Hear from some of the students in the 2020-21 cohort about their personal experiences participating in JTLI:

“Creating a kehila, or community with Jewish peers has always been important to me, and nowhere was it easier than in the Jewish Teen Leadership Institute. Those who participate in the program have the drive and ambition to continue to learn and progress as a teen, and as a Jewish teen entering an unfamiliar stage of their life. I have made connections with the other teens in the program through similar views on religion, leadership qualities and Israel. I feel that the other participants and I have created a safe space where anyone can voice their thoughts or opinion on whatever topic we are on. Additionally, it has been an incredible experience to meet all of the guest speakers, who come from all different walks of life, leadership and Judaism. This program has helped open my eyes to new ways to become a successful leader – and follower- in relation to Judaism and today’s political and social climate. I feel that this program is helping to set me up for success as I enter college in the fall, and everything that comes in my life after.” – Elana Renbaum


“JTLI has been such an amazing experience that I’m always anxiously awaiting the next class! I have gained so much insight into leadership and learned about leadership in a wide array of settings. One of the most important leadership skills that I’ve learned more about is the ability to work well with others, particularly those with different opinions. I’ve gained a far deeper understanding of the value in finding common ground in order to make better and longer-lasting changes. My favorite speaker has been Senator Ben Cardin. In his session I learned about the evolution of partisan politics and just how nuanced some leadership skills are, for instance, working across party lines. And I’ve already had many opportunities to apply this skill and many others that I’ve learned in JTLI – in Mock Trial, Youth and Government, and in my AP Research/Seminar class. And perhaps most significantly, I feel all the more confident in my readiness to create and lead a nonprofit organization, Safety Today Success Tomorrow (STST), dedicated to advocating student safety for all in education as a key component of students’ success in the future.” – Hana Frank


“JTLI is so much different than what I was expecting it to be. I was expecting the standard Hebrew school class – learning about some simple prayers, analyzing common Jewish texts, etc.… what I got was so much better. JTLI takes teachings from the entire Jewish library and puts them into the context of the real world. Instead of learning why Joseph was an important Jewish figure in biblical times, we can see how he can be a leading example for the modern-day LGBTQ+ community. Instead of discussing Moses as a guy who walked a bunch of people through the wilderness, we deconstructed his entire character, to find the true leadership qualities that made God choose him to lead his people. I highly recommend this program for those looking for a more advanced and inspiring style of Jewish learning.” – Hayden Polsky



“The JTLI program has provided me with a truly amazing experience. It gave me a unique opportunity to interact in a small group setting with speakers who could easily captivate large audiences. I especially enjoyed discussions dealing with social justice issues and current events with Senator Ben Cardin and Yolanda Savage-Narva. These discussions broadened my horizons by exposing me to new ideas and ways of looking at relevant issues of the day. It also provided me with tools to better communicate with others who may have opposing views. I am confident that my participation in the program will help me to build on my leadership skills in college and beyond. I look forward to the upcoming discussions and an opportunity to participate in future JTLI programs.” – Gabriel Lechtman



“JTLI has been a really cool program for me. I found particular value in hearing how the guest speakers use leadership qualities in their real-life experiences, like Ambassador Ross who shared how he worked with world leaders, navigating negotiations with both good and challenging leaders. I also learned from Senator Cardin as he talked about the values and principles he leans on to work through the challenges he is presented in these critical times. In addition to the speakers, I am enjoying the dialogue and discussions with Rabbi Steinlauf and the other students on the material we cover. This dialogue shows me different perspectives on important questions and strengthens my understanding of the connection between Jewish values and leadership. I expect to use the leadership lessons from JTLI throughout my life. From being a good listener and responding to what people say and not just talking over them, to understanding what it looks like to be an ineffective leader and working to avoid that, I hope that these lessons will guide me in my personal relationships as well as my academic and future goals.” – Matt Winter