless and give back their dignity. Throughout this blog post I’ve been using the term houseless rather than homeless. As we learned on this trip, some people prefer the term houseless instead of homeless because a house is just a building whereas a home is a place where you feel safe and surrounded by a community. Overall, this trip was such an incredible experience. I learned so much, experienced so many amazing things, made many new friends, and had an amazing time. 

Ania Sacks is a sophomore at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Ania went on Tikkun Olam with Tivnu and is also involved in many other Jewish activities such as NFTY, Teen Seed 613, Jewish Student Connection club, Madrichim, and Oak Park Temple youth group (OPTY). Outside of school, Ania loves to work on art, write, and play the violin which she has been playing for over nine years.

JUF Write On for Israel Fellows Advocate on Capitol Hill

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JUF Write On For Israel


In case you missed it, we wanted to share the article from last week's JUF News Express about JUF Write On For Israel Fellows' visit Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers. Participants also share meaningful reflections on the impact of their two-year fellowship.  

JUF Write On for Israel Fellows Advocate on Capitol Hill Nine high school seniors from eight Chicagoland schools meet with members of the Illinois congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss issues of importance to the Chicago Jewish community.

The students, Senior Fellows in JUF’s Write On for Israel program, traveled to the capital as the culmination of two years of intensive study and skills building that has prepared them for leadership roles when they get to campus next year.

In meetings with Representatives Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (4), Mike Quigley (5), Raja Krishnamoorthi (8), Jan Schakowsky (9), Brad Schneider (10), Bill Foster (11), and Adam Kinzinger (16), as well as senior staffers in the offices of Senators Tammy Duckworth and Richard Durbin and many other Illinois Representatives, the Fellows urged Congress to advance the work of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, to back increased funding under the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, and to support funding for the Partnership Fund for Peace. Additionally, they thanked the delegation for continued support of appropriations of defense aid to Israel under the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and passage in the House of the Never Again (Holocaust) Education Act.

"I hope you appreciate the opportunity you've been given," Rep. Schneider told the group. "With this opportunity comes responsibility that you'll only fully understand when you get to college. Thank you for what you are doing."

The Fellows reflected on their experience and pointed to a wide range of accomplishments and achievements.

“This experience had helped me in many ways,” said Marina Foss, who attends Niles North High School. “I learned that I know more and am able to say more than I give myself credit for.”

“I learned the importance of forming relationships,” said Gabriella Bellows, who attends Glenbrook South High School, adding that when she enrolls at American University next fall, “I will rely on relationships I already have and continue to build new ones.”

Max Levine, who attends Walter Payton College Prep High School, summed up his accomplishments in Washington by saying, “ I feel confident that I can speak up in support of Israel and get my ideas across articulately with evidence to back it up.”

To learn more about Write On For Israel email springboard@juf.org or visit juf.org/writeon/

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