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The Impact of Shabbat

Posted on 07/18/2015 @ 11:40 PM

“The committees did a great job running Shabbat services; I was intrigued by how the Shabbat committees ran their services and programs. It was the best Shabbat I have experienced in a long time. I led an Impact talk on Domestic Violence and taught my peers about the rising issue. It was challenging to facilitate but I felt fulfilled with taking myself out of my comfort zone. It was the best Shabbat I’ve experienced in BBYO ever.”

–Zach Gaines, Gold Coast Region

“I found it very interesting that even though we are from different parts of the country, we have so many similarities in Jewish customs. Although we may sing to slightly different rhythms tonight at Havdallah we sang in harmony. Spending Shabbat with my new Impact best friends left me feeling rested and excited for the days to come. I only have a few days of Impact left and I can’t wait to make every day count. This is more of an opinion than a fact, but everyone is loving their time at Impact.”

-Emma Parish, Greater Jersey Hudson River Region; North

“Wow what an amazing experience it has been for me to be at Impact. When I signed up as a last minute plan I was anxious as what to expect. Well, now I 'm here choosing to write and tell you on day seven I feel so comfortable. From meeting everyone at the airport to team building activities I can be myself and call everyone here apart of my BBYO family.”

-Lauren Kreda, Great Midwest Region

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Feeling Grateful Before Shabbat

Posted on 07/17/2015 @ 05:30 PM

Today was my birthday and I could not have asked for a better one. Today started off on a great note (for me at least) as my circle group was dorm of the day and was in charge of waking everyone up in the morning; which we did to the loud music of Macklemore. However, the highlight of my day was not the wake up activities or all the birthday wishes, it was seeing my 12 Pre-K children at my Bright Beginnings service sight which is a free day care for homeless children in DC. The second I walked into the room I was greeted with smiles and hugs which continued throughout the whole day. We had snack time, read books, played tag on the playground, and even took a nap. If you saw these beautiful kids interact and play, you would forget how these kids may not have a bed to sleep in tonight.

It isn’t until I step on the bus to go back to Hillel that I think about this, and it makes me appreciate every single privilege that I have been given throughout my now 17 years of existence. I am so lucky to have parents that can give me a bed to sleep in at night and 3 steady meals a day. The fact that these kids do not have those same privileges has kept me up late these past couple of nights. These happy, smiling, and innocent kids deserve much better. I doubt my preschoolers will remember me in 15 years, but I will definitely remember them.

-Drew Grossman, Great Midwest Region

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Making an Impact at Generation Progress National Summit

Posted on 07/17/2015 @ 12:00 AM

Today I learned the importance that my generation has to the United States and world politics. Through amazing speakers, I learned more than I could have ever in a class room setting. I learned about all different types of people and organizations. I began to feel a major connection with my fellow impacters, especially the girls that I went to the "It's On Us" program to end sexual assault with. When at this program, we discussed and listened to all different stories of people who have been affected by sexual assault . I became far more aware of the world around me, and the dangers that women face on college campuses everyday. Finally we got to close the day with an amazing and humbling speech given by Vice President Joe Biden.

-Julia Saltzman, The Ohio Northern Region

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Service Sites, Monuments, Memories- Oh My!

Posted on 07/16/2015 @ 12:00 AM

My name is Rachel Maltz, and I'm representing Pacific Western Region #44 (Los Angeles) at Impact: DC. Today, we had a day full of service and touring. After breakfast, we split into our group service assignments around the Washington DC area. My group headed to A Wider Circle, which is dedicated to providing families with donated furniture and other home supplies. This organization helps to make an impact in the city by only distributing new or gently used items, in order to maintain dignity for the recipients. After sorting donations, we had an Israeli dance program at the Hillel in University of Maryland.

Tonight, we took a tour of monuments in downtown DC. First, we watched the sun go down over the Jefferson Memorial. After the sun had set, we continued with a walking night tour. Standing at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial while overlooking the Washington Monument, we felt a sense of community as we took pictures with all of our friends. We walked together towards the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which was the powerful end to our tour. Today was a fun day of giving back to the community, having fun, and appreciating all of the sights in this beautiful city. We are all excited to welcome in Shabbat soon, and to attend the Generation Progress Summit tomorrow.

-Rachel Maltz, Pacific Western Region

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Finding Hope at the Holocaust Museum

Posted on 07/15/2015 @ 12:00 AM

“Today we visited the United Stated Holocaust Memorial Museum in downtown DC. The permanent exhibits that we visited stirred emotions inside and made me feel closer to my heritage. We also took a ride on the metro, which was fun, plus we heard from s speaker from the ADL who talked about anti-Semitism and civil rights.” -Jason Richman, Gold Coast Region

“Today was an intense day and it was quite clear by the looks on everyone’s faces that something changed about the group as we walked into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was something I had not seen before; a new side of everyone. My favorite part of the day was the speaker from ADL because he spoke about topics that are very relevant and important to be up to date about.” -Margot Siegel, North Texas Oklahoma Region

“Today we went to the Holocaust Museum and even though I have already been, I was emotional towards the end. I feel that it’s important to learn as much as we can because we are the last generation that will ever hear from survivors. The metro is a fast paced area and it is always keeping me on my toes. I feel today I learned more about Judaism and myself.” -Jonas Berkowitch, Lonestar Region

“Today I visited the United Stated Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was a heavy trip and we all learned allot. I thought it was particularly upsetting that there were youth groups run by the Nazi party to get kids involved.” -Josh Berenzweig, Northern Region East

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McPherson Square Reflection

Posted on 07/13/2015 @ 11:55 PM

Stories are one of the most important things in my life. A story is what defines the difference between man and wild, and everyone has one. Everyone has a series of defining moments that explain all of their experiences, desires, and what defines them as a person, and homeless people are no exception.

Today, I did something that I’ve never done before in feeding homeless people in McPherson square. I’ve done the whole soup kitchen thing where you make food for people and you know that the food is going to a great place, but I’ve never experienced the exchange for myself. And it was fascinating. There was one person I met who has been here since he was five. He stays here because he has his family and his friends whom he loves, and he enjoys a lot of the simple pleasures in life that we, as people of means, also enjoy. He was talking about going to movies and listening to music and just hanging out with good friends, which are things that don’t always come to my mind as things a person who is homeless would do. And there was another guy, whose name was Jackson. He’s been living in DC for years and has a daughter and is falling on harder times because his bike got stolen. He didn’t just love the bike because it was his way of getting around, but he loved feeling the nice breeze while riding and wearing crazy socks because people would always ask and compliment about his socks while he was riding.

One of the most important things I’ve ever learned in my life is that people are people first and their situation after that. Everyone’s situation is a story, and those stories are what make us human. Whether you have means, are homeless, have mental issues, are of a different race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or background from me; you are human. Homeless people often get the shortest end of the stick because so many people think that their homelessness is their identity. Homeless people are simply people who happen to be homeless; often because of one bad decision or one key moment in their own lives. Their stories are rich and fruitful; and deserve to be told on listening ears because people are people first and everything else second.

-Michael Blickstein, Great Midwest Region

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Working at Jewish Vocational Services

Posted on 06/29/2015 @ 05:00 PM

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JVS addresses the issue of refugee life and poverty. This is achieved by working to both educate the students and to help find jobs for those in need. JVS also helps bridge the cultural gap between their home countries and the United States. I admire the willingness of JVS to help people become independent.

One student has surprised me because of his strong desire to learn. At the beginning he was shy and didn’t really talk but now he is constantly asking questions and wants to learn more. He has a good understanding of English and although he's behind the other students, it is clear that he's eager to catch up. I love how willing the other students are to help him.

-Samara Langsam NRE:DC Council

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Reflecting on Connections

Posted on 06/26/2015 @ 05:00 PM

Despite Impact Boston's focus on community action and hands on learning, my absolute favorite part of this program happens to be text study. Every day, 15 participants and myself spend an hour with Benny, one of the educators, for connections. Connections is a text- based study, designed to take an academic, and near philosophical perspective on the tangible change were creating in Boston's communities. The hour sessions are there to give us intellectual space throughout the day. My connections group takes it to the next level.

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Every day, my entire group specifically looks forward to connections, and we're always left speechless and amazed by the end. Instead of treating connections as another class-type setting, we have turned it into intense discussion. Everyone feeds off of each other's ideas, and points made about the text always turn into collaboration. One of my favorite parts is how we all contribute a vibrant energy to each other during connections; we all participate to hear from and learn from each other. I think it's amazing how insightful and enthusiastic text-study can become for youth, especially over the summer. I now think that many teenagers don't give themselves enough credit for their hunger and capacity to learn, on any topic. When we all walked into connections for the first time, we were not enthusiastic, and some of us most likely didn't want to be there. Before we all made the session exciting, our educator taught us to love it. Benny Summers is a phenomenal person and teacher; he brings a new dimension to educating us. He facilitates the discussion, but he wants to learn from us as much as we do. He constantly pushes us to further our perspectives, and elaborate on our theories.

Connections has given me a greater insight into how to interpret text, as well as relate the readings to my own life. I feel that I gave a greater desire to read text in my own time, and continue the thought process I've created here. Whereas every participant has a distinct perspective to contribute to our sessions, I feel that somehow, they all meld into one message that we take away from our sessions each day. I cannot wait for today's lesson.

-Ellie Sullum: Liberty Region

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An Update on United Cerebral Palsy

Posted on 06/25/2015 @ 10:00 PM

United Cerebral Palsy in Boston is an organization that works with those with Cerebral Palsy(CP) along with many other clients with disabilities such as down syndrome and dementia. After several days on site, teens have shared some incredible experiences of what it’s like to work with this demographic.

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Today I worked with a woman who told me that she was overwhelmed with happiness and was so thankful that we did not treat her and the other clients as if they had a disability. She explained to me that she enjoys that we see them as human beings and not the diagnosis that the doctor gave. I found this so moving because though we are helping at this site, all of the clients are changing and impacting us.

-Alexa Herman NRE:DC Council

My site is UCP which stands for United Cerebral Palsy, and I just love it. The first day I was a tad worried on how the teens would take the site, but they dove right in. We immediately got to work, meeting the residents, befriending them, having fun, and participating in different activities. Monday was Game Show Day where we helped the residents play Trivia and Family Feud. Tuesday was Music Day, where we all danced and sang and just moved around having fun. Wednesday was Art Day, where we had the residents play with paint catapults, make dough animals, and paint press aprons! Thursday was Beach Day! All of us teens dressed up in tanks or Hawaiian shirts and helped the residents have a beach like experience. There were sand mats, where they could feel the sand, and small pools, where they could put their feet in and relax. I played catch, with a beach ball, with a client who loves the Celtics and is really energetic, and also hit the beach ball back and forth with a 91 year old client! He is hilarious and really good at playing catch and volleying the ball back and forth. It is absolutely amazing! I love it.

-Ari Segal: Michigan Region

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A Day at Solutions at Work

Posted on 06/24/2015 @ 09:00 PM

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Solutions at Work aims to support low income families in the Boston area through professional and children's clothing and toys. After three days on site, Haley was able to give some insight on what this experience has been like.

Today at Solutions at Work, I worked with five other teens from my site group to sort women’s shoes. Going into the task, I didn’t really understand how it could take the whole three hours that we would have there. Once I saw the shoe storage area though, it all made sense. There were tons of boxes lining the floor and stacked on top of one another, all filled with single shoes. Looking into the storage area, I began to worry that our group wouldn’t be able to finish before we had to leave.

Trying to figure out how to best tackle the challenge, we split into two groups: one to find a shoe’s match and complete the pair, and another to figure out what size shoe each pair was and organize them.I worked on the latter project, assuming it had to be the easier choice. I never would have thought that it would be so hard to identify a shoe size. Since these weren’t new, the sizes were often rubbed off from being worn, or blended into the bottom sole. After our three hours, all of the shoes had been sorted. It was an incredible feeling to quickly complete tasks that would have taken the staff a long time. We could all feel her immense gratitude and appreciation.

Although we didn’t directly interact with the clients that Solutions at Work helps, the impact that was made on the organization itself could be felt by everyone. It made those three hours of digging through boxes and squinting in the dark well worth it.

-Haley Hauptman: Great Midwest Region

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A Look into Hebrew Senior Life Roslindale

Posted on 06/23/2015 @ 08:00 PM

Today, teens at the Hebrew Senior Life Roslindale service site spoke a little bit about the impressionable experience they’ve had so far.

We walked into Hebrew Senior Life Roslindale and the first thing I saw was an old women with a caregiver who looks lonely. As we go through the building there were doll models, paintings, and projects everywhere. We’re told the art is done by the residents and I’m amazed by that because it’s so meaningful and there is a story behind each piece. It’s a sign of the resident’s expression. The staff educated us about dementia. I sat down next to a resident. There had been another resident who couldn’t say my name and she corrected her. That correction made me connect with her. She told me all about here life. This day reminded me to always be grateful for the small things, like walking, swallowing, and waking up every morning. This service site has made me realize how lucky and privileged I am.

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-Hana Hofeld: Great Midwest Region

Although working with elderly with dementia may be difficult at times, putting a smile on their face is like no other feeling. I look forward to interacting with different people at the site, but also the different people on the Impact program.

-Scott Meyer: Pacific Western Region

Another exciting day here at Impact:Boston! We went back to Hebrew senior Life where we bounced around the dining hall talking to various residents. I made a connection with a resident while there and it was so special to see so many of us talking to the residents. But more than that, it was special to see how the residents responded to what we were saying. This was something I will never forget.

-Abe Shapiro: Pacific Western Region

Today at the site, I spoke more with two of the people at the Hebrew Senior Life Center. The first woman, just turned 90 years old. She told me all about where she was when she heard WW II was over. She explained how her husband was in the war and how happy she was when she knew he would be returning. I loved seeing the joy and happiness in her eyes, while she reminisced on this memory. The second women, told me all about her life before Hebrew Senior Life and how wonderful it was. The sad part was when she talked about her husband and how he died very young. I could sense the sadness she felt and I felt empathetic. After we finished talking she said, “thanks for listening!” This made me realize how impactful our work is with the residents and how rewarding it can be.

-Sonia Holstein: Great Midwest Region

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An Energetic Start to Impact: Boston!

Posted on 06/21/2015 @ 11:00 PM

After an amazing week preparing with the staff, we couldn’t wait for the teens to arrive! Staff week was awesome! It was filled with icebreakers and learning how to work as a cohesive team. We all played off each other’s strengths and we have a fantastic team! We were so excited for when all the participants would arrive and we could put our skills to work.

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The day before the participants arrived, we celebrated a meaningful Shabbat and the staff reflected on our time together throughout the week. The week was full of preparation and learning to ensure the teens have the best experience while they are at Impact. When the first participant arrived early for Havdalah, Scott Meyer stated, "Staff was very welcoming and having Havdalah with them made me feel like part of the family, which really made my experience."

When the rest of the participants arrived throughout the first day, new friendships began almost immediately. Not even the rain could put a damper on our excitement. The teens started the day with group building and ice breakers, then they went into an opening scavenger hunt where they explored the campus and collected items to donate to a local homeless shelter. The excitement continued with the reveal of their service site assignments and ended on a great note with hall meetings and bonding. We can't wait for another amazing day in Boston!

-Ari Segel and Jessica Gbur, Impact: Boston 2015 Teen Coordinators

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Impact: DC 2015 Blog Updates Coming Soon!

Posted on 03/26/2015 @ 05:00 PM

We’re pumped for Impact: DC 2015, and hope you are, too! Check back here once the program starts for live updates all session long!

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Impact: Boston 2015 Blog Updates Coming Soon!

Posted on 03/26/2015 @ 05:00 PM

We’re pumped for Impact: Boston 2015, and hope you are, too! Check back here once the program starts for live updates all session long!

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So Long, Farewell!

Posted on 07/16/2014 @ 06:00 PM

Today was the day none of us were looking forward to at the beginning of IMPACT, the final full day of programming. Although it was the last full day, it was definitely a memorable one. We started the day with a learning session where we discussed homelessness, the stories that we had from our sites, and how we will bring it all home to our communities.

After the session, we moved into the presentation luncheon where each of the three groups presented what they did in their 5 days at their service sites. My site director, Michelle Mason, was able to join us for the luncheon. We presented a movie that we created for Montgomery Place. Michelle will actually be showing the movie at a presentation to her board tomorrow!

Following the presentations, we had a delicious falafel lunch, and everyone had more than enough food.

After we finished lunch, we made some awesome pez-uzahs that we will take home so we can remember IMPACT. If you are sitting there like what is this pez-uzah thing he is talking about, it is a mezuzah made out of a pez dispenser and inside we placed the six words that will help us remember IMPACT.

When we got back to our dorms, we had the pleasure of packing all of our loads of clothing. We then had free time where a large amount of people went and made some yummy challah with our Madrich, Jackson Block.

After our final dinner in the beloved cafeteria, we moved into a meaningful closing program where we were able to reflect, and talk about the friendships we made. Overall, this experience at IMPACT has been unique, and extremely meaningful. To be able to go into the community and meet the members of the community was inspiring and a great experience. Thank you IMPACT: Chicago!

Fraternally submitted with an undying love for, Athens of the South AZA #258, Cotton States Region #72, Impact:Chicago 2014, Rusty Smith, and the Grand Order of the Aleph Zadik Aleph and the 7 Cardinal Principles upon which it stands,

I will forever remain Aleph Samuel Albert Perlen Cotton States Region Nashville, TN

Weather for Thursday July 17th, 2014, courtesy of www.jakesweather.com: High of 75 with a low of 61. 10% chance of precipitation

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More Lessons in Social Justice

Posted on 07/15/2014 @ 06:00 PM

Hey from IMPACT Chicago!

Sadly, today was our last day at our service sites. At my service site, KAM Gardens, we helped clean out the different plots of the garden that had not been tended to or had overgrown. We were able to see a direct impact when a neighborhood family joined us at their coinciding plot and we helped them clean out their area. I have learned a lot from this experience; from composting to food sustainability, and the organic side of growing in an urban environment.

After all of the shoveling and digging and raking, we headed back to campus for chofesh (break). Following, we went to the University of Chicago Hillel and participated in an eye opening activity and discussion about unequal socioeconomic status and income. We first split into our service groups and tried to build towers out of varying amounts of resources. We were unaware that each group had different supplies and quality of supplies. When wee came back together as a group, we talked about how limited resources can restrict different communities and created differences.

After our last experience group, we went to work on our group presentations. My group is doing a video showing our progress in the 2 different gardens we worked in over the 5 days at KAM. I'm so excited to show our presentation to the entire IMPACT: Chicago community tomorrow and to show the KAM director, Tal Rosen, what we did!

Jamie Kotler Northern Region East: DC Council Howard County, MD

Weather for Wednesday July 16th, 2014, courtesy of www.jakesweather.com: High of 62 with a low of 51. 0% chance of rain.

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Topsy Turvy Type of Day!

Posted on 07/14/2014 @ 06:00 PM

Welcome to another edition of the IMPACT: Chicago 2014 blog! Today we went back to our service sites. At Montgomery Place we did a meet and greet, while hanging out with residents. We played a familiar BBYO ice breaker by passing a beach ball around that had questions on it. The residents of Montgomery Place were very active and enjoyed this game. We learned a lot about their backgrounds from asking these questions. We ended the morning by reading the residents the news and discussing major current events like Lebron leaving Miami for Cleveland, and Germany winning the Word Cup.

After we got back, we had lunch and chofesh (break). Following, we all gathered and went to see the Hazon Topsy Turvy Bus at the University of Chicago Hillel. The Topsy Turvy bus travels from Colorado to Connecticut for 6 weeks, and teaches people about environmental sustainability. We were joined for the program by teens from the Great Midwest Region of BBYO. We ran four rotations with the educators from Topsy Turvy. The first was a tour of the bus and an overview of how they live and how the bus functions. The second was making a smoothie from riding a bicycle! The blender sat on the back of the bike and the blades were powered by us pedaling. The third rotation was baking cookies in a solar oven. We learned about four different types of portable solar ovens. The last rotation was learning about how they acquire the vegetable oil to power the bus and how they convert it to be usable for their needs.

The last activity of the night was working on our group presentations. We are presenting on Wednesday to explain what each group’s service site does and thank the program coordinators for working with us.

Tomorrow is our last day at our service sites and we are all very sad that it will come to an end. More to come from IMPACT: Chicago!

Alex Hoffman Pacific Western Region Los Angeles, CA

Weather for Tuesday July 15th, 2014, courtesy of www.jakesweather.com: High of 70 with a low of 53. 30% chance of rain.

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Planes, Trains, and Submarines!

Posted on 07/13/2014 @ 06:00 PM

Today was an exciting day at IMPACT: Chicago! After waking up, we headed to the Museum of Science and Industry. We were able to see awesome exhibits and artifacts. I was able to touch a real piece of the moon, while my friends were designing and creating their own toys. There was a large variety of activities and I learned so much. The Disney exhibit was especially interesting because it was a behind the scenes view of all my favorite movies.

Later in the evening, we finalized our grant allocation project by choosing the charities to donate to. The money each participant brought to donate has been graciously matched by the Jewish Federation of Chicago. We spent time learning about four different charities. We talked a lot about the pros and cons of each charity, and eventually decided to split the money between three. Those three include: the Uptown Café, a non-profit that gives meals to the hungry and homeless, the Response Center, a non-profit that provides counseling for teens with mental illness, and Namaste, a non-profit that provides children who are falling behind in literacy with tutoring sessions. Having the opportunity to learn about the different non-profits and evaluate them each carefully was really incredible. The experience was incredible, as every other experience I have had at IMPACT has been.

Sari Bircoll Southern Region: Atlanta Council Atlanta, GA

Weather report for Monday July 14th, courtesy of www.jakesweather.com: 50% chance of PM rain, high of 76 and low of 52

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Shavua Tov!

Posted on 07/12/2014 @ 05:00 PM

Today was a very meaningful day at IMPACT: Chicago. Everyone had a special Shabbat challenge posted on their door in the morning in order to add a unique experience to our one Shabbat together. For example my challenge was to where a kippah all day, and reflect on what it means.

After breakfast we had a beautiful youth planned and led Shabbat morning service, followed by fun color war activities such as Jell-O jousting and tug of war. We had an extended chofesh (break) in which I relaxed with my friends. After which we reconvened at Hillel for a debate on Latkes v. Hamentashin that replicated the University of Chicago’s same famous debate.

We then walked back to a very meaningful Havdallah. The part of the day that made the most impact on me was bonding with me my fellow Alephs during separates. I'm sure the BBGs had a very meaningful experience as well. At the end of the evening we all were officially inducted as IMPACT ambassadors.

Jacob Levy, Cotton States Region

Weather for Monday July 13th, courtesy of www.jakesweather.com: 40% chance of thunderstorms, high of 86 with a low of 62.

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We Are Shaking Things Up A Bit!

Posted on 07/11/2014 @ 05:00 PM

Today at IMPACT: Chicago we went through a philanthropy boot camp through JUF to learn everything there is to know about foundations, grant guidelines, and what’s behind allocating money. We started off at Millennium Park with a scavenger hunt where we had to match places in the park with the people and foundations that donated the money to create them. We learned that about $485 million went into the park and that a third of that money came from Jewish philanthropists.

After we left, we headed back to the JUF building to learn everything there is to know about the philanthropic process. We started off with a game of philanthropy based The Price is Right. Next, we discussed what it means to be a philanthropist and learned about the lingo that goes along with it. We also learned about the difference between a foundation and a non-profit, as well as the connection between empathy and and sympathy, philanthropy and tzedakah. For the final part of the philanthropy boot camp, we analyzed Jewish texts and then broke into groups based on which text resonated with each of us best. From that we created our own foundations with grant guidelines and then chose where we wanted to allocate our money. Overall, the boot camp was an amazing learning experience for all of us to be a part of and taught us many new things that we will bring home with us.

After a long and incredibly informative day with JUF, we went to Navy Pier to unwind and have some fun whether it was riding the Ferris wheel or shopping in the mall. There was something there for everyone to do and all of the participants had a blast. It was such an amazing end to a great day.

Jordyn Matez Gold Coast Region Boca Raton, FL

Weather for Friday July 11th, courtesy of Jacob Goodman from www.jakesweather.com Partly cloudy, high around 79 degrees and low around 67 degrees. Potential stray Evening shower

Saturday July 12th High around 83 degrees with a low of 68 degrees. 60-70% chance of Thunderstorms. Expect rain and clouds all day

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