Transcript of 2020 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awardee Video

2020 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awardee Video


Announcer Valerie Weisler: What does hope look like to you? Maybe it’s cleaner air or an engaged democracy. Maybe it’s justice and equity for all. Maybe it’s an act of kindness towards a stranger.

For over a decade, the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards have recognized young Jewish leaders who are inspiring change in their communities and spreading hope around the world. These organizers, innovators, and thought leaders are taking bold steps to build a stronger planet. They are creating community, engineering engagement, magnifying injustice, and producing action. Whether it’s the environment, equity, politics, or education, these young changemakers are making an impact each day. Inspiring hope and living the values of tikkun olam.

Susan Saal: Over the last decade, the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards program has truly created a community, a group of young people on the forefront of global change. At this moment when we need hope more than ever, the 2020 awardees are rising to meet that challenge. Helen Diller would’ve been so proud of their incredible vision, talent, commitment, and creativity. These young leaders are deeply motivated to build a better world, and they’re inspiring all of us to join them.

Olivia Seltzer: Every day, I wake up at 5:00 AM to read the news, create relevant stories, and rewrite them in a way that relates and connects to Gen Z’ers. Then I send this out to readers in over 100 countries all over the world, and this is what becomes The Cramm.

Traditional media is primarily written by and geared toward adults, and that’s not what we want. We want intellectual high-quality news. We want it presented in a way that truly speaks to us. I make sure to write The Cramm exactly how I talk to my friends. It really feels like a conversation, and through that, I’ve learned to make journalism my own and to go out and create change.

Our audience started to really expand and grow. We have two and a half million monthly readers, which is the coolest honor ever to have that many people reading my writing.

We have an editorial team, a social media team, a podcast team, organizing team, and we have over 500 ambassadors, all Gen Z’ers from America to Zambia, helping out on a daily basis to better message that we have the power and the tools to inform ourselves and participate in the making of our future.

Sonia Chajet Wides: I think that there’s two sides of social media. On the one hand, it’s why my generation is so in tune with what’s going on, so informed, so passionate, but I also think that that then can trick people into thinking that that’s the end all be all. And in reality, it’s really just the first step.

Teens Resist is a youth-led platform that’s dedicated to helping teens turn their passion and opinions into tangible actions. With any issue, there will be moments of national excitement that die down, but we really wanna make sure that there’s a sustained desire for action.

Whether you’re passionate about climate justice, racial justice, immigration, you can go to Teens Resist, and then have up-to-date actions that will make an impact in the here and now.

To be Jewish is to do tikkun olam and to be proactive in doing so. That philosophy runs through Teens Resist, and how I go about my own life.

Jonah Gottlieb: My name is Jonah Gottlieb. I’m the Executive Director of the National Children’s Campaign. I’m so grateful that each and every one of you for being here.

I have never once had to convince a young person to get passionate about politics. We don’t have to cultivate youth energy, we just have to harness it.

The mission of the National Children’s Campaign is to educate and empower young people to work with elected officials on behalf of our generation.

We deserve representation in our government. We launched in July 2019 with a presidential video forum. We were able to get eight presidential candidates to submit videos talking about the importance of youth activism.

Wanting to give a few words to folks at the National Children’s Campaign.

Sending email after email to these hugely influential people allowed us to get our foot in the door. And so what I can do now is give young people training to interact with elected officials, and we’re training young people how to actually write their own pieces of legislation.

Our team of high school students has written multiple pieces that have been introduced in the House and Senate, and all along the way, we’re bringing in thousands of young people to have a say in what goes on in our country.

Max Astrachan: At my high school, the environment was intolerable for students of minority groups. For example, there were many Holocaust jokes made towards Jewish students. Uh, there were whipping noises made at students of the African American community. Kids chanting, go back to your country, and other hateful words, and I decided it was time to make a change.

I founded Spirit Council, which is a student-led organization that combats all forms of discrimination throughout our school district. We work to diversify the curriculum, conduct assemblies, facilitate discussion, and train staff how to create a safer environment.

One of the accomplishments of Spirit that I’m most proud of is working with staff to design a new course called History and Literature of Black Civil Rights. When I hear tikkun olam, or repair the world, I think back to the rabbis who marched during the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. Martin Luther King.

It’s our job as Jews today to continue their work and get out in the streets and fight for change.

Sophie Draluck: Cycle Forward seeks to empower women by providing them with the menstrual products they need and by reducing period stigma through education and dialogue.

In places in the world where women’s education is already not as highly prioritized as the boys’ education, a lack of access to period products can pose a serious roadblock to education and empowerment.

I started really small with Cycle Forward, but then the word spread, and more people wanted to be involved. So now we have partnerships in Haiti, the U.K., and India. I’m really proud to state that Cycle Forward has donated over 90,000 tampons and pads to menstruaters in need around the globe.

I had the opportunity to take Cycle Forward to India and meet with girls affected by period poverty. I really felt the impact of Cycle Forward’s efforts to break down stigma, and to this day, Cycle Forward continues to partner with the Taj Foundation, ensuring that these girls have access to the products that they need to continue with their education.

Nathan Balk King: Walking into the General Assembly Hall in the United Nations, there’s sort of this constant implication of this is the room where it happens. This is the room where people talk about the problems the world faces.

I was able to attend the National High School Model UN Conference, and when I got there, I noticed that there weren’t any other Native Americans. So I decided that I have an obligation to gather a delegation of native high school students to bring back to the National High School Model UN Conference in New York City.

The best part for me was seeing my delegates, learning hands-on what it’s like to participate in political debate and argue for what you think is right. We had four Native American delegates in the permanent forum on indigenous issue simulation at the conference. They went up to the front of the room and introduced themselves in their native language and discussed with the entire room what land rights policies meant to them, how they impacted their communities, and they’re able to advocate for themselves and their families and their tribes is one of the best outcomes of the conference.

And this affirmation that your voice is just as important and as powerful as everyone else’s.

Noah Rubin: Knowing how to code opens up so many doors later on in life, but most elementary schools don’t teach computer programming.

I started Can Code when I was 14 to teach elementary schoolers concepts in computer programming, problem-solving and logic, and get them started on their journey in computer science, engineering, and other STEM fields. Coming into the workshops, our students know little to nothing about computer programming, and seeing them get excited has been so motivating to our team.

I’ve recruited and trained over a dozen teenagers. Everything from writing the curricula, working on the website, running the social media building Can Code into an official 501c3 nonprofit is run by teenagers.

Coming out of a Can Code workshop, these elementary schoolers not only have the basic concepts, but they also have passion to learn more on their own. Tikkun olam is about making a meaningful impact with your personal gift.

Abe Baker-Butler: Over 3 million teens are using e-cigarettes. They see their friends using them. They see a lack of prevention messaging about their negative effects, and they decide to use it. I realized that I had to speak up.

So when I first started working on this, I was a 15 year old taking on the e-cigarette industry, so it was David versus Goliath. I started by learning about the history of deceptive marketing tactics of appealing to youth, and then I started working in my school community to educate my peers. And together, we founded Students Against Nicotine.

We started speaking at county meetings about legislation like Tobacco 21, and we kept speaking. We kept raising our voices. We appeared on the local news. We created a PSA. I spoke at legislative hearings before the New York State Senate. I spoke at meetings with Governor Cuomo, and after years of advocacy, we were able to pass the No Vape New York package, which banned the sale of e-cigarettes at pharmacies and banned the use of flavors in e-cigarettes.

I’m extremely proud of this accomplishment because it’s having a major impact already on millions of teens.

Zachary Patterson: I was 16 years old when I was elected onto the San Diego Board of Education, and what motivated me was the idea of representing over 100,000 students and giving a voice to every single student regardless of their socioeconomic status, race or other perceived differences.

And I worked to create Student Advisory Board, a diverse set of students in middle and high school that feel passionate about their education system. In order to advise the school district and the best way to represent all students.

We’ll be able to make a district that is more student-driven and really incorporates every value that we as students want to see.

Student Voice is so important because we are the primary stakeholders of education. My project has transformed the way my school district functions, and I’ve learned time and time again throughout my Jewish values the idea of making decisions that benefit the most people.

I’m proud to say that my Judaism has helped me be the best activist that I can.

Peyton Barsel: When I was nine years old, I lost my father to a heart attack. My entire world changed that day. I felt such a numbness towards the world. I was like a shell of who I had once been. And when you are that small, that’s a really hard thing to grapple with.

I absolutely blamed myself for what was going on around me in my classrooms. I felt very isolated, and teachers and students alike ignored me.

My teachers must have seen what was going on, yet they did nothing to step in to help me or my brother. I know now that it wasn’t because they didn’t care, but it was because they didn’t know what to say or how to help either of us.

When I was 13, I had no idea I would ever get into the politics side of anything, but I realized that this was a systemic issue, and that isn’t something that I was willing to wait on. I worked on a bill to create teacher trainings as to how they could support children in their classroom who have gone through some sort of traumatic event.

Pretty much every adult along the way was like, there’s, there’s no way you can do this. Adults can’t pass bills into legislation. Why do you think that you can? And it took four years calling the Department of Education and saying, I’m gonna make this work.

On the day I found out Senate Bill 80 passed, it’s a feeling that I can’t describe because I’ve never put that much of myself into anything else.

I was not going to allow other students to have to experience something like this. And so the idea that the work that I’ve done could help maybe a little girl who’s just lost a parent, that’s the greatest feeling ever.

Jacob Cramer: We’ve all been experiencing some kind of social isolation right now during this pandemic, and I think we can all agree that it’s not the best feeling. Taking action to alleviate the loneliness epidemic has been part of my work for the past seven years. During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever.

So Love For The Elderly started out by me just writing some handwritten letters of love to our elders, and to this day, that’s one of Love For The Elderly’s main programs, anonymous strangers from all across the globe sending in their kind, uplifting messages to put a smile on a senior’s face.

So many people have joined my mission. I have a team of over 700 kindness ambassadors, and I think it just speaks volumes to the power of young people and social media to connect us all. In 2020 to date, we’ve sent 40,000 letters to 584 senior communities across the globe.

I construct my Jewish identity through supporting loving acts of kindness or Gemilut Hasadim. It helps me feel connected to the community that I love.

Hollis Berger: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital treats kids with cancer free of charge, and doctors and scientists are on the leading edge of cancer research.

I was inspired by St. Jude, and I was inspired by kids who have pediatric cancer and fell in love with the fact that they treat kids for free. So when I was nine years old, I decided to start a fundraiser of my own.

News Reporter: She’s a young fundraiser delivering big time with her feet.

So in the beginning, when I was nine and I first started it, my goal was honestly just to raise $50. I learned how to set up a website and a social media account, and I just said, Hey, I’m gonna be juggling every day of the summer, and in exchange, I want you to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

You can donate a dollar per juggle. So I started with only getting about three juggles, and then slowly but surely, I would get around 10 and then a hundred and then 200, and then all of a sudden I could get 1000 juggles. And the money and juggling just started to grow and grow. We were at $10,000 and then with more outreach and more emails and more social media posts started to raise $30,000, and then we reached a hundred thousand dollars.

People who donated really saw my passion. I didn’t just do this every month or every week. I would do this every single day. Six years later, my record is 4,202 consecutive juggles, and I’ve raised over $450,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

I created the Juggling for Jude challenge to inspire more people to participate. We’re seeing soccer teams do it. We’re seeing professional athletes, and so this has been such an incredible way to see my little fundraiser turn into a worldwide effort.

Liza Goldberg: I’ve spent the last couple of years living what’s really a double life. By morning, I’m in school, going to classes, and by afternoon I’m in a lab at NASA focused on mangrove ecosystems.

Mangrove forests absorb carbon and provide a natural barrier against storm surges. They’re very valuable when we’re looking at preventing future climate change.

I first developed the idea of Ecomap because I realized there was a really big gap in our understanding of mangrove loss. Ecomap uses several different satellites, and it filters in data in real-time to help coastal communities and conservation organizations define specific threats and prevent them from happening again in the future. Our science can actually make a real-world impact.

You don’t necessarily need a Ph.D. to start doing groundbreaking research. All you need is a love of the field that you’re studying and the time to pursue it.

Jamie Margolin: We have zero hours left to act on climate change. I have a question. When your children ask you, did you do absolutely everything in your power to stop the climate crisis, can you look your kid in the eye and say, I did everything I could?

Young people know that the climate crisis is not something that we can wait on. I co-founded Zero Hour to put pressure on our leaders to take urgent climate action and to mobilize young people.

We have almost 200 chapters around the world, and there are thousands and thousands of young people who have mobilized with us.

One of the events that was so amazing was the 2018 Youth Climate Marches. We marched in Washington, DC, and in 25 cities around the world, and it was just a beautiful moment of true action.

Another way that we take action is lobbying. Go to Capitol Hill, talk to different politicians, and we go into those rooms of power, and we push them and influence them to take the action we need them to take.

I learned so much from co-founding and co-leading Zero Hour that my junior year of high school, I decided to write a book called Youth to Power Your Voice and How to Use It, and it’s a book that I give anyone who asks a question about how to be an organizer. It’s really just about one step at a time. That’s really how you can take action and live out tikkun olam is just take that first step and then just keep stepping even when it’s hard.

Isha Clarke: People in our society are seen as disposable. Communities of color are consistently targeted by polluting corporations because our communities are viewed as having less political power. If we don’t fight to humanize communities, then we are not fighting against climate change.

This is about our lives. We’re fighting to imagine a full and beautiful future. You’ve come today to use your voice. It is time for the people most impacted to be the loudest.

The people on the front lines need to be the ones fighting environmental injustice. Know that your voice matters and that if you are speaking from the heart about justice, everyone needs to hear that.

On September 20th, 2019, Youth versus Apocalypse organized a huge climate strike in San Francisco. We had over 20,000 people come. It represented diverse, powerful community.

That has definitely been a highlight of my life and my activism. My sense of Judaism has always been rooted in social justice in tikkun olam. When I do this work, I feel passionate about continuing the struggle and the fight that my ancestors have been doing for centuries.

Announcer Valerie Weisler: The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awardees are leading movements around the globe and creating meaningful impact one person at a time. They are spreading hope for thinking big and taking action. Hope for a world that is kinder, more just, and sustainable. Hope for stronger, healthier communities. Hope that one person can change the world.