“Participating in the fellowships enabled me to make some of my closest Jewish friends from across the country and channel my passion for social change into real action,” writes JumpSpark Strong Woman Fellow Sarah Dowling.
Pictured: JumpSpark Strong Woman Fellows share community building time with activist Logan Zinman Gerber (top right)
Sarah: I first realized the need for meaningful and effective gun violence prevention legislation in 2016, when an angry former teacher at my sister’s school was intercepted by the police on his way back to school with a gun and ammunition he bought immediately after being fired.
I learned to turn my passion into action by working with Logan Zinman Gerber, who runs a high school fellowship to teach teens across the country how to enact social change on topics like gun violence prevention, and, in the future, racial justice. Logan taught me about gun violence prevention in a social justice seminar held by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), and helped me present a speech to my United States congressional representatives alongside other Jewish teenagers from my community to lobby for gun violence prevention.
About a month later, I joined two RAC fellowships, both of which were led by Logan. My gun violence prevention fellowship allowed me to learn about the complex issue in a nuanced light, providing me with the tools I needed for action. I looked forward to each session, and I never left a meeting without something new to think about.
Participating in the fellowships enabled me to make some of my closest Jewish friends from across the country and channel my passion for social change into real action. For my culminating fellowship project, I led a voter registration campaign that reached over 500 people. Logan still continues to support and inspire me, and meeting with her as part of JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship reminded me of the importance of activism and unity as a whole, especially in the context of the recent attack on the Capitol, which highlighted the division in our nation and reminded us that white supremacy still stands strong.
Eva: While many teens feel stranded this year, discovering opportunities to make a change regarding issues that are important to us is especially important in times as turbulent as the present. Whether we like it or not, our lives are changing, making it all the more important to reflect on our pasts and plan how we want to continue our journeys in the future just as Logan taught us. This year, I have opened my eyes to the world around me, and discovered for myself what issues are important to me. In the past, I have volunteered for a gun violence prevention organization. Hearing from Logan, who has done incredible work regarding gun violence prevention, really helped me to understand what a global issue gun violence is. With this new knowledge, I can decide for myself what I want to do in the future to create change, all while incorporating my Jewish identity.
When Logan met with our Strong Women Fellowship in November, she pushed each of us to reflect on our own journeys and relationships with Judaism and activism thus far in our lives. Logan has spent the past two years leading teen gun violence prevention and civic engagement campaigns for the Reform Jewish Movement, connecting with half a million voters. In addition, she has been active in her outside work as the national volunteer coordinator for the American Cancer Society, where she assists people in coping with transition, as well as sharing their cancer stories.
Our session with Logan fostered a greater sense of connection and understanding between the members of our Fellowship. In one activity where we created timelines of our Jewish journey, we found countless similarities among the handful of other girls in our breakout groups. In particular, we all found that while times of isolation from the Jewish community hurt us emotionally in the moment, in the end, these times pushed us to find our own connection to Judaism and only worked to strengthen our Jewish identities. The farther each of us got from Judaism, the stronger our desire for connection grew.
In addition, Logan connected activism and making change to the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world. Writing anonymously on a Padlet (an online discussion board, where we had posted questions for everyone to reflect upon), several Strong Women Fellows described this connection and how it inspires them:
“Tikkun olam inspires me to create change. It is also powerful to know that helping in the world was something that my ancestors did.”
Another Strong Women Fellow described Judaism as “… the coffee in my activism – it fuels everything I do.”
Making these connections was both powerful for us as Jews, and as activists as well. In addition to empowering us to examine our own connections to Judaism and activism, Logan gave the Strong Women Fellows resources we need to pursue tikkun olam in the future, such as her gun violence prevention campaign geared toward young people.
“There are so many amazing resources out there to help others get registered to vote,” one Strong Women Fellow wrote on the Padlet.
By giving us the knowledge we need to make personal connections to Judaism and the principle of tikkun olam, meeting with Logan inspired us to create positive change in the world in a way that models our Jewish values.
What we found to be the biggest takeaway from our meeting was that anyone can make a difference. We realized that we all can work to create a world we want to live in and that our work does not have to wait. Each of us has issues we care about, from gun violence to racial justice to climate change to reproductive rights, so we can all fight to create change, one step at a time.
Eva Beresin, 16, is a sophomore at The Weber School in Sandy Springs, GA, who enjoys reading and spending time with friends.
Sarah Dowling, 16, is a junior at The Lovett School in Atlanta who enjoys listening to music and reading
This article was originally published by VOX ATL. Read the full article here.
Rabbi Tarfon teaches us in Pirkei Avot:
The day is short, the task is long, and workers are indolent, and the masters are insistent.
He goes on to say:
It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but your are not free to desist from it either (2:16).
Our Rabbis of the Talmud experienced burnout.
Faun Zarge, a burnout and resilience specialist from Boston MA was the guest presenter at our recent JumpSpark/Jewish Education Collaborative professional development evening. In her 60 minute presentation, she shared with us tools and techniques on how to avoid burnout in this unique year, as well as in general.
As Jewish professionals, we spend most of our time giving to others, often forgetting to fill our own vessels so we can continue the work we do.
She began by sharing her definition of burnout: Too many demands, too few resources, and not enough time for recovery. This is clearly the experiences of professionals who work for Jewish organizations.
Ms. Zarge asked the participants to reflect and write down three things that are most important to us. When answers where shared, what was revealed was that too few of us put ourselves first. Avoiding burnout must begin with taking time for recovery. It is imperative that we schedule into our day. This time is just as important as working on your budget or planning the next virtual class or training for teachers. According to Zarge, we are obligated to do self-care. According to Rabbi Tarfon, we are not even obligated to complete our work, but we are obligated to take care of ourselves.
Zarge went on to offer concrete things we can do to keep our fire burning.
Commit for 10 days to do something that will bring us joy and less stress:
- Set a reminder in your phone to get up and walk
- Take Facebook off your phone if all the “doom scrolling” is a distraction
- Calling a loved one or friend you have not spoken to for awhile
- Eating healthy
Ms. Zarge asked participants to share time management techniques. Things like chunking activities, grouping together similar tasks, like phone calls, answering emails, writing, figuring out your best time of day to be productive. Zarge shared research that the ideal commute time is 16 minutes – this is hard to believe coming from Atlanta- nevertheless, she recommended using our newly acquired 16 minutes (due to the pandemic) in our days to do something else. We could use it to work out, prep dinner for the evening, call a parent.
These professional development evenings with JumpSpark and the Jewish Education Collaborative are helpful and enriching. We learn together, we see that we are not alone nor isolated with our challenges. There are colleagues experiencing similar challenges. Learning and sharing together alleviates burnout as well.
2000 years ago, there was a Jewish professional who warned against burnout, and offered one simple technique: do a little at time. No need to feel overwhelmed by the task. Break it down. In the year 2020, Faun Zarge shared many more techniques and shared ways we can take care of ourselves and keep on doing great work for our community.
My name is Rachel Binderman and I am a junior on a High School program called Alexander Muss High School in Israel. At the beginning of my sophomore year I decided to sign up for AMHSI. When COVID struck I was worried that the program would not continue, but thankfully it worked out and I am now sitting in the land of Israel. Right now is a crazy time to be traveling anywhere, especially across the world. Although there are many uncertainties while traveling I felt that going to Israel was still the best decision I could have made. The fact that JumpSpark helped me get here is even more special because it has been a huge part of my high school experience through the Strong Women Fellowship. I have gotten to take the skills I learned from them to Israel with me.
When I first decided to go to Israel it was because I have always felt a deep connection to my Jewish identity, but not Israel. I came in search of a deeper connection to the land my ancestors once struggled to keep and treasured so dearly. When I settled on going on AMHSI I knew this was the right program for me. It gives me the experience to learn about the land in an interactive way and meet Jewish teens from around the world with many of the same interests as me.
When I first got to AMHSI I was in quarantine, or bidud in Hebrew, for 2 weeks. It was scary going into it knowing that I would be stuck in a room with strangers for 2 weeks. The first day was rough but by the second day these 3 girls became some of my best friends. We had many online classes learning about Israeli culture through art, music, and movies. Even in quarantine we were always busy with fun activities. I already felt the power that Israel has even though I was unable to leave the campus.
The day that we got out of bidud we were already off to our first trip (tiyul). We stayed at a kibbutz and during the 3 days that we were there we went hiking on Mount Gilboa, went to natural springs, and the beach. After this trip the country went on lockdown so we were stuck on campus but even that was amazing. We learned about Israel and had fun activities planned by our teachers and madrichim. We got close at the program during this time and even were able to get special permission to travel. We got to go on special volunteering trips at farms around Israel to help the farmers in need. After about 3 weeks lockdown started to ease up and we were able to go back on tiyulim.
We have been on many tiyulim since then and each one gets better and better. We learn about the history of Israel and the Jewish people while also having fun with our friends. I am so privileged to be able to travel around a country half way across the world during this time of uncertainty and I am grateful for every second. We have been to the North, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and small cities in between and I can not wait to keep exploring this beautiful land. I am so grateful for my experience here so far and I hope other high school students consider applying for this amazing program.
My name is Sarah-Anne Seligman and I am in 11th grade. I’m from Atlanta, GA and I chose to come to Alexander Muss High School in Israel for the Fall semester of 2020 because I wanted to grow my Jewish Identity, be more independent, and make greater connections with myself and my friends. Upon arriving on the AMHSI program all 71 students were put into a mandatory bidud (quarantine). I had three other girls in my capsule and I became friends with them instantly. We talked about our Jewish identities, got closer, and now I consider them sisters. After the two weeks of laughing, talking, and enjoying life to the fullest, bidud was over and we got our dorm rooms.
I was super nervous to get my room because I had such a good time in bidud, I didn’t want anything to ruin that. After I found out who my roommates were I was in such relief because they are the sweetest people ever. The next day we went on a three day tiyul (field trip) to Mt. Gilboa, hiked down the mountain and learned all about Devora and other Judges in the Tanakh for our Israel Studies class. After we hiked, we went to a swimming hole and swam with everyone which was so fun because it was the first time that everyone was together. Unfortunately, for the next three weeks Israel went into lockdown and we could not go on any Tiyulim so we made the most of it working and being in school. Those three weeks brought the community together and without them I think that people would not be as close as they are today. After lockdown ended, we went to a Tiyul where we farmed and it was such an eye opening experience.
A couple of weeks ago we went to Jerusalem for five days after lockdown ended, it was so fun and spiritual. We crawled through different caves, went to the Kotel, and had a blast. For that trip, I only had one roommate and we became so close. She is one of the nicest people ever and she is my best friend here. When we are not on a tiyul we are in regular classes. I am taking five general studies classes plus Hebrew and Israel Studies. Being at AMHSI has forced me to have really good time management skills, helped me get out of my comfort zone, and helped me gain confidence in my Jewish identity.
JumpSpark helped me come to Israel financially and they gave me people to talk to before I came on the program which helped to know what to pack, what to wear, what to know before going on the program and they were super helpful with everything I needed. I chose to come to AMHSI because I wanted to start my education in Israel Studies, the Tanakh, learn Hebrew, and become a better young Jewish adult.
Sarah-Anne received a $1000 Spark Grant towards a Gap Year in Israel.
ATLANTA, GA – The Atlanta Kesher Teen Engagement Fellowship, the exciting new peer- to- peer engagement opportunity for Jewish teens in grades 10-12 offered by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), has officially kicked off its second year. The 25 fellows participating in 2020-21 represent 14 high schools, 7 synagogues, and 11 zip codes across the metro Atlanta area.
Based on successful models in other parts of the country, the Atlanta Kesher Fellowship brings a different engagement experience to Atlanta’s Jewish teens. Tailored training on peer to peer engagement allows teens to strengthen their relationship building skills, understand the importance of face to face communication, and learn a new way of engaging their peers.
Funded in part by a JumpSpark grant through the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, this fellowship doesn’t involve a strenuous amount of hours, rather it is created for the busy teen and allows them the to create their own schedules strengthening time management skills. Teens will develop a variety of practical business, social, and leadership skills throughout the fellowship and receive expert mentoring and support to create meaningful Jewish engagement for their peers. At the end they receive a $200 stipend for all their hard work! New for 2021, a cohort of teens from The Temple are participating in a modified version of the fellowship with mentorship from Temple staff.
“The Temple is proud to partner with the ATL Kesher Program because we share the same goal of working to connect our teens through peer-to-peer engagement. Our hope is that teens who are connected to The Temple’s teen community will plan a variety of events for their peers while strengthening their own leadership skills, management styles, and ability to build relationships.” – Elizabeth Foster, Jewish Identity & Experiences Educator The Temple & Breman Education Center
The fellows are tasked with planning three small events (3-10 people) throughout the school year. These events include things, like a Shabbat dinner, Havdalah hike, or a philanthropic father and son basketball game. This year the task is to create exciting events in a virtual setting. These events include things like a virtual Hanukkah cookie decorating class, virtual Jewish Jeopardy night, or a virtual Shabbat Dinner or Havdallah service. The idea is to create small events relating to Judaism that have large impacts on the teens who aren’t as engaged in Jewish life in Atlanta. Creating more ways for teens to positively interact with Judaism will allow them to pave their own Jewish journey and lead to a greater impact on their lives.
At the inaugural fellowship on September 13, the teens learned the importance behind the work they are doing, why face -to -face communication is beneficial, and the power of inclusivity. This year’s training also focused on how to engage your peers in this new virtual reality. “We are training these fellows to plan meaningful experiences in any setting they can.”- Jessie Schwartzman, Atlanta Kesher Engagement Coordinator. The fellows left the kickoff ready to take on Jewish Atlanta!
Matthew Hirsch (17) reflected after meeting his fellowship peers at the kickoff: “I’m excited to be a Kesher Fellow because I want to make a positive impact in the Jewish Community by bringing people together that would not want to otherwise be involved.”
The 2020-21 Kesher Fellows Include:
Ali Becker, Temple Sinai
Courtney Caplan, The Temple
Tali Cohn, Temple Sinai
Dylan DeSimone, The Temple
Danielle Faulhaber, Temple Kehillat Chaim
Isabelle Fishbein, The Temple
Harrison Frank, Temple Emanu-El
Alexa Freedman, Temple Emanu-El
Matthew Hirsch, Temple Beth Tikvah
Emma Hurwitz, Temple Beth Tikvah
Katie Hurwitz, Temple Beth Tikvah
Caitlin Kilinc, The Temple
Andrew Levingston, Temple Sinai
Jordy Levy, Temple Emanu-El
Tali Lipton, Temple Sinai
Jaron Pearson, Temple Emanu-El
Ben Ragals, Temple Emanu-El
Lily Ragals, Temple Emanu-El
Amit Rau, The Temple
Elisa Rosenthal, Temple Sinai
Sara Serrano, Chabad of Gwinett
Hunter Siegel, Temple Sinai
David Strauss, Temple Sinai
Deirdre Weissman, Temple Kol Emeth
Noa Young, Temple Sinai
“We’re incredibly grateful to JumpSpark and the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta for their support and partnership in creating and funding this program. Year 1 was a success despite a challenging spring, and while Year 2 is certainly not what we had planned for, I have no doubt that our teens and staff will continue to be creative and thoughtful in engaging Atlanta’s Jewish teens.” – Adam Griff, Business and Program Manager, URJ Youth Southeast.
In addition to the peer-to-peer fellowship, the URJ is planning to expand the Atlanta Kesher fellowship to train teen songleaders. Future programming could also support teens engaged in social justice work.
The Union for Reform Judaism’s youth programs instill a sense of joy, compassion, and pride in being Jewish while nurturing a young person’s innate desire to make a difference in the world. Central to the URJ’s strategy is collaboration with Reform congregations, other Jewish organizations and individuals who are committed to youth engagement.
Story by Mollie Binderman and Audrey Zeff
Now more than ever students need to be prepared for life after school. Internships can introduce you to new careers and make you more prepared for a job of your own.
That’s why it was so impactful hearing Lauren Berger discuss how to find internships and jobs as part of this year’s JumpSpark Strong Women Fellowship. The Fellowship is geared toward teens, many of whom are beginning or have begun the process of college applications, or even making the decision to head straight into the career field. Getting advice on internships and careers from Berger was extremely impactful, because we as young adults are starting to face the time for decision-making for our future.
JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship is an educational and empowering program where Jewish teen girls talk about issues facing the world and learn to be leaders. We hear from inspiring people all the time. Last month, we got to hear from Berger, who has two websites, one targeted at adults to help them find jobs, and one focused on college and high school students like us. Her website, Internqueen helps us take the next steps in our career by finding internships according to our passions.
According to Internqueen, Berger’s advice has reached the ears of 6 million people and helped shape their careers. She has also written books and been featured on many notable media outlets like Business Insider, Forbes, Teen Vogue, The Today Show, and more. Lauren’s YouTube channel also has more than 2 million views.
Berger talked about a wide variety of career advice, including how useful it is for high schoolers to get internships. Internships allow job-like experiences and are great on college resumes, which is especially helpful as you’re thinking about college. During the meeting she discussed her own story with us and shared her mistakes and achievements. We all learned a lot about the dos and don’ts when applying and completing internships.
Here are a few of our key take-aways and lessons we learned.
“I learned that it is okay to relax and take a break once in a while.” – Emma
“The value of LinkedIn!” – Rebecca
“To keep up with connections because they may be helpful later!” – Katie
“Reach out to professional contacts at least 3 times a year!” – Audrey
“You should always stay in contact with people.” – Ella
“To always follow up with a thank you email and/or note.” – Mollie
“I really liked learning about how I can effectively prepare for the future!” – Eva
“Always stay in contact with people.” – Rachel
“It’s okay to fail.” – Ariel
Hearing from a speaker like Lauren is so impactful on teens like us as we are growing older and trying to figure out questions like what career we will want to have in 10 years.
Mollie Binderman, 16, is a sophomore at North Springs Charter High School in Sandy Springs, who enjoys hanging out with friends and cooking. Audrey Zeff, 15, is a sophomore at Grady High School who loves playing volleyball and hanging out with friends. They are both participants in the Strong Women Fellowship.
This article was originally published on VOX ATL. Read it here.