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High School in Israel in the time of COVID

By JumpSpark

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.


Self Expression Through Spoken Word

By JumpSpark

Caroline Rothstein, an internationally touring writer, spoken word poet and performer, spoke to a group of Atlanta teens about your own personal gods, Judaism in today, self-love, anti-semitism, and reincarnation, inspiring us to take her words into our lives and realize a greater truth in the world we face as young and Jewish women. 

Rothstein has performed poetry, recited speeches, and led workshops at colleges, schools, community organizations, and other performance spaces. She was able to present to us in an interactive, non-toxic, yet inspiring space — even on Zoom. 

Last fall, we had an amazing opportunity to get to know Rothstein prior to the JumpSpark Strong Women Fellowship full-group meeting. We learned how to effectively interact in a safe space on topics she planned to bring to the Jewish teens across Atlanta who come together (now virtually) to empower, learn from, and educate each other so we could take her experiences to benefit our own.

As soon as the famous “ding-dong” went off in the Zoom call, we were immediately struck by Caroline’s energy and presence. Despite being virtual, her contagious smile translated extremely well and lit up the (virtual) workspace. She immediately made us feel welcome and relieved for the discussion. She asked how everyone was doing on the call, and it felt so natural to speak with her. 

Quite frankly, prior to the call, we figured we would probably talk about whatever the speaker-of-the-month wanted to talk about, having the common somewhat-awkward Zoom call atmosphere. But Caroline was different. Instead of having an already prepared and rigid event, we were able to discuss with her what we thought the event should be about. We kicked off our discussion by talking broadly about matters we think are vital to discuss today, with ideas like body image and racial injustices. 

Caroline did not just hear, but listened to the actual words we were saying. It felt extremely personable that we were able to guide and facilitate the focus of the event, while understanding that with the constantly changing world, the subject matter could change. 

Around two days prior to the large-group meeting, Caroline sent us an email, pretty much checking in, asking if we thought the topic we had decided on was still applicable and was tailored appropriately for the culture of the world. Caroline teaches us how to observe the world around us and illustrate the idea of recognition of our surroundings. The flexibility Caroline taught and encouraged helped this group of teens to understand how omnipresent issues in the world are ever changing.

During the full group event, Caroline shared her poems and performed spoken word. She was able to convey a message and strong feelings through each poem. We could see how strong she is, as she was able to be so vulnerable through her poetry. 

We also did a couple writing exercises. We loved the letter we wrote to ourselves. Miriam wrote about how sometimes in her busy life she needs to take a moment to think and have a peaceful moment.

“Dear Miriam of the past, Life may be hectic so it’s alright to take a bit more time for yourself sometimes. Stay in your bed longer if you want or do a 15 step skincare routine.”

Overall, Caroline was an amazing speaker, and we’d love to hear more of her poems in the future. She left us with the feeling that it is OK to be every single part of ourselves, no matter the circumstances or how different you are. Because of Caroline, in the future, we feel that we will be able to do what we want in our professional and personal lives.

The Strong Women Fellowship meeting with Caroline Rothstein ended with sharing take-aways from the session.

Miriam Raggs is a 10th grader at The Weber School and Noa Young is a 10th grader at North Springs High School. Both are second-year Fellows and Peer Leaders for the JumpSpark Strong Women Fellowship.

Read the original article published in VoxAtl here.

Too young to vote, these kids are helping get others to the polls in Georgia.

By JumpSpark

By Sarah Brown, originally published in the Forward, December 30, 2020

Sarah Dowling and Justin Meszler may not be old enough to vote, but they’re making an impact in the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff election.

“Everyone deserves to have their voice represented in government,” Dowling said.

Dowling and Meszler, both 16, are youth volunteers and organizers for “Every Voice, Every Vote,” the Reform movement’s national, non-partisan civic engagement campaign. The campaign focuses on combating voter suppression, mobilizing young voters ages 18-29, and encouraging 100% voter turnout from Reform synagogues and communities around the country.

The state is the site of two runoff races for the U.S. Senate, which on Jan. 5 will determine which party will control the U.S. Senate. If Democrats win both seats, the Senate will be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote.

Dowling, a Georgia resident, recently led a voter registration drive at her school in Atlanta. She registered more than 20 voters and handed out more than 400 voter guides, complete with information about voter registration and early voting.

“It’s up to people to decide whether the current people in power represent their values, or whether the people who are running now against them represent their values. This election allows people to have a voice, and that’s why it’s so important,” Dowling said, taking a quick break from organizing a “phone banking party” for teens planning to call older congregants.

Sarah Dowling hands out voter registration guides at her high school by the Forward
Sarah Dowling hands out voter registration guides at her high school (photo courtesy of Sarah Dowling)

The movement’s campaign, run out of its Religious Action Center, began as a national effort during the general election, then concentrated its efforts in Georgia by setting up a partnership with JumpSpark, a Jewish youth programming organization in Atlanta.

“When it became very apparent that there was going to be this runoff, we started thinking almost immediately about how we were going to organize the teens in our community and get out the teen vote,” said JumpSpark’s director, Kelly Cohen.

Reform Jewish teens including Sarah Dowling holding a voter registration drive at their school in Atlanta. by the Forward
Courtesy of Sarah DowlingReform Jewish teens including Sarah Dowling holding a voter registration drive at their school in Atlanta.

Meszler, a high school junior, lives in Massachusetts and has been involved in the Religious Action Center’s effort since the general election. He participated in a group that has sent close to 10,000 postcards encouraging people to vote throughout the 2020 election cycle and including the Georgia runoff.

He has also organized phone banking events through the Religious Action Center, and its partner, the Center for Common Ground, which aim to connect specifically with people of color in states with high levels of voter suppression.

Now, Meszler’s efforts are focused entirely on Georgia.

“It’s obvious that young people are so good at calling attention to an issue, shining a spotlight on it, and not taking that spotlight off, even in the middle of a pandemic,” said Logan Zinman Gerber, the national teen campaign organizer for the Religious Action Center.

Voter registration has surged in the state since the Supreme Court’s decision on Shelby vs. Holder in 2013, which invalidated a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by giving nine states more leeway in changing their election laws without federal preclearance. But the increase in registered voters has outpaced the number of available polling locations, and the problem is especially acute in predominant Black precincts.

According to data collected by Georgia Public Broadcasting/ProPublica, the average wait time after 7 p.m. across Georgia was 51 minutes in polling places that were 90% or more nonwhite, but only 6 minutes in polling places that were 90% white.

Voter registration guides created by Dowling and other Reform Jewish students for the voter registration drive by the Forward
Courtesy of Sarah DowlingVoter registration guides created by Dowling and other Reform Jewish students for the voter registration drive

For Meszler and Dowling, passion for civic engagement and social action is rooted in Jewish values.

“Through this work of making sure that everyone’s voice is heard, I feel in a way that I am practicing my Judaism,” Meszler said. “Everything that I’ve done in social action has been tied to Judaism.”

Dowling cited the Jewish values of tikkun olam, repairing the world, and tzedek tzedek tirdof, which means “justice, justice you shall pursue,” as guiding principles that motivate her to participate and engage others.

“I feel like voting is our main way as citizens of repairing the world. A vote is a way of pursuing justice for the people who either are underrepresented, or who can’t vote,” said Dowling. “If we elect leaders who we think reflect our own values, we play a role in shaping the world that we want to see.”

As the runoff approaches, the Religious Action Center and teens from the youth civic engagement campaign are redoubling efforts and continuing to try to reach as many eligible voters as possible.

“Check in with your friends and family in Georgia, see if they’ve voted or if they have plans to vote,” Dowling said. “You have the biggest impact on the people in your life, and it is so easy to just reach out to people.

High School in Israel in Quarantine

By JumpSpark

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.

Sarah-Anne Seligman, AMHSI participant

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 Kesher Fellowship Launches its 2nd Year with Expanded Options

By JumpSpark

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.

Inspirational Intern Queen: Helping Students Prepare For Life After High School

By JumpSpark

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. 

Lauren Berger started Internqueen website to help connect youth with internships.

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 InsiderForbesTeen VogueThe 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.

Jewish Middle School Club Builds Community

By JumpSpark

On a Wednesday morning in October, 13 boxes line a screen with joyful middle school students talking about how awesome it is to be Jewish. They feel bonded by a shared identity and are bringing the fun to their virtual meeting.

In this unprecedented moment, virtual Jewish engagement feels both necessary and challenging. People suffer from “Zoom fatigue,” too much screen time with work, school, and activities. The news cycle feels constantly deflating, especially with the neverending rise of COVID-19 cases with no end in sight. Building a strong Jewish identity may be the last thing on people’s minds.

Building Community

However, the newly created Renfroe Jewish Middle School Club proves the importance of building the Jewish community at this moment, even in a virtual setting. In late October, Renfroe Middle School hosted its first Jewish club meeting. Karen Callen, the parent champion of this club who got the club up and running, shares,

“It is very exciting to get a Jewish student club off the ground at Renfroe MS. We have an enthusiastic staff sponsor who is also a member of The Temple, and greatly appreciate the support of JumpSpark to help get us going. There are many unaffiliated Jewish families in Decatur, so it is awesome to have an inclusive space where the kids can come together and have fun Jewish experiences that are easily accessible through their school.”


In the first club meeting, we brought in Hannah Zale from In the City Camps to lead fun activities around creating a club logo and name for the club. Hannah’s humor and fun demeanor brought the club to life and got the students excited to talk about Jewish identity. The activities around creating a logo and name also gave the students ownership over the club to make it the space they wanted.

Hannah Zale, Assistant Director of In the City Camps

Oscar Marks, a student at Renfroe Middle School and member of the club, shares,

“The virtual meeting for The RMS Jewish Kids Club was fun and exciting, everyone was full of pride that they are Jewish, and the teachers were glad that we were at the meeting. We had fun activities that would help the club like, choosing the name of the club, choosing the logo, and choosing what the logo would stand for.”

Looking to the Future

With the first meeting being such a success, the club is poised for future growth. Karen Callen feels that,

“The kids fed off the infectious energy of the meeting leader, Hannah Zale, and are excited to have Hannah and other local Jewish educators continue to create fun Jewish programming for them in future meetings. We are confident that the new Renfroe club will continue to grow as more students hear about the club and want to connect with other Jewish kids at their school and in their community.”

While virtual Jewish engagement might feel nearly impossible at this moment, it is so essential to continue building our Jewish community. People need a space to connect over shared identity and have fun together at this challenging time. Oscar Marks shares that he “recommends the club to whomever or whoever wants to be around other Jewish kids.” The new Renfroe Middle School Jewish club proves the power and possibility of building a Jewish community in this time and how important it is we support each other through our most difficult moments.

Interested in bringing Jewish clubs to your middle school? Contact Annie Fortnow, JumpSpark Engagement Manager, at

“Her Campus Media:” College Dreams Pave The Way For Lifelong Dreams

By JumpSpark

Her Campus Media is an 100% woman-owned and -operated organization that provides the opportunity for college-age women to publish their voices, is the No. 1 media portfolio for college women, and works to serve and empower young women. The Founder, Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, recently spoke to JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship, pointing out major lessons that she had learned from her experience starting a successful business. 

Lewis gave useful insights meant to guide any young woman who will one day start a business. Her tips include: follow your passions, build a killer team, pump out a business plan, put the pressure on, and spend hardly any money. 

After her initial presentation, Lewis paused for questions, which gave Fellows an opportunity to ask about her experience or ask for guidance about their own projects and aspirations. For instance, Ariella Ayenesazan, a 9th grader at Peachtree Ridge High School, is following her passion through her own mask business and asked intriguing questions on how to grow her business on different platforms like Lewis did.

Next, Lewis led the Fellows in an exercise where the group discussed Impostor Syndrome and finding one’s purpose through questions like “what drives you?” and fill-in-the-blanks like “Sometimes I worry that I’m not as ___ everyone thinks I am.” Lewis was vulnerable with the group by sharing times when she doubts herself and opened the floor to those who wanted to share their thoughts, reactions, and feelings. 

Lewis began her dream while in college, where she met her colleagues as Harvard undergrads while running a student publication for women on campus. The publication’s popularity resonated with college women across the country who began asking for advice on starting something similar at their schools. She has continued on with her passion to this day. 

Lewis spoke to us as a leader who represents female empowerment, inspiring future generations. The interactive event allowed us to ask questions and stay involved. She responded with impactful answers, allowing everyone to be vulnerable and share some stories of our own lives.

Finally, Fellows created a reflective word cloud that included our feelings and takeaways from the meeting, which included words like “driven,” “inspired,” “strong” and “empowered.”


Here are a few of our take-aways. 

“It was great to meet a successful woman who was willing to share her expertise with us, and she even said we could reach out to her after the meeting and participate in some of the high school Her Campus media programs. I appreciated how open Lewis was in sharing times she failed so we would not repeat the same mistakes. One thing that I will take away is that if someone has enough drive and ambition, they can do whatever they put their mind to, which I think is an important message for young women and teens to hear, because it motivates them to act on their dreams.” – Amelia Heller

“Her story inspires me to create my own path in life, like maybe create my own business one day. She pulled out all the stops to make her dreams come true, which I aspire to do one day as well. Stephanie is someone we can all look up to and learn from. With hard work, anything is possible.” – Kayla Jacobs

“I learned a lot about what it takes to start a company and the struggles faced when doing so. [Lewis’] presentation was engaging and informative, and I definitely took a lot away from it, especially when we went around and challenged our ‘Imposter Syndrome’ views of ourselves.” – Alexa Freedman

I learned how she started her company with very low expenses. I also really loved the activities we did, because it showed how it is okay to show your vulnerable side.” – Ariella Ayenesazan

“It was so interesting to hear her story about how she created her magazine company. It was so inspiring.” – Miriam Raggs

“I learned that it is possible to start a company without any money. I also learned that sacrifices are necessary to be successful.” – Maya Laufer

Amelia Heller, 15, is a sophomore at The Weber School in Atlanta. She loves musical theatre and hanging out with friends. Kayla Jacobs, 17, is a senior at Pope High School who loves to hang out with her friends, volunteer and shop online.

The Strong Women Fellowship aims to empower Jewish girls and young women through activities and speakers like Lewis who educate, energize, and empower the Fellows to be passionate and successful in their pursuits.

This article was originally published on VOX ATL. Read it here.

Finding Shared Values in a Divided Time

By JumpSpark

As we watch our country’s election unfold and see how close the results are, we can see a clear divide in what the people of the United States of America care about politically. No matter what side of the aisle one sits, one thing is clear at this moment: our country is starkly divided.

Annie Fortnow, JumpSpark Engagement Manager

Coming together around shared values in this time sometimes feels almost impossible — with nearly everyone holding differing viewpoints, it can sometimes be scary to bring up the topic of shared values. But if we want to create change in our country and live in a more compassionate society, we must do just that and strive for courageous conversations around our shared beliefs.

Moving from Conversation to Action

In late October, JumpSpark hosted a Community Conversation with Wayne Green, Executive Director of the Jewish Teen Funders Network. Community Conversations are monthly calls that bring together Jewish youth serving professionals in Atlanta for informal conversations with a thought leader in the field. The speakers and topics provide an exclusive deep dive for teen professionals and Jewish educators in Atlanta.

In a creative and interactive presentation, Wayne took our group of professionals through a journey of shared values exploration to decide where to allocate a pool of funding to. Wayne encouraged the participants to think critically about a wide variety of values and come to a consensus as a group about what values mattered to us. In doing this, Wayne modeled what a giving circle experience could look like for the teens we work with.


Wayne shares, “how we engage with teens to make changes in the world by giving is best when we as educators connect with the context and fundamental values of giving. Empathy and experience in why, where, and how we give is important to be able to effectively work with teens and share this experience. In doing so, our impact is greater for the giver and the receiver.”

As we went through the giving circle experience together, we began to understand the importance of bringing this experience to our teens. Lara Schewitz, Experiential Education Director at Creating Connected Communities, shares, “JumpSpark’s mini giving circle allowed me to connect with my peers in a fun and hands-on way! Wayne is an incredible educator and introduced me to new virtual resources that I plan on implementing.”

Aligning Values and Giving

Through our shared values exploration, our group of professionals landed on the values of human dignity and justice that we wanted to guide our giving together. Through these values, the group decided to donate our pool $240 to AgeWell Atlanta. Amy Glass, Director in Community Planning and Impact at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, shares, “we are so appreciative of the efforts of the Educator’s giving circle. The money they raised for AgeWell Atlanta will provide financial support for older adults who need help paying for assistive devices like hearing aids or glasses as well as home repair for things like grab bar installation. All are critical to enabling older adults to continue to age in place wherever they reside.”

Through defining our shared values as a group, Jewish youth professionals and educators in Atlanta were able to make a real difference in the lives of older adults in our community. Compassionate listening and consensus building helped us get there as a group.

This giving circle experience gives us hope for the future of our country. In a political moment where having conversations across difference can seem almost impossible, the Jewish Teen Funders Network has created a platform through which to have conversations where everyone might not agree and engage in crucial discussions around the values we hold and what we care about. Bringing these experiences to our youth will only help strengthen the compassion in our society now and in the future.

Want to learn more?

Interested in bringing teen giving circles to your community? Learn more at

Want to attend future Community Conversations with JumpSpark? Check out our calendar for more information: 

Persevering With My Peers: Insight into Teen Mental Health

By JumpSpark

I grew up with a school counselor as my mom. Needless to say, I have always known the importance of mental health. Talking about my feelings had never been a problem; in fact, it was normal in my household. Therefore, I brought that mindset into elementary school, which wasn’t anything necessarily special, considering crying and complaining were daily occurrences for most children trying to understand how to share, create friendships, and express themselves. I pretty much had one best friend who knew every thought that went through my head throughout middle school. She was practically my sister, so I didn’t feel any need to keep anything in. Sharing our thoughts and expressing our emotions were normal, everyday tasks. Again, unleashing this vulnerability was a regular and uneventful occurrence in my day-to-day life. 

When I got to high school, I was shocked that, after getting acquainted with my peers through surface-level discussions about our previous schools and favorite nail spots, they weren’t openly sharing their deepest, darkest secrets. Now that we are seniors, my friends are very aware that I am not afraid to show or talk about my emotions. After realizing not everyone is comfortable with feeling things deeply, much less talking about those feelings, I have learned to normalize mental health in my personal life. Most of the time, I encourage my friends to understand that feeling any type of emotion is normal, and you do not have to feel ashamed of it. 

Because of the pandemic going on right now, I have become very aware of my own mental health needs as well as the mental health concerns of those around me. The effects of isolation have been clear: Not only have I become personally acquainted with both anxiety and depression; I have  seen most of my friends struggle. One thing we can agree on in these times of turmoil in our country is that now, more than ever, is the time to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health.

Fortunately, I have had the unusual opportunity to view and interpret real data on the state of teen mental health in the Jewish community through an anonymous survey I created during my internship at the Blue Dove Foundation. One hundred fifty-four respondents, most of them Jewish, from both public and private schools across Atlanta provided insight into teen mental health issues. Some of the information was pleasantly uplifting; however, some statistics reflected the growing concerns society faces regarding mental health. For example, it was shocking to see roughly half the people who took the survey have experienced depression in the past six months, potentially propagated by COVID-19. Although I know, statistically, depression is pervasive among teens, it almost seems unreal that so many people have experienced it, considering I have had very little experience with people close to me opening up about their depression. Additionally, about 29 percent of respondents engage in solo or group drinking or drug use when feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, which seems like too large of a number. When asked what they would worry about most when confiding in someone for emotional support, about 12 percent of respondents expressed that they do not have anyone they would trust to tell, and about 15 percent wouldn’t even want their friends/family finding out they are struggling.

Many things struck me as concerning in these statistics.  For example, 86 percent of participants have had a friend confide in them about their mental health, yet 44 percent of those respondents were told not to tell anyone about that discussion. Further, 43 percent said they feel as if they do not know how to help their friends’ mental health issues, and 41 percent of respondents don’t open up to others about mental health, because they do not want to burden others with their problems.

Teens are clearly underprepared to effectively help their peers with mental health, yet most respondents said they would go to a friend before talking to an adult about their mental health issues. Because the difference between the number of people who would most trust a friend and the number of teens who feel ready to handle someone’s mental health concerns, it is clear to me things need to change. It is extremely difficult to know the right steps to take regarding someone else’s personal struggles, and there is a lack of resources to point teens in the right direction. From these statistics, it is clear that most teens are “driving blindly” while trying to help their friends with their problems. 

By encouraging data-driven education and advocacy, Blue Dove aims to increase awareness about mental illness and make all of us feel less alone in our mental health journey. When giving teens the opportunity to share and listen to one another’s experiences without judgement, and by dedicating the time and resources needed to teach helping skills, vulnerability and understanding, Jewish youth organizations and day schools can simultaneously help end the stigma and increase the emotional intelligence and resilience of our teen population.

This article was originally published by the Blue Dove Foundation.

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