Latest News

California philanthropist gives $360,000 to 10 Jewish teens to reward social action services

By Mason White 11:37 AM August 27, 2013
Skylar Dorosin 

By: Debbie Gross
—The Helen Diller Family Foundation today awarded 10 teenagers from California and cities across the nation with the 2013 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award in recognition of their leadership, innovation and commitment to making the world a better place.

Recipients were honored with a celebratory luncheon at San Francisco’s Julia Morgan Ballroom, where each teen was awarded $36,000 in support of their philanthropic vision or to further educational pursuits.

Special guests, including Israeli Consul General Andy David, Israeli Deputy Consul Eyal Naor, four-time Olympian Brenda Villa, San Francisco Magazine President and Publisher Steven Dinkelspiel and Bay Area Philanthropist Laura Lauder attended the luncheon. Local congressional and mayoral offices also recognized each teen with letters of commendations.

A special video showcasing the projects of all 10 teens was presented, highlighting their inspirations, future project goals, and the guiding spirit of tikkun olam, a central precept of Judaism meaning to repair the world. Youth helping other youth, and the importance of creating a community among peers, emerged as common project themes.

Now in its seventh year, the awards program has granted a total of nearly $1.5 million to further the vision of 40 Jewish teens. This is the inaugural year that the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards have been offered nationally, recognizing teens both inside and outside of California. It is also the first year the Jewish Federations of North America has been an active partner promoting the awards program among Jewish Community Federations across the United States.

“After six years honoring teens in California, we are so excited to be able to recognize young people from across the nation this year,” said Helen Diller, president of the Helen Diller Family Foundation. “From Rhode Island to Iowa to Palo Alto, it’s clear these creative teens are already making a huge impact on the world—we are thrilled to support them and help further their work that addresses critical social issues.”

The 2013 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award recipients are:

· Jake Bernstein, 19, St. Louis, MO: VolunTEENnation – a nonprofit that connects youth with available volunteer opportunities across the country. Jake has facilitated more than 16,000 young people to find ways to give back in their communities, and each state has at least 70 documented volunteer opportunities for teens.

· Skylar Dorosin, 19, Palo Alto, CA: Project 2020 – a program that teaches swimming and water polo to girls from low-income communities, boosting their self-confidence and fostering friendships. Project 2020 has taught swimming and water polo to more than 250 girls from schools, including Beechwood, Brentwood Academy, Hoover Elementary and St. Elizabeth Seton.

· Ellie Dubin, 17, Beverly Hills, CA: Kesem Shel Shir – a musical theatre program that fosters self-esteem, collaboration and language skills for underprivileged American and Israeli children. Ellie has orchestrated multiple musical theatre programs for students in her community, Israel and Costa Rica.

· Jordan Elist, 18, Beverly Hills, CA: Save a Bottle, Save a Life – a program that collects bottles and cans and uses the CRV proceeds to support the work of food pantries. Save a Bottle, Save a Life has raised $22,500 and has transformed countless bags of cans and bottles into nearly 30,000 pounds of canned goods distributed to 400 clients of partner food banks.

· Ben Hirschfeld, 19, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY: Lit! Solar – a project that supports children’s health and literacy, using a revolving fund to replace dangerous kerosene lamps with safe solar lanterns. Lit! Solar has helped more than 10,000 Kenyan kids and families, as well as prevented thousands of tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere simply by providing a $7 lantern.

· Ido Kedar, 17, West Hills, CA: Ido in Autismland – an awareness initiative that provides first-hand insight into the hidden capabilities of those living with nonverbal autism for educators, families and others. Ido blogs regularly, presents at conferences and has published a book, Ido in Autismland, that has helped changed the way that people understand nonverbal autism.

· Talia Leman, 18, Waukee, IA: RandomKid – a website that provides tools and resources for youth to launch and lead their own community service projects and endeavors. RandomKid has facilitated the efforts of 12 million youth from 20 countries bringing aid on four continents, reporting $11 million for youth’s causes and delivering a 100%-1,000% return for every dollar invested.

· Nick Lowinger, 15, Cranston, RI: Gotta Have Sole – a foundation that donates new footwear to children living in homeless shelters across the country. Gotta Have Sole Foundation has gathered more than 1,000 volunteers to help Nick donate new shoes to more than 9,000 children living in homeless shelters in 15 states across the country.

· Max Wallack, 17, Natick, MA: PuzzlesToRemember – a nonprofit that designs, collects and distributes puzzles to serve as therapeutic tools for those living with Alzheimer’s. Max published a book for caregivers and, to date, has supported the distribution of more than 23,000 puzzles to 2,000 nursing facilities around the world.

· Talia Young, 19, Lafayette, CA: Looking for Home – a poetry club that works to empower high school students with confidence and to eliminate stereotypes. Looking for Home has created a safe space for teens from five public, private and parochial schools in San Francisco, which inspired Talia to develop a guide featuring students’ poetry and curriculum ideas for other Bay Area schools to launch similar programs.

The 2013 recipients were selected by committees of educators and community leaders from across the United States. Candidates completed a detailed application describing their projects, goals, inspirations and challenges, fundraising tactics and ultimate accomplishments. Eligible applicants were United States residents, between 13 and 19 years old who self-identify as Jewish.

The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards is one of a number of projects funded by the Helen Diller Family Foundation to develop leadership in teens and enhance Jewish education. Bay Area philanthropist Helen Diller believes that charitable giving is a fundamental part of living a full and accountable life.

Now in its 13th year of giving, the Foundation has granted more than $200 million to support education, the arts, medical research and development, leadership training programs for teens and many other charitable endeavors.