Elyse Forman: Tikkun olam is timeless. Generation after generation, Jewish people have continually committed to the pursuit of world repair and social justice. No matter how great the challenge, no matter how difficult the times, we relentlessly strive to be part of the solution to make a lasting impact on the world. Young people contribute new ideas, new solutions, and bold actions to this timeless tradition.
And the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards empowers and celebrates young Jewish change makers who are leading the way. Now a network of over 150 awardees, these leaders have taken on the greatest challenges facing our communities, creating opportunities to drive global impact and a chance to reimagine a world filled with equity, empathy, and unity. A world where we all live, the values of tikkun olam.
Dana Corvin: Over the last decade, the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards program has become an incredible community of young Jewish leaders who are truly changing the world. The 2021 awardees exemplify the Jewish value of tikkun olam, and I know that Helen Diller would’ve been so proud of their passion, their commitment, and tenacity.
At a time when we need inspiration more than ever, these young changemakers are building a better world and inspiring all of us to join them.
Maurice Korish: My mom works as an anesthesiologist and was put on the front lines ensuring that Covid 19 patients were receiving the best possible healthcare.
Hearing all of these stories she described inspired me to give back to the community. That’s when I created Delivered Together, which is now a nonprofit, incorporated organization to assist individuals who are homebound, elderly, or immunocompromised.
From a young age, I’ve always had a deep interest in computer science, and at the heart of Deliver Together is a unique location algorithm that I designed, which finds the closest geographic proximity between a volunteer and an individual in need.
The volunteer then ventures to the grocery store collects all the items, and drops them off in a socially-distanced manner, and there is such a sense of energy that all of our volunteers have, whether it may be a wave, a smile, or a socially distanced conversation.
These moments are what truly can brighten somebody’s day, even after the pandemic ends Deliver Together will only increase its efforts to serve homebound and immunocompromised individuals.
Daniel Goldberg: Zoomers to Boomers started as just a small group of friends in Santa Barbara looking to help, and today we are in 37 cities throughout the U.S., and we have completed over 15,000 deliveries to the elderly and immunocompromised.
In order to really grow the organization and scale it, I had to realize that this was not something I could run by myself. You know, being able to put young people in those leadership roles and bring them up so that they could build teams in other parts of the country, that’s the main reason we were able to impact the number of people that we have.
It’s not just me, it is all almost 1500 of our volunteers who are wanting to put their time out to help others. And it has been incredible just to see young people from across the country doing as tikkun olam says, repairing the world. It makes you so inspired and so excited because while we are all separated, the community is still intact and we’re still in this together.
Kelly Danielpour: There’s a Jewish value intent that is always very much spoken to me, Kol Yisrael Arevim Ze Ba’Ze, all of us taking responsibility for one another. It is my motivator and my inspiration for the work I do.
Vaccines are so key to our future and the health and prosperity of everyone around us, but misinformation has become extraordinarily pervasive.
So many teenagers want to be vaccinated, but they don’t have a choice. This is solely their parents’ decision, and it is such a difficult conversation to have with a parent.
VaxTeen fills a very important void by focusing on educating and empowering young people. With vaccine ambassadors all across the country, we are providing easy to understand, accurate, science-based information and the support to get vaccinated.
I am so proud of the impact we’ve had and I’m constantly inspired. So many teenagers feel this immense sense of responsibility to protect themselves and their communities.
Sarah Shaprio: Growing up with a mom who was a Jewish educator, I’ve always been immersed in the education sphere. When I was younger, I would work on lesson plans of my own, and my dream career is to someday be U.S. Secretary of Education.
When the pandemic started, I began to witness educational inequities being exacerbated in both my mom’s virtual classroom and my own. I knew I needed to do something.
The Covid Nineteen Project is an entirely teen-led initiative that offers free daily activities and one-on-one tutoring for elementary school students worldwide. With nearly 500 volunteers, we have been able to help over 3000 students in 14 different countries.
Our classes range from entrepreneurship to math skills to environmental science, anything you can imagine, and the fact that we’ve been able to have these teen mentors, the connections, the bonds that I’ve been able to see emerge, continually remind me of why I’m doing this.
To see all of these students have a newly ignited passion for learning and furthering their education, connecting openly with others from different cultures. It has been an experience of a lifetime.
Hope Shinderman: I am neurodivergent. I am autistic, have ADHD, and a number of other learning disabilities. During the pandemic, it was incredibly difficult because I wasn’t receiving that support that I was used to in the classroom.
When I created Bored of Boredom, I knew it was important to provide a space for neurodivergent people to learn and to thrive and to be happy, and I could not be more thrilled.
Bored of Boredom has absolutely taken off. We have about 2,500 people who receive individual tutoring who engage in our group classes and activities. We’ve had over a thousand volunteers from 50 countries around the world, and we have ensured their classes are made accessible and heal the world, not only through providing education, but creating an overwhelming sense of empathy.
Whenever I open up the computer in order to interact with my individual tutoring students, I see the joy in their eyes and just how much it impacts their lives.
Sarah Frank: I absolutely love the freedom that comes with writing. I’m able to create anything, be anyone, go anywhere. Unfortunately, lots of students can’t access the resources that they need to do well at their passions or in their schoolwork.
That’s what inspired me to start Simple Studies. Simple Studies provides pre-academic resources created for and by teenagers. Simple Studies has every kind of resource for every kind of student. We have study buddy matching, study guides, mentor matching, textbook trading, essay editing, and so much more.
I started Simple Studies just to help the students at my high school, but it grew a lot bigger than I could have possibly imagined. I’m proud to say it’s grown to help over 350,000 students from over 195 countries. Because of the impact we’ve made, Simple Studies became affiliated with both the United Nations and the U.S. Department of Education. Tikkun olam is all about finding what you can offer others, and that is the absolute best feeling in the world.
Daniel Solomon: I was born visually impaired with a disease called ocular albinism makes, it very hard to see and perceive the world around me.
Orchestra has always been a very important sense of community and belonging for me. Unfortunately, my school, similar to many others, simply did not have the resources to have a successful thriving arts program. And this is what inspired me to start the Pinecrest City Music Project.
We educate students to become holistic arts leaders, both in and outside of the classroom, promote public cultural arts events, and fundraise for arts education in our local schools. We’ve raised over $300,000 and we now educate over 500 students in eight weekly programs with a 31 person staff of all students.
Something else that’s very important to us is showcasing our students amazing work. This is a really special time where we’re able to bridge the gap, show our community why music education is so important in our schools.
Music was a community that brought me in when I was unable to do other things, and so through everything we do, inclusivity remains at the forefront of our mission to bring music education to all PMP Pride.
Sari Kaufman: On February 14th, you know, it was like any other day, my mom dropped me off for school. And then fourth period we heard gunshots.
911 Dispatcher: Possible shots fired at Stoneman Douglas High School.
Anderson Cooper: People’s lives were lost or forever changed this afternoon.
News Reporter: Since then, students have started the national movement known as March For Our Lives.
I was one of the lead organizers of the Parkland March for Our Lives. At the march, we registered more than 1000 voters, but I continued to notice a lot of young people didn’t always know who was on their ballot. And that’s when I came up with the idea of My Vote Project.
Anyone around the country can just type in their zip code, and no matter if you’re a Republican, Democrat, any party, you can find unbiased, well-researched information for your candidates.
We also organize candidate forums and policy discussions, and this gives a great opportunity for voters to meet their candidates before they walk into the voting booth.
I’m very proud to go from one of the lowest points in my life to then one of my highest points, and make sure that young people understand the power they have to create change in our world.
Lauren Tapper: It was definitely very challenging to be a teenager in the pandemic. I felt really separated from my friends. I felt alone, and social interaction and connection are so important to teenagers. It’s a point in our lives where we’re learning to find out who we are.
Every single person I talk to is experiencing the same feelings, and so that’s when I work to create Covid TV to help teens connect and share their stories and experiences with the pandemic.
It’s been amazing and rewarding to see that now Covid TV has reached over 15,000 global readers, and someone across the world in Israel or India felt the exact same way as me. Covid TV isn’t just a space for teens to connect. It’s also a platform that ignites social action. For example, our ambassadors sewed over 17,000 masks for healthcare workers and nursing homes, and raised over $16,000 for families who struggle to find jobs during the pandemic. No matter where the pandemic is headed, Covid TV will still be here to help support teens and provide the connection and emotional support that we have throughout the past year and a half.
Hannah Frazer: Middle school is a really tough age. Everything around you feels like it’s turning upside down, and then you add all these factors like social media, like technology, where it’s so much easier to just hide in your screens, rather than go up to people and start a conversation.
I created Question Connection, which is a conversation-starter card game that cultivates empathy and builds community.
Question Connection started out in my own local community, but now I have over 1,500 decks that have been distributed in 10 different countries. It’s available in Hebrew, English, Korean, Chinese, and Spanish.
What I love about the deck is that it’s very interactive. A lot of conversations are occurring very naturally. You see kids who start out not really feeling comfortable in their own skin start to gain confidence, and you see it not only when they’re talking to their peers, but also in their classroom participation.
The fact that teachers are building out space for Question Connection in their curriculums, it’s a great indicator of success.To see kids grow more confident and to grow into themselves is the biggest reward of all.
Emanuelle Sippy: I am really motivated by an education system that recognizes young people’s voice and partnership that there are not decisions about us without us.
News Anchor Brian Williams: Tell us what you’re doing, where you live in Kentucky.
Emanuelle Sippy: The idea of our Coping with Covid Project is to inform action around making schools more equitable and change the ways young people are involved. We’ve designed and disseminated a survey that reached 13,000 students.
Hearing from so many students across the state, we saw the pandemic was truly affecting their social and emotional health, their home lives, the responsibilities that they were juggling and what support they needed.
News Reporter: The data is vital for the reopening of schools.
News Reporter: The Student Voice Team will present the findings to the Kentucky Board of Education.
Emanuelle Sippy: Presenting to the Kentucky Board of Education was a really important moment to ensure that young people are seen as co-equal partners in shaping the future of schools.
Jordan Grabelle: My favorite thing about reading, it’s like taking a trip because every book you read is a new world with new characters. I was 10 years old when I launched Love Letters for Literacy, and I just really wanted to be able to do my part to help the children in my community learn how to read. And I never imagined that this would turn into a global nonprofit that has impacted more than 43,000 students from across the world.
Love Letters provides low income families with the resources needed to teach our children to read. We recruit volunteers to create handmade literacy packets. Over the years, we have had more than 19,600 volunteers from more than 30 countries across six continents.
And just thinking back to 10 year old me, it’s incredible to see strangers from across the world so inspired to join my mission to help children learn how to read.
Alana Weisberg: When I hand a book to a child who’s never owned their own book before, it feels like the best feeling in the world. When I started Bookworm Global, it was just my garage and my car, and today we have over 55,000 books donated and over 300 volunteers in the U.S., Mexico, and Africa.
I think that I was able to draw other people into my project when they saw my enthusiasm for it. We receive around a thousand books a week, so keeping up with the growth of Bookworm Global is so difficult, but now I have specific ambassadors who take on larger roles and they’re all enthusiastic to be involved and want to be involved.
It’s fun. It’s not like it’s a hard job to do because you know that you’re getting these books ready for a child who’s never had a book before. Really warms my heart that I’m able to impact my community and other communities that wouldn’t have access to reading.
Sam Friedman: I think technology is really interesting because it’s moving so fast and unlocking so much new potential, but it can be really difficult for senior citizens, and that was a big motivating aspect behind South Florida Tech For Seniors.
We pair student volunteers with senior citizens to provide free one-on-one technology support. I really love to see seniors’ faces light up when they can see their grandchildren on the other end. You could consider it a lifeline for senior citizens.
Another really important way we helped senior citizens during the pandemic was signing up for Covid 19 vaccines. The vaccine Rollout in Florida has been bumpy. We received hundreds of phone calls from seniors who were confused with the complicated online systems, so we set up a phone call hotline where seniors could speak with our volunteers who would then relay their information into these online systems, booking them vaccine appointments so they could stay protected and healthy during the pandemic.
For me, being Jewish has always meant taking something that you’re really passionate about and using that to help other people around you.
Jerry Orans: My whole life I’ve always loved engineering and robotics. Being able to creatively think about a problem and adopt a solution is really what I’m good at.
As I was watching the news and reading about how all these PPE shortages were impacting doctors and nurses, I immediately began to try and think, how can I help with this? That’s when it suddenly clicked that myself and a lot of my friends all had 3D printers.
News Reporter: It’s a grassroots movement spearheaded by teenage robotics wiz Jerry Orans, who started the Hack the Pandemic organization.
We started to get requests from hospitals asking for thousands of plastic face shields, and it became very clear we needed to scale the organization and get as many makers involved as possible. I very quickly started calling around to teenagers, other students, oh, you have this equipment so you can produce X, Y, and Z, and we were really able to get production ramped up.
We’ve now scaled to over 200 makers, and over the course of the pandemic have produced more than 20,000 face shields for hospitals in need.
Hack the Pandemic is all about creativity and using my skills to spark change.
Elyse Forman: The 2021 Diller Teen Tikkun Olum awardees continue the timeless tradition of tikkun olam. Their fresh approaches to impacting the world’s greatest challenges, give us all hope and serve as a reminder that it’s never too late, too early, or too often to give back and make the world a better place.