Springboard Blog

Springboard Blog

How Music Helped me Connect to My Judaism

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Last year, I traveled to a conference called Songleader Boot Camp (SLBC) in St. Louis, Missouri. At SLBC, I raised my voice in song along with hundreds of other Jews from places all over the world who, just like me, felt an indescribable connection to Judaism and the songs we have sung for centuries. For an amazing five days, we studied the art of song leading in Jewish communities and learned the tricks and tools to make us the best leaders we can be, both on the stage and in our everyday lives.

At SLBC, I was able to relate to Judaism like never before, and I easily connected to people that I just met, from all over the country as well as Israel. Although I was one of the only teenagers at SLBC last year, I was treated just like everyone else. It wasn’t just me either. Everyone, no matter who they were, no matter if they were expert songleaders or just beginners, was treated with the same level of כָּבוֹד, or respect, as everyone else. Participating in SLBC was truly an amazing experience and I feel so blessed to have shared it all with others who love music as much as I do.

SLBC School Break

This year, SLBC is taking the experience a step further by partnering with Springboard to create a Teen Track. This track is being created with young adults in mind, focusing on the skill development and community building that will be particularly meaningful to us. If this new track is anything like what I experienced last year, it is going to be amazing. I hope you will consider joining me there!

Wishing you a fantastic song-filled Sunday!

-Marc Luban, 10th grader

Adding some Jewish into your week: Making Hanukkah Modern

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Looking for a new way to think about Judaism this week? Here are some reflections on Hanukkah to add a modern perspective to the upcoming holiday this month.

When we think about Hanukkah, we often focus on the same major details of the story: Antiochus told the Jews that they could no longer observe their mitzvot or read from the Torah. Judah and the Maccabees rose up and fought against him. Upon winning the war, the Macabees restored the Temple and discovered that there was only enough oil to light the menorah, but a miracle occurred and the oil lasted for eight days. After years of repetitive Hanukkah discussions and programs, is there a way to make this year's Hanukkah experience feel fresh and different? I'm glad you asked! 

There are many unexplored questions in the version of the story above. What do you think the Maccabees' uprising looked like? In any conflict, difficult trade-offs must be made. Do you think that the Maccabees engaged in morally questionable activities in their fight to protect their religious freedom? How does the Maccabees' resistance compare to those who have engaged in different types of protests in world history? How does it compare to what's happening today? 

Whether you're a person engaging in your own struggle to find modern meaning in the Hanukkah story (see last week's blog post for more on the Jewish value of struggle), a teen or youth professional interested in creating a new Hannukkah program, this year, consider putting our heroes on trial.  

Taking the Maccabees to Court: The People vs. Maccabees 

  • Split into two sides: Prosecution and Defense.  

  • Have both sides consider leaders and movements throughout world history who protested those in power such as Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luthor King, Malala Yousafzai, the HaganahLechi, and Etzel from the early days of Israel, and more. Consider the different forms of protest people engaged in and how that impacted their cause.  

  • Have both sides call witnesses from throughout history to defend or attack the actions of the Maccabees.  

  • After the trial have participants vote on whether the Maccabees were justified in their decision to fight the Greeks or if they should have engaged in a more peaceful resistance 

We hope you enjoy this modern-day approach to a holiday classic. For more information on this program, or for help with other program ideas, get in touch with Daniel Warshawsky  

Why I'm so Happy I went on a Springboard Program Last Spring Break

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Spring break for me usually consists of big trips and swimming pools, but freshman year (last year), I didn't have anything planned. My mom asked me how I felt about going on a Springboard school break trip. At first I thought it wasn't for me, but then I remembered hearing about the program during my summer at Camp Chi so I read about the activity options.  One of my favorite things to do is cook and bake. I love making cupcakes, cookies, and other creations. Cooking with new friends and having baking competitions sounded awesome- I signed up for BreakAway: Master Chef immediately.

Camp Chi Teens

Fast forward to March when I got off the bus at Camp Chi. We started by getting a tour of the Perlstein kitchen at Camp Chi and meeting some of the kitchen staff.  This was a great way to get another perspective of how a kitchen works. After the tour, our leader explained how we were going to be cooking many different things, but first we needed to learn the basics. We started out with carrots, onions, celery, and a chef's knife. By the end, we were chopping carrots into tiny pieces and dicing onions with no problem. Later on, we were grateful to have Chef Stephanie Goldfarb give us some tips on how to prepare food (and eat it too!). She owns a supper club in Chicago and explained how restaurants take a lot of work, patience, and creativity to run.


These lessons were helpful in the big activity we did on the last day. By that time, we had already made challah, knishes, perfected our hummus skills, and learned to roll and stuff a perfect sushi roll. But we were reminded that practice makes perfect, so much so that they make TV shows out if it! We did an activity based on the Food Network show, Chopped. We were split into teams and given some weird ingredients like root beer, turkey, an orange, and an onion. As a team, we had to create an appetizer and a main course, and as a group we made the dessert. I remember that my team worked so hard to make a sautéed tomato, (pareve) cheese and onion pizza and a seared turkey with orange root beer sauce. The hard work paid off, and we won the competition! My favorite part of the activity was making a cake and decorating it together as a group. We made some funny designs and ate a lot of frosting.

BreakAway Master Chef

My decision to participate in BreakAway: Master Chef was one I will never regret. Improving my cooking and baking skills was so great and getting to experience it with friends that I still keep in touch was icing on the cake. 

-Adina Grossman, 10th grade

Adding some Jewish into your week: Struggle as a Jewish Value

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Looking for a new way to think about Judaism this week? Here are some reflections on Parshat Vayishlach to add a modern perspective to this week's Torah reading.

This coming week, we get to one of the most talked about stories in the whole Torah: Jacob wrestles with an angel, and his name is changed to Israel. Ironically, this is one of the stories in the Torah that people most struggle. First of all, the so called "angel" is identified in the text as an "eesh" (translated: man).  So why do we call him an angel? Who sent him? And why do the two men immediately fight one another? If it is an angel, how is it possible that Jacob beats him?  

I don't have the answers to any of these questions, and neither do rabbis and scholars who have sought answers to these same questions for 2000 years.  This is part of the great Judaic tradition of struggling with our text, history, and traditions.  Interestingly, the name that Jacob receives, Israel, comes from a combination of the biblical Hebrew word for struggle, Yisra, and the word for God, el. After this name change, Jacob's children became known as B'nei Yisrael, the children of Israel, for the remainder of the Torah, literally making us "those who struggle with God."  

While today we are most commonly referred to as Jews, and the most common use of Yisrael is the name of the Jewish state, I believe that the name Yisrael still applies to us today as a people. As Jews, struggle is an inherently important part of our religion.  Many of our holidays introduce challenges: we fast on Yom Kippur, we eat matzah for eight days on Passover and we're told to live in wooden "booths" for a week on Sukkot. We've struggled as a nation, both in history and in the world today. But what does this idea of "struggling with God" mean now?  

In my Jewish upbringing, I was always told to question and struggle with everything -- with God, the Torah, the world, and our values. I believe this idea is the lesson we are supposed to learn from this week's Torah reading: that we are supposed to struggle with our beliefs. One of the reasons that rabbis have been asking these same questions and debating the same ideas for thousands of years is that they continue to be relevant. Like our ancestors, we must continue to challenge ourselves to think differently, to struggle, and to constantly be changing and growing with our own ideas and as a people.  

Making a Meaningful Impact

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On November 12th and 13th, Avi Pretekin, with the help of more than 30 volunteers and The Night Ministry, packaged and distributed 200 meals to Chicago families in need. This project came about as a result of his participation in the Diller Teen Fellows program and a desire to give back the community. Throughout the Diller program, Avi and his cohort have been developing leadership skills and increasing their understanding of what it means to make a difference in their community.

It is obvious how this project impacted the recipients of the meals- people who don’t always know where their next meal is coming from were given a meal, a card, and a friendly smile. Less obvious, but equally important, is the impact on the family and friends of Avi, the Diller Teen Fellows, and the families, including many young children, from the Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob congregation who showed up on a cold and rainy day to volunteer. As we made sandwiches, packed meals and wrote cards together, it was clear that this project was meaningful to everyone. Parents were having conversations with their children about the values of tzedakah, dignity, and empathy. The community bonded over a shared purpose. And everyone walked away feeling as though they made a difference in someone’s life.

“Working with The Night Ministry, and creating this project through Diller Teen Fellows was extremely gratifying,” Avi said. “As I watched the project come together, I felt like all the hard work to organize the project was worth it, and I could really see the impact in my community.”

This project is just one example of the great leadership and sense of obligation that is formed in Diller Teen Fellows. Diller Teen Fellows is a fellowship experience for 10th and 11th grade students who seek to develop leadership skills, explore their Jewish identities, travel to Israel, build lifelong friendships, and create amazing memories. To learn more about the program, visit our website.

Night Ministry

How Judaism has given me a Unique High School Experience

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Being a teen in Chicago is something I cherish heavily. Being a Jewish teen, however, has made my life very different than the lives of many other teens in Chicago. I am a 10th grader at Intrinsic High School, where I began in the middle school program in 7th grade. I have been with most of the same students for the past four years, and yet, some of them still are unaware of my Judaism. Being Jewish in a school predominately occupied by Hispanic Christians is an experience that consists of countless questions, misunderstandings, and accidental insults. While Intrinsic does have a significant number of Jewish members on the teaching staff, I remain one of, if not the only, Jewish student.  

This experience of spending so much time without Jewish peers has given me a unique outlook on what it means to be Jewish in the broader society. Previously, my experiences with Judaism were mostly within the Jewish community, whether it was at my synagogue or family members’ houses. Being in a situation where I am surrounded by those who do not have the same understanding of my culture has actually made me more interested and invested in Judaism. This past year specifically, I have been seeking out more Jewish experiences around the Chicagoland area. I have participated in more religious activities so that I have more to share with my peers at school. Since I am often the one answering questions about my Jewish religion and the culture, I want to make sure that I have interesting things to share with the people I am speaking with. 

Being part of a community that allows me to partake in experiences like writing this blog post are just snippets of the amazing thing that is being a Jewish teen in Chicago, an idea I hope I can impress upon everyone who reads this. 

-Adam Gadiel

Adam Gadiel

Adding some Jewish to your week

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Looking for some new ways to think about Judaism this week? Here are some reflections on Parshat Vayeitzei to add some modern perspective to our weekly Torah reading: 

What does it mean for a place to be holy? What is a "House of God," really? How can a person make a place holy? These are just some of the questions that I asked myself when reading through this week's Torah reading, Parshat Vayeitzei

In this week's reading, Jacob leaves his home in Be'er Sheva and sleeps in a clearing one night. This is when he has his famous dream of angels moving up and down a ladder, where God promises him that the land upon which he lies will be given to his descendants. While there are many commentators who work interpret the meaning of the ladder and the angels, the part that really interests me is what happens next. After Jacob wakes up, he turns the stone that he used as a pillow into a mizbeach, an altar to God, and pledges that this place will become a holy place. The "house of God," or "Beit-El." 

As I asked before, what does it mean for a place to be holy? Does it have to be a synagogue or a place where you dreamt of God? Or could it be something else entirely? 

For me, the places that are most holy are the places where I feel connected to my friends, family, and Jewish community. It could be a physical place, like a summer camp, or it could be a state of being, like how I felt at my youth group conventions. For me, holiness doesn’t necessarily come from God. It can if that is meaningful for you, but it can just as easily come from a feeling of peace, or connection. The lesson that we can take from this week's parsha is not only that it's up to us to make a place holy, but that any place can be holy, even a clearing in the woods. 

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