Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

If not us, who? If not now, when?

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JCUA teen summer program

This summer, around 20 teens participated in Or Tzedek, The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs’ teen summer program. Throughout the summer, teens learned about activism, advocacy, and community organizing through a Jewish framework, all while making new lifelong friends. Check out the blog below to see what the teens had to say about their memorable experiences in Or Tzedek. For teens that are interested in social justice, check out Or Tzedek & JUF TOV Teens Springboard School Break program, Mobilize Chicago (http://www.juf.org/springboard/Program-Mobilize-Chicago.aspx), as well as next summer’s Or Tzedek dates @ https://jcua.org/youth-programming/or-tzedek-registration/.


“If not us, who? If not now, when?” For the past 11 years, these words have brought together people of various faiths and ages to bear witness to the real experiences that happen outside of Chicago’s Deportation Center. Every Friday morning, people of diverse religions and denominations join together through the Broadview Vigil to pray for a change in our country’s immigration system. They pray for a justice system that brings peace and fairness to one of our society’s most vulnerable communities, the undocumented.

 

After the previous immersive day of learning about immigration reform and the experiences of America’s undocumented immigrants, it was empowering and surreal to see how others in this diverse community relate to the issue. The following day, at 7 a.m., we were greeted with open arms, smiles, and joy as we were given song sheets to participate in the service. We were instantly amazed by the inclusivity of the service, given that the songs were written in English, Spanish, Polish, Lithuanian, and Latin. Throughout the service various people led these prayers, making it feel like everyone’s voice should be heard.

 

One song that particularly spoke out to us was an adapted version of America, The Beautiful, by Miriam Therese Winter. Two specific lines that resonated with us were:

“America! America! God grant that we may be.

 A nation blessed, with none oppressed true land of liberty!

 How beautiful, two continents, and islands in the sea

 that dream of peace, nonviolence, all people living free.”

Singing these words in front of a building that so many are brought into to lose their liberty, freedom, and humanity was truly a surreal moment. Hearing all of our raspy, adolescent, and diverse voices come together as one was a one of a kind experience. It already felt emotional to discuss immigration in a workshop the day before, but it was a whole other experience for our groups of strangers to come together as one voice for this cause. In unison, we were able to express our vision of a just world.

 

The microphone was passed along to a young man named Francisco, who spoke of his experience being detained in that exact center. Luckily, he was released shortly before his wife gave birth to their first-born son. It was within this moment that we began to realize the effects immigration and deportations have on families. It was so powerful to see him come back to pray for others and thank this group for doing the same for him.

 

After singing and praying in English, Latin, and Spanish, we were able to offer a language that represents our faith: Hebrew.  We chose to share the words of Oseh Shalom in particular because of its message of spreading peace around the world. During our explanation of the prayer, we looked out and saw older folks look at us with such pride and genuine joy. Even though most of them had probably never heard a word of Hebrew before, we could see their enthusiastic attempts to join in with us.

 

These emotions were confirmed at the end of the vigil when a group of us had the opportunity to discuss this experience with one of the founders of the vigil. She expressed to us how important it is to see youth engaged in social justice work, and that youth truly are the future of social justice movements. She told us that some Fridays it might be really difficult to get out of bed early, but if they don’t come out and pray, who will? Even in the snow, the pouring rain, and other non-favorable weather conditions, people show up to pray. Another person told us that one snowy day, he expected only his family to arrive at the site, but was pleasantly surprised to see a large community huddled in the cold, praying as usual. There is never a Friday morning where these dedicated individuals don’t go out to pray for something that truly matters to them. Their dedication proved to us that if there is something you see wrong in the world, it is your duty to do something about it. “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

Max Coven Reflects on his Pio Summer

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This summer Tamara Stein, had the incredible opportunity to lead Beber Camp’s Pioneer Trip to Poland and Israel. Below, Max Coven reflects on his love for Beber Camp and what it meant to go to Israel with 35 of his Beber friends.  

The eight summers I've had at Beber Camp have been a spectacular way to spend my off time from school. Year after year, I keep coming back because of the community that is built every summer. There is not enough time in the world to spend with the people I care for most. Everyone meets you with open arms and always wants to know more about you. It is a great feeling to have, especially when everyone only wants to be your friend. My experience gets better and better each summer and I can't stop dreaming of what summer 2018 has to bring. 

Going to Israel strengthened my Jewish identity tremendously this summer. I mostly have to thank my Pioneer (or Pio, as we call it) leaders and my amazing tour guides in the land of Israel.  This new feeling began after a team building program where we had a profound discussion about whether Jewish identity was about religion or just our friendly community. For me, my identity was strengthened every moment that I became a deeper part of my Pio community and brought others along with me. After touring Israel for close to three weeks, I found something inside of me that I don't often show. Every time we had a moment of silence or time to pray I was able to share a new side of myself with my camp friends. 

All in all, both my Jewish identity and my bond with my camp have grown stronger and I can't wait to go back next summer!

Meet our Newest Teen Engagement Specialist: Daniel Warshawsky

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Daniel Warshawsky

The Springboard team is so excited to share that we have added a new member to our team! Daniel Warshawsky is our newest Teen Engagement Specialist and will be out and about in the community, along with Tamara and Brittany.  We interviewed Daniel to learn more about his personal Jewish journey, interests and what he loves about life in Chicago.

Why are you excited to be a Teen Engagement Specialist at Springboard?
I grew up in the Chicago Jewish community. I spent almost all of my weekends at USY and Kadima events , winter breaks at nine straight USY International Conventions, two summers at Beber Camp and 12 summers at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. I’m so excited to return to all of these programs, as well as to learn about and participate in so many new ones. There's nothing that I love more than getting to know people in a Jewish environment, and I want to bring that love of Jewish communal life to teens all over Chicago.
 
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
New Zealand. I love the wilderness and hiking, and I grew up watching my favorite movie characters walking through the mountains there. I've always wanted to take a hiking trip out there on my own and to walk and sleep under the stars for days at a time.

How many languages do you speak?
I’m fluent in both English and Hebrew. I spent a year after high school studying and volunteering in Israel, as well as serving in the Israeli Army after college. Learning Hebrew allowed me to connect to my Israeli friends and to Judaism on a much deeper level, so I’m really happy I spent so much time learning it as a kid. Other than that, I took Spanish for a few years in high school and I traveled to Prague, Germany and Poland on a high school summer trip with USY and picked up a few words here and there.
 
Can you share a favorite memory from your time as a teen in Chicago? 
Playing guitar and piano at the USY open mic nights every year. It was the first time I was able to perform music in front of other people that I felt comfortable with. Because of those nights, I'm able to stand up in front of bigger crowds today to lead singing and play music.
 
If you could have a superpower what would it be?
Talking to animals. I grew up with dogs and it would have been much easier to interact with them if I knew what they were thinking. It would also be really cool to see animals on hikes and know what they're thinking.
 
What is one thing you're passionate about that you've gotten to do within the context of "being Jewish"?
One of the things that I'm most passionate about is music. Through my time at camp and in Jewish youth groups, I've been able to play and learn so much more Jewish music than I ever would have thought even existed. I've also gotten to play popular American songs with my friends and campers in a Jewish setting. I've even been able to make "music friends" by playing music at Jewish events all over the country.

Reflections on Diller Israel Summer Seminar

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This summer, 16 teens traveled to Israel as part of the Diller program. (Check out their PICTURES!) One participant shared that “Israel Summer Seminar with Diller Teen Fellows taught me about Leadership, Israel, Tikkun Olam, Judaism, Peoplehood, and Pluralism. But mostly, it taught me about myself.” 5 participants reflect on their experiences below. 

Travel Days- Emma Canter

On the first night of our trip, my cohort listened to Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Bob Dylan wrote, “May you always do for others, And let others do for you.” The first part of Dylan’s quote, “May you always do for others,” has always made sense to me. However, I spent the next three weeks learning the meaning of the second part, “let others do for you.”

The next morning, our first morning in Israel, I experienced the literal meaning of this message. Because of a small bout of dehydration, I had to “let others do” for me. On this day, we visited David Ben Gurion’s tomb at Sde Boker. As Ben Gurion took a pragmatic step to achieve his dreams, we took a literal first step together. In addition, on this first full day, through our slight fear of Ibexes in Mitzpe Ramon and an enlightening Acrobalance experience, my cohort as a whole learned to “lean” on each other.

The second day of our trip embodied Bob Dylan’s quote on many levels. We visited an IDF officer training base, which resonated strongly with the idea of “May you always do for others, And let others do for you.” After witnessing the life of an army officer in the ridiculous desert heat, we repelled down the Ramon Crater. The idea of relying on someone to not let me fall scared me, and still scares me, but I was supported, literally and metaphorically, by these 15 teenagers who somehow became my family.

Our travel days continued with a sunrise bus ride to Masada. We climbed Masada where the history, view, and all around atmosphere inspired me in ways that I cannot put into words. Ein Gedi, Masada’s geographical antithesis, was also incredible and I found myself astoundingly grateful for the opportunity to experience such diversity in life. We continued our journey to Jerusalem where I felt the streets of the Old City breathe life into my bones and hope into my Jewish heart. Being in the Old City felt like stepping into history, but history had Chasidic men on motorcycles. In Jerusalem, “May you always do for others, And let others do for you,” felt like a blessing.

On our final travel days with our local cohort we spent the morning at Machaneh Yehudah, the “shuk”, and I was very shook. With so much to take in, I was grateful for the familiarity of the people around, especially since I knew that later that day we would be surrounded by hundreds of international Diller Teen Fellows.

Although we were only four days into our three week journey, I could already feel myself growing to embrace the message of Bob Dylan’s quote.

International Shabbaton- Rachel Aranyi

I walked across the plush lawn: a hug from Johannesburg, a secret handshake from Montreal, a wave from Boston.

Disparate in culture, nationality and religious observance, we were anything but uniform. However, our Judaism, in whatever form it manifests itself, our experiences as Diller Teen Fellows, and our unwavering love for the State of Israel, unify and bond all 250 of us together.

After numerous games of Jewish geography, multiple conversations about pluralism, a couple pep rallies and losing countless games of soccer (or should I say "football") to some Argentinians and South Africans, I knew I could walk up to any Fellow and find a connection. I felt our peoplehood.

This is the power of the Diller Teen Fellows International Shabbaton.

I am inspired to learn more Jewish history, to understand the complexities and philosophies of the Jewish community. I feel emboldened by the fantastic work my peers are executing all over the globe to make a change in my town. I'm more passionate about advocating for our small, sandy Jewish homeland, Israel.

I've always been told that the Jewish people are a tribe, yet this amorphous concept is one that must be directly experienced. Until I encountered and grappled with the vast intellectual and spiritual diversity of those in the diaspora, I couldn't grasp that I am a legacy, a beneficiary and a representative of the rich tapestry of global Jewry. After International Shabbaton, I have a deeper understanding of my own Jewish identity.

Community Week- Ellie Rosenberg

Community Week (CW) is the week where Chicagoans stay with Israeli host families in our partnership region in Kiryat Gat, Lachish, and Shafir. (Together, Kiryat Gat, Shafir, Lachish, and Chicago make our amazing partnership- Kashlash!). Each day during CW has a specific theme that is planned by a joint Israeli/Chicago committee, but the experience is much more than just those seven days in Israel. We -the Chicagoans and Israelis- started planning CW almost as soon as we met this past March. When we began the process of deciding on the themes, meeting in committees, and planning activities, Community Week seemed a lifetime away. Moving through the planning, finalizing our activities and getting assigned to host families, brought the week closer and closer. Looking back on CW, there is no way that I could have known back in March how much it would impact me and how amazing it would truly be.

My first night at the moshav in Lachish, where I was staying with my host family, I immediately felt at home. I was lucky to have 2 Israeli fellows staying at the host home and each night we would talk and laugh together. These girls became my Israeli sisters in less than a week.

CW was a way to explore the region and get to know Israel through the Israeli Fellows’ eyes. The culture committee organized a potluck dinner, assigning each family a dish from a distinct culture living in Israel (Russian, Ethiopian, etc.). We had Moroccan stew and couscous, mini burritos, shakshuka, burekas, and chocolate chip cookies. This shared meal allowed us to learn about the diversity of cultures in Israel, and it was special because these were cultures and places that impact our Israelis’ families and Israel as a whole. Enjoying a casual dinner and conversation with our host community in the partnership region allowed me to appreciate the power of the partnership on a personal level.

Another way that we connected with our Israelis was during a hike planned by the Teva (Nature) committee.  Through this hike, we experienced a unique aspect of the region, and we were able to recognize the importance of nature in our Israelis’ everyday lives. As Kashlash, we were able to push ourselves and enjoy being together in the beautiful nature of Israel.

Shabbat was one of my favorite parts of CW. I had Shabbat dinner with my host family’s extended family at their grandfather’s house. In a way, the family reminded me of my own back home with their energy, delicious food, and kindness. But of course, the foods were different, the family was speaking in Hebrew, and I was in Israel! After dinner, a large group of fellows spent time together at a home in Kiryat Gat. Being together, without the distraction of phones or technology, allowed us all to appreciate each other and the amazing week that we had together.

Global Diller Teen Fellows Congress- Elliott Gold

A highlight of our Israel Summer Seminar is the Global Diller Teen Fellows Congress, a gathering of all Diller Teen Fellows from around the world. There were almost 700 Jewish teens from 32 communities worldwide discussing the core principles of the Diller program, including Leadership, Jewish Peoplehood, Israel, Tikkun Olam, and Pluralism. This was an overwhelming experience at first, but we were broken up into small groups of 20 teens from around the world and given the opportunity to connect in a deep and meaningful way. These sessions, and the chance to discuss hot topics facing the Jewish community with teens from such diverse backgrounds was one of the most impactful experiences of my time in Diller.

One conversation with teens from Israel, Canada, and Argentina stands out in particular. We began in an organized session discussing Israel, and continued our discussion for an hour into the break. It was so powerful to exchange and debate social and political ideas with Jewish teens from communities so different then my own. And in doing so, I not only learned about their opinions, but their day-to-day lives as well.  

Through these conversations I discovered what may be obvious to some, but what many of us so easily forget: We are all people. We are all Jewish people. We may live in communities spread out over 6 continents, but I discovered that I can still joke around and play games with them as if they have been friends for years. And more importantly, I was able to engage in meaningful conversations about important issues facing Israel and the Jewish people.

It wasn’t all serious dialogue at Congress, we also had the opportunity to socialize and mingle informally. In particular, the Closing Ceremony (and dance) stands out as a highlight. I've never danced like I did on that last night. I may not have had the chance to get to know every person at the conference, but during that dance party it did not matter. We were all out there together having fun and letting loose.

These 4 days were the most "Jewish" I've ever felt. Being surrounded by so many other Jewish teens, having difficult conversations about the world we live in, and dancing, gave me a sense of connection I’ve never felt before. Diller Teen Fellows has changed my life for so many reasons and the Congress had one of the greatest impacts on me. It gave me the opportunity to wrestle with new ideas, forced me to think outside the box, taught me how to work with people from all over the world, and introduced me to a new definition of the word "family".

Final Days- Max Marino

Spending our last few days in Israel with our Partnership2gether region of Kiryat Gat, Lachish, and Shafir proved to be one of the most meaningful parts of my Israel Summer Seminar. During that time, we celebrated Shabbat together at Kibbutz Gonen and explored the Jordan River and its tributaries by hiking and rafting (and swimming) and biking.

Sightseeing with Kashlash (Kiryat-Gat, Lachish, Shafir, and Chicago) was particularly meaningful because we were able to deepen our connections to each other and create a shared connection to the land of Israel. Rafting stands out as a highlight not only because, after 3 weeks in Israel, the fellows and staff were ready to let loose and have fun by splashing and dunking each other. But also because as we paddled down the river, we were also able to absorb a different side of our homeland. As we floated downstream, the river became less a natural waterpark, and more a part of the living Israel, as we observed families, groups of friends, and “regular” Israelis coming to the river for barbecues, to dance and hangout, and to enjoy the beauty (and cool water) of the river.

Shabbat and Havdalah was one of the most special experiences of my life. On Shabbat, there were two service options: an Orthodox minyan or a musical Shabbat experience. I chose the musical Shabbat and enjoyed sharing and learning prayers, songs, and beautiful music. We spent Shabbat thinking about how to take the lessons of the Israel Summer Seminar and the friendships we developed back home to Chicago. Just before Shabbat came to a close, we had one last session with our Israeli partnership. Together we reflected on our Diller experience, celebrated the friendships we made, and shared funny stories and meaningful memories from our 3 weeks in Israel, and our 7 months of working together as a partnership. And as the sun went down, we huddled together for the Havdalah service and sang songs to welcome a new week. It was an emotional evening, as we said goodbye to our Israeli brothers and sisters.  It was so difficult to say goodbye to our Israeli friends, not knowing when, or if, we might ever see them again. Yet we are so thankful for the experiences we shared and these relationships, and are proud to be a part of this global family.

The Diller Teen Fellows experience has increased the size of my world, both locally and globally. The experiences and friendships I have created with my local cohort have opened my eyes to the diversity in the Chicagoland Jewish community. And my experiences and friendships with our Israeli partnership have challenged my global perspective as well. From meeting our Israeli cohort during the Jewish Community Mifgash in March, 2017 to the Diller Teen Fellows International Shabbaton, to the Global Congress, my perspective has changed, challenged, and shaped. As we left Congress, our Israeli cohort, and Israel, I realized that although I was going home, I will always have a home with Diller Teen Fellows, KASHLASH Cohort 4, and Israel.

Stevenson Hebrew: The Underdog?

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By Abigail Lapins

I spent the summer of 2016 in a Hebrew immersion program called Chalutzim at OSRUI, the URJ’s Reform overnight camp in Oconomowoc, WI. The anticipation of my upcoming summer and intensive study of the Hebrew language fueled a passion I didn’t know I had -- leading me to register for Hebrew at Stevenson High School. Having spent the first 14 years of my life living in Southeastern Wisconsin, I never dreamed that studying Hebrew in high school would be an option! 

I’m proud that when I tell people I attend Stevenson High School they usually recognize it as one of the best public high schools in the nation. As students, we don’t think about Stevenson that way, we just think about it as the school we go to everyday. 

Stevenson is just one of many public high schools in the Chicago metropolitan area that offer students the opportunity to study the Hebrew language. As part of a new JUF focus on Hebrew programs, the Hebrew Enhancement Committee (made up of seven students schools that offer Hebrew), I -- representing Stevenson -- met with the full group and quickly learned that Stevenson has the smallest Hebrew program of all. I was shocked! Who would have thought that Stevenson could ever be considered an underdog in anything?  Before this meeting, I assumed all Hebrew programs were similar to Stevenson’s. However, I was mistaken, as a lot of Hebrew programs in the area are very successful and quite large.

 

Stevenson’s program offers four full years of Hebrew language study. As high school students, we think about what will look good on our college applications. I believe that speaking a unique language like Hebrew will definitely help us stand out from other prospective students. Our program also provides students with the opportunity to form lasting friendships while building a strong team committed to working together to achieve a common goal. We are our own little community within the “city” that is Stevenson. It is very easy for our teacher, Anna Gorbikoff, to get to know each of us individually and help us excel in her classes. I believe that our small class size provides a calmer, more interactive and effective learning environment. For example, earlier in the school year we spent an entire class period cooking authentic Israeli dishes, something that could not be accomplished with 25+ people in a classroom. 

One of the things that most people do not understand about Hebrew programs is that you do not need to be Jewish in order to learn the language. Yes, it is the language of the Jewish people, however, in class we learn not only about how to speak the language, but also about the Israel’s culture and its history. Hebrew is one of the official languages of Israel, which is why we take the time to learn about Israeli holidays and traditions. We also learn the history of the language, where it is spoken, and how to communicate with others who share the ability to speak it.

As my first year in the Hebrew program draws to a close, I am excited about the opportunities ahead and excited to see how the program will continue to grow and evolve. Being a part of the program has continued to fuel my passion for learning and speaking Hebrew. I look forward to sharing this experience with all students who join the program in the years ahead. 

More than an Internship: Reflecting on a Year of Growth, Challenges, and New Friendships

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Our first Springboard Social Media interns just wrapped up their first year on the job! Check out what they accomplished, what they learned, and where they’re headed next.

Social Media Interns

What were some of the most memorable experiences you had as a Springboard Social Media Intern?

“As a Social Media Intern, one thing we did was go to different community events, including 18 Under 18, or Israel Solidarity Day, and a USY chapter cooking event. We had assignments, such as taking pictures, making own Instagram posts, videos, and spreading the word about upcoming events in the community. We got to see different aspects of the Jewish community from behind-the-scenes and everything it takes to put on events.

-Emily Fridland, Incoming 10th grader, Glenbrook North High School

“I made Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter posts, wrote blog posts and interviewed the honorees of the first ever 18 Under 18 Event. I went to Israel Solidarity Day and got to ask people why they love Israel and then take pictures of them. I got to see all different types of answers of why teens love Israel.”

-Evie Katz-Palka, Incoming 10th grader, Buffalo Grove High School

What are some of the main skills or lessons you learned?

“Coming to the realization that posts that lack quality content won’t aid in impressing others. Working behind the scenes has allowed me to fully understand the complexity of how our message effects not simply our community, but the world around us. Further, the WHY is so very important, so by explaining the ‘why’ through our media, we show who we are rather than what we look like on the outside.”

-Maddie Brim, Incoming 11th grader, Stevenson High School

“A skill I had to learn was how to take criticism. Criticism isn’t always negative, but I realized that learning how to deal with it and to use it to better yourself as a person is a crucial skill. Submitting my posts and seeing that I needed to change my execution of a graphic or the format of an interview, helped me to to make my posts better and more informative.”

-Avery Hessel, Incoming 10th grader, Vernon Hills High School

“During our monthly meetings, we covered different professional development topics. One meeting we talked about quantity and quality when it comes to social media posts. We discussed the difference between making a post that gets a lot of “likes”, but doesn’t have any real impact, like causing people to show up to an event, vs. making a post that may not get many “likes”, but gets people to actually act on it, for example, signing up for a School Break program. My fellow interns and I decided that quality, and the impact of our posts, was as important, if not more, than quantity, and something we should be focusing on.”

-Evie

“I learned how much time and work truly goes into making all these posts and social media type of stuff. I learned that you have to do your part in a group to make the whole group succeed otherwise everyone will fail. We learned also many different ways to edit our posts and how to create them as a whole.”

-Emily

 

Share one highlight of your internship:

“Overall, my favorite part was meeting the other interns and being a part of a team. When one of us had a question or needed some insight, the others were there to help. At one point, we all worked together on a Chanukah post and it was so much fun getting to work all together.”

-Evie

Community is vital to how we become who we are, so without working with this community I wouldn’t have been as involved as I am. I am so happy to be with the Chicagoland Jewish community! Whether it's meeting all the different types of people or being able to broadcast the innovative skills I’ve learned, I could never express my gratefulness for the place I found within the community.”

-Maddie

“Apart from being a madricha at the Chabad of Vernon Hills, this was my first real job. This was the best hands-on learning experience for me as a freshman. I was able to work on my professionalism, cooperation, time management, patience, and social media navigation.”

-Avery


What’s next?

“As a result of me getting involved in this internship, I have applied to the Diller Teen Fellows program. Diller is a fellowship for high school students interested in exploring topics in leadership, Jewish identity, social justice, and Israel. Each of these topics are extremely important to me as a growing Jewish teen and activist. I was also introduced to Or Tzedek, which is a program that provides opportunities for teens from across the country to learn about and take action on current social justice campaigns, which I will be participating in this summer. I am also hoping to attend more events that I learned about, such as Israel Solidarity Day, Good Deeds Day, and CHUSY.”

-Avery

This coming fall I am going to Israel to study for a few months and cannot wait. Because of this internship I know who I am and what my role in the Jewish community is.”

-Emily

 

Final Thoughts?

“I’m so thankful for this feeling, and I want to thank the teen engagement community at JUF for giving me the opportunity to not only become better engaged with my community through social media platforms, but allowing me to grow to become the person I am today.”

-Maddie

“This has made me a more independent and hard worker. I have been able to work in all different styles from blogging to social media. I have learned so much and will be able to use these skills in the future. I would like to thank Springboard for giving me this amazing opportunity.”

-Evie 

Camp TOV: Learning Jewish values through doing

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By AVI SHAPIRA

Avi Shapira

Last August, with only a few weeks left of summer, I was fortunate to participate in JUF’s Camp TOV, specifically for teens. I learned about the program through friends who had participated in prior years. Traveling around the Chicago area with a group of Jewish teens (and with fun counselors!) while learning about and the wide variety of social service organizations our JUF/Federation supports seemed like a fun opportunity.

Since I was very little, Jewish values of repairing the world (tikun olam) and acting with kindness (gemilut chasadim) have been woven throughout my studies at Chicago Jewish Day School and at home with my family.

Camp TOV gave me an up-close, hands-on opportunity to put those values to work by volunteering at a variety of non-profit organizations. Together we were able to make a meaningful difference for those in need, and I was surprised to learn that these organizations are there to help anyone in need, not just people in the Jewish community.

I also enjoyed Camp TOV because it was a unique opportunity for me to meet new teens from across Chicago and the suburbs, who I wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. Together with a new group of friends, we stickered bags at The ARK, sorted books at Bernie's Book Bank, visited with the elderly at CJE SeniorLife, and prepared food packages at Feed My Starving Children.

My favorite parts were learning about philanthropy and making phone calls for a fundraising phonathon as well as visiting the Pushing the Envelope Farm where we learned about caring for our environment through a Jewish lens.

Camp TOV gave me a taste for what lies ahead as I consider which JUF programs I want to be involved in next as a high school student!

          

Registration for JUF’s Camp TOV and JUF’s Mini Camp TOV is open to entering 7th-12th graders from metropolitan Chicago. For more information and to register, visit www.juf.org/camptov.

Avi Shapira is an eighth grader at Chicago Jewish Day School and a participant in JUF’s Camp TOV program.

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New Years is not only a time for celebration, but also a time to try something new. Join us on an exciting Springboard School Break in 2017. Happy New Year!


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Looking for a fun way to spend your spring break? Join Springboard!