15 Extraordinary Teens Awarded $36,000 Each for Initiatives to Repair the World

June 28th, 2023

June 28, 2023

Media Contact:
Meredith MacKenzie de Silva, West End Strategy Team
202-412-4270, [email protected]


15 Extraordinary Teens Awarded $36,000 Each for Initiatives to Repair the World

The Helen Diller Family Foundation’s Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards annually recognize Jewish teen leaders building a better world, awarding nearly $7 million since 2007


SAN FRANCISCO – Recognizing the importance of teen leadership, the Helen Diller Family Foundation today announced its annual awards of $36,000 each to 15 extraordinary Jewish teen leaders from across the United States.

Young people have the power and passion to create ripples of good and repair the world. They are innovating and reimagining ways to tackle challenges in their communities and around the world. Ranging in age from 15-19, these bold changemakers include a teen who is using TikTok as a platform to fight antisemitism by sharing first-person stories from his grandmother who survived the Holocaust as a child; a teen who expanded educational access in Ethiopia by building a secondary school in the village where she was born; and a teen who is increasing food security and community self-reliance by installing hydroponic gardens in Israel and New York and providing the training to maintain them. A full description of all 15 Award recipients and the projects they are leading can be found at: www.dillerteenawards.org.

The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award recipients are available to discuss the impact of their work in communities across the country and the significance of the Award to them. To speak with an Awardee, please contact West End Strategy Team at [email protected].

Now in its 17th year, the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards were the vision of Bay Area philanthropist Helen Diller, whose determination to cultivate new generations of socially committed leaders continues to guide the Awards program – honoring young leaders who exemplify the spirit of tikkun olam, a Jewish value meaning “to repair the world.”

This year’s Awardees join 174 Awards alumni and represent nearly $7 million in Awards given since 2007. Award funding may be used to further the recipients’ philanthropic work or education.

“Young people are striving to solve critical challenges in their communities with creativity, hard work, resourcefulness, and a commitment to tikkun olam,” said Phyllis Cook, Philanthropic Consultant for the Helen Diller Family Foundation. “We are inspired by their leadership and committed to recognizing them as role models for other teens by celebrating how young people can make an impact in communities across the country.”

Applications and nominations for 2024 will open in August 2023, following the annual Awards celebration in San Francisco.

Leading through action, these teens are inspiring their peers to become advocates, educators, and philanthropists in their communities. The 2023 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awardees are:

Julian Berkowitz-Sklar, 18, Saratoga, Calif.

Nature Now International is a grassroots environmental organization that engages youth in defending vulnerable ecosystems through community-based ecological education in Costa Rica and California.

Max Blacksten, 17, McLean, Va.

Youth Climate Action Team is a climate justice advocacy nonprofit focused on placing youth at the forefront of the climate movement, providing a platform for teenagers worldwide to write, lobby, and educate the public about the climate crisis and sustainability.

Aron Goodman, 17, Morristown, N.J.

TovaTok, a TikTok account created by Aron and his grandmother, Holocaust survivor Tova Friedman, has produced more than 150 videos with 80 million views, sharing Tova’s story and raising awareness of modern-day antisemitism and racism.

Romy Greenwald, 18, Santa Barbara, Calif.

MiSendero provides a pathway to inclusion for English language learners, empowering them to serve as Spanish tutors, and invites Spanish language learners to serve as English tutors, creating opportunities for leadership and friendship in California and Florida.

Jake Hammerman, 17, Lafayette, Calif.

Impactful Tennis provides tennis lessons to kids and raises funds to support the regional Meals on Wheels, which addresses hunger and isolation among seniors.

Sydney Hankin, 17, New York City, N.Y.

Securing Safe Food’s mission is to fight food insecurity among individuals with food allergies and to increase the accessibility of allergen-free foods through research, education, and by partnering with allergy-friendly food companies to ship safe food to more than 30 food pantries across the United States.

Steven Hoffen, 15, New York City, N.Y.

Growing Peace seeks to improve the health, happiness, and welfare of under-resourced communities by installing and implementing hydroponic farming systems, which can be deployed cheaply and quickly to immediately address food security challenges, providing healthy and nutritious food regularly.

Benjamin Joel, 18, McLean, Va.

Intutorly, founded by Ben and his brother, helps to close the academic gaps for students impacted by school closures during the pandemic and continues to create a life-long impact on students’ educational success.

Henry Lien, 17, Mill Valley, Calif.

ChessPals envisions a world where kids of all backgrounds can learn and play chess by providing a fun after-school activity, supporting increased academic performance, and teaching lifelong skills like goal-setting and healthy competition.

Meaza Light-Orr, 17, Los Angeles, Calif.

Kids for Kololo aims to increase educational equity and access in rural Ethiopia by identifying and addressing unmet educational needs in partnership with local communities while empowering teens to create positive change in the lives of children across the globe.

Anabelle Lombard, 18, Arlington, Va.

Generation Ratify is a youth-led movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and advance gender equality in the United States.

Lily Messing, 17, Tucson, Ariz.

100+ Teens Who Care gathers more than 100 like-minded teens each quarter to donate $25 each, enabling them to make substantial change by combining their donations.

Sonja Michaluk, 19, Titusville, N.J.

The Communities Conservation Initiative aims to improve the accuracy, precision, and statistical power of environmental data to better measure and manage water quality changes over time.

David Ronnel, 18, Little Rock, Ark.

The Arkansas Holocaust Education Award Donation (AHEAD) Fund, which David founded, is the first and only nonprofit in Arkansas that awards teachers for outstanding Holocaust education. As a leader on the Holocaust Education Living Proposal (HELP) Committee comprised of volunteer advocates, David successfully pushed for the passage of a bill in 2021 to require Holocaust education in public schools statewide.

Danielle Wasserman, 17, St. Louis, Mo.

InvestNow Clubs are led by high school students from under-resourced communities and provide students and their families with investment knowledge and real-world financial literacy.


The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards celebrate tikkun olam, or “repairing the world.” The Helen Diller Family Foundation knows that supporting Jewish teen leadership today means creating and inspiring future generations of strong Jewish leaders in the global community. The Awards provide $36,000 for each recipient so that they may use it to further their initiative or education.