Ten U.S. Teens Rewarded for Taking on Poverty, Autism and Teen Empowerment

The Helen Diller Family Foundation recently announced the recipients of the 2013 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards. Ten young leaders in volunteerism will each receive $36,000 in recognition of their leadership, innovation and commitment to making the world a better place. Now in its seventh year, the 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. From San Francisco to Hastings-on-Hudson, each of these 2013 recipients have demonstrated a commitment to tikkun olam, a central precept of Judaism meaning to repair the world. The teens have provided unique solutions to some of our world’s most critical social issues by developing projects that support social justice, equality and education, environmental sustainability and engagement opportunities for their peers. Recipients of the 2013 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards are:

  • Jake Bernstein, 19, St. Louis, MO: VolunTEENnation – a nonprofit that connects youth with available volunteer opportunities across the country.
  • Skylar Dorosin, 18, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ido Kedar, 17, West Hills, CA: Ido in AutismLand – an awareness initiative that provides first-hand insight into the hidden realities of those living with nonverbal autism for educators, families and others.
  • 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.
  • Nick Lowinger, 15, Cranston, RI: Gotta Have Sole – a foundation that donates new footwear to children living in homeless shelters 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.
  • Talia Young, 18, Lafayette, CA: Looking for Home – a poetry club that works to empower high school students with confidence and eliminate stereotypes.

“I’m so gratified to be able to support the creativity and passion of these remarkable teens. And I hope the Awards will inspire teens—and adults—to take action to improve the world around them,” said Helen Diller, president of the Helen Diller Family Foundation. “We are so pleased that beginning this year we are able to recognize teens not just from California, but from across the entire U.S. and that our contribution will support the teens’ important work and impact."

Past Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award recipients have engaged with world leaders and been acknowledged for their social action service by prestigious institutions, including the Clinton Global Initiative and the White House. Whether it’s providing school supplies for 14,000 children in Haiti or implementing sustainable solar energy systems for schools that save one million dollars annually, these teens aren’t waiting until they “grow up” to be entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

2010 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award recipient Jason Bade was recognized and awarded for incorporating solar panels and a recycling program for his high school. The installment of the solar panels saves Foster City’s school district over $1 million annually.

“The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards recognize some of our nation’s brightest Jewish teens for taking action that brings about meaningful social change,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America. “We congratulate the 2013 recipients and applaud the Helen Diller Family Foundation for focusing community attention on teens making a real difference in the world.”

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. A celebratory luncheon honoring the teens will be held in San Francisco on Monday, August 26, 2013.

The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards program was founded, and continues to be generously funded, by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco. To learn more, contact Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards Program Assistant Amanda Cohen or call 415.512.6432. Read more about the 2013 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award recipients and their projects, or nominate an exceptional teen for the 2014 awards.



July 25, 2013


Amanda Cohen