On the first Sunday this May at the Hadassah Greater Atlanta Chesed Awards, we were honored to name Steven Resnick, Youth Director at Congregation Etz Chaim, as the inaugural JumpSpark Change Maker Award recipient given to a Jewish professional who has made an impact in the lives of Atlanta’s Jewish teens and community.

Steven was inspired by his own experiences in USY, BBYO, and Hebrew High School to pursue youth education as his career and has built an impressive resume with years of growing the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism youth programs in Florida, Massachusetts, and now Atlanta. Working with the other Atlanta Youth Directors, the Jewish Youth Directors Association, and JumpSpark Professional has helped him grow as an educator and engagement professional, become more confident in his own abilities, and learn new ways to approach educational opportunities.

In his 2 years at the Etz Chaim Youth Department, he’s created a safe space for grades K-12 to call home, ask questions, and explore their spirituality and growth.

“I hope the youth I work with learn from me that there isn’t one way to be Jewish… we all have different backgrounds and different knowledge bases, but that doesn’t mean that we’re any more or less Jewish than anyone else. I hope they leave our Youth Department feeling confident in their Jewish identity and remembering, in my opinion, one of the most important tenants in Judaism: hachnasat orchim, or ‘hospitality’.”

Mazel Tov and Thank You for your dedication to our community’s teens, Steven!

by Hadassah Greater Atlanta ›

On May 5 the 28th annual Hadassah Greater Atlanta (HGA) Chesed Student Awards honoring excellence and menschlichkeit in Atlanta’s Jewish teens took place at Temple Emanu-El. HGA partnered with JumpSpark to honor 22 of the best and brightest young leaders and mensches representing synagogues, day schools, and Jewish organizations in our community.

L-R: Grant Chernau, Linda Weinroth, Phyllis Cohen, Jereme Weiner

Hadassah’s Chesed Student Awards program was excited to debut three individual awards with monetary gifts. The Phyllis M. Cohen Chesed Leadership Award was presented to Jereme Weiner, nominated by Creating Connected Communities. She was one of two Chesed essay contest winners. The Linda and Michael Weinroth Chesed Community Service Award essay contest winner was Grant Chernau, nominated by Congregation Etz Chaim. Each recipient received $500.

The Change Maker Award was presented by JumpSpark, Atlanta’s initiative for Jewish teen engagement connecting and investing in the community to create more meaningful and defining moments for Jewish teens in Atlanta. JumpSpark is supported as an innovation initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, by the Jim Joseph Foundation and by generous donors in the community.

The Change Maker Award recognizes a Jewish professional who has made an impact in the lives of Jewish teens and has shown great dedication to the Atlanta Jewish community. The Change Maker Award winner was Steven Resnick, Youth Director at Etz Chaim, who received $1,000 to fund programming and supplies for his youth group. He was chosen from nominations by Chesed Award teen recipients.

To learn more about Hadassah and the Chesed awards, please visit www.hadassah.org/atlanta.

2019 Hadassah Chesed Student Award Recipients:

  • Miriam Sirota, Atlanta Jewish Academy
  • Elaine Berger, Congregation Beth Shalom
  • Robbie Garber, Congregation B’nai Torah
  • Alex Rothenberg, Congregation Dor Tamid
  • Grant Chernau, Congregation Etz Chaim
  • Morgan Cushing, Congregation Gesher L’Torah
  • Sarah Jeffres, Congregation Or Hadash
  • Paulo Ariel Fulgenzi, Congregation Or VeShalom
  • Sam Trotz, Congregation Shearith Israel
  • Jereme Weiner, Creating Connected Communities
  • Jacob Rubin, The Davis Academy
  • Zoe Sokol, Jewish Kids Groups
  • Nolan Siegel, NFTY-SAR
  • Melina Stein, Temple Beth David
  • Leah Faupel, Temple Beth Tikvah
  • Jacob Sloman, Temple Emanu-El
  • Alexa Phillips, Temple Kehillat Chaim
  • Zoe Alexander, Temple Sinai
  • Julia Harris, The Epstein School
  • Molly Edlein, The Temple
  • Adam Cohen, The Weber School
  • Tzipora Estreicher, Torah Day School of Atlanta

Nadia Bilchik is an editorial producer for CNN. Before she came to speak to us, I honestly didn’t even know who she was. After hearing what she had to say, I don’t think I’ll ever forget her.

Katie Hurwitz

Feeling somewhat anxious in certain situations is a common feeling for me and for so many others. Teen anxiety is higher than it ever has been. Whether it’s severe or not, it can make little things like raising your hand to speak in class or talking to new people so much harder than they should be.

I work myself up so easily about many things, making it hard for me to try new things. It sometimes takes some convincing to get me to go to large events and new places. I’ve always wished I didn’t have to live with any worries, so, when I saw the topic for the meeting, I was very curious. I went into the meeting not sure what to expect, and came out of it with knowledge I didn’t know was available.

Nadia Bilchik on CNN

Bilchik explained that she had created a four-step guide on how to conquer and calm your nerves before doing something that is out of your comfort zone. The first thought that came to my mind is that this meeting is perfect for me! She went on to explain each of these steps.

1. Think of happy past moments

2. Show interest

3. Breathing exercises

4. Show energy

They include: thinking of happy past moments, showing interest in the topic at hand, doing breathing exercises, and showing energy. The first is pretty self explanatory: think of memories that make you happy and hold onto them to take your mind off of the worrying. It was interesting to hear everyone’s happy moments.

The second involves a tactic of not using “I” statements. We did an exercise where we had to have a conversation with someone else and could use only questions in response to our partner. This gives the person that you are talking to reassurance that they have your full interest and attention.

Katie applying the 4 steps to confidence

The third step to calm nerves is all about breathing. Taking deep breaths is a way of refreshing your mind and body. It helps slow and control your heart rate and it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.

The last step is to show energy and engage in the conversation. You can show energy simply by standing up straight and putting a smile on your face. This shows confidence and makes you approachable. Bringing up topics that you and whoever you are talking to are both interested in is a great way to engage another person. This helps the conversation flow. With practice, all of this combined will eventually allow you to be able to comfortably start conversations with anyone.

Since this meeting, I already have and will definitely continue to use this process a lot throughout my life. I am overjoyed that Nadia Bilchik shared her wisdom with me and my fellow strong women. •

First published by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta ›

Q:  How did your background as a Judaic Studies teacher prepare you to lead JumpSpark?

Kelly: One of the most amazing parts of being the Director of JumpSpark is being able to grow with the teens and families of teens in our community. I spent my first six years in Atlanta working at The Davis Academy, and now so many of the kids I taught in elementary school are the teens JumpSpark serves. My work as a Jewish educator has taught me that there are a million ways to connect to Judaism and Jewish tradition, and that my role is to be a guide on that journey of connection. To be a part of a teen’s or a family’s Jewish journey for almost a decade is one of the true pleasures of my work and I am so happy I get to do it now with JumpSpark.

Q: What do you mean when you say, “JumpSpark creates more defining moments for Jewish teens?”

Kelly: The teenage years are crucial in terms of identity exploration and growth. I was a very active NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) member when I was a teen and even spent the first semester of my senior year of high school studying abroad in Israel. Those were defining Jewish moments for me that set me on the path to be a Jewish educator and a committed member of the Jewish community. JumpSpark wants to help teens to have their own defining Jewish moments that hopefully connect them to the Jewish community. We know that a one-size-fits-all model isn’t going to work for all teens, so JumpSpark is working to build and fund new ways to create those moments for teens today.

Q: What can we expect from JumpSpark in the 2019-20 school year?

Kelly: We have so much planned for next school year.  For teens we will be launching a new cohort of our Strong Women Fellowship and a new Teen Israel Taskforce. JumpSpark also just made a $260,000 investment in expanding and enriching the teen landscape, so keep your eyes open for new teen opportunities all around the city. Speaking of being all around the city, we are expanding our Navigating Parenthood series to three locations: Intown, Sandy Springs and Alpharetta, so more parents can gain the network, resources, and skills to parent teens today. Finally, we are expanding JumpSpark Professional and offering more high-level training and networking for the Jewish professionals in our community who work with teens. JumpSpark gained a lot of momentum this year and we are ready to take it to the next level in the coming school year. •