Press Release: 15 Young Leaders Receive Prestigious National Award


Editor’s Note: The Helen Diller Family Foundation is dedicated to supporting the next generation of American philanthropists and visionaries. If you are a young leader who dreams of transforming society, don’t hesitate to apply for consideration at– the Foundation is now accepting submissions for next year’s Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award.



The Helen Diller Family Foundation Hosts National Event Honoring Teens Committed to Social Good


SAN FRANCISCO, CA, August 24, 2015 —The Helen Diller Family Foundation today awarded 15 young leaders from California and across the nation the 2015 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards in recognition of their exceptional leadership and commitment to tikkun olam, repairing the world.  Each teen was awarded $36,000 to support their philanthropic vision or further educational pursuits during a luncheon at San Francisco’s Julia Morgan Ballroom.
Working in diverse communities across the nation, the 15 Diller Award recipients have taken on problems as daunting as economic inequality, political apathy, world hunger, access to education and a host of critical issues they are determined to solve. Whether that means making college scholarships available to underprivileged youth, mobilizing over 150,000 young people and sparking political conversations through social media, facilitating awareness and resolution for victims of school bullying, or reaching out to peers around the world who suffer from illness and inequality, these teens are tackling society’s most challenging issues in unique and meaningful ways.
Today’s celebration was the culmination of a weekend-long networking and mentoring initiative where teens exchanged ideas with other socially conscious peers and interacted with Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award alumni from years past who are continuing their social justice work. Recipients participated in a young entrepreneur panel discussion, exchanging business insights and strategies for improving and expanding current and future ventures. Each teen brought their projects to life with an interactive showcase prior to the awards luncheon, as Bay Area dignitaries and business innovators offered congratulations on the teens’ successes.
A highlight of the afternoon was the debut of a special documentary-style video that featured the accomplishments of all 15 teens in a behind-the-scenes visual chronicle of their philanthropic endeavors.  Spotlighting the impact and diversity of each recipient’s vision, the video, which is available here, illustrates the power of commitment, passion, and leadership behind each project, and inspires hope for viable solutions to even the world’s biggest problems.

Created by Bay Area philanthropist Helen Diller in 2007 as a way to recognize the next generation of philanthropic visionaries and provide them with support and resources in their drive to make the world a better place, the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards initiative has given more than $2.5 million to 70 Jewish teens from more than 20 US communities in its nine year history. With Helen Diller’s passing earlier this year, 2015 marks a new chapter for the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which plans to continue to fund and support the Awards as a legacy to her vision and values.

“The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards program was so important to my mom because it recognizes and supports teens that are an inspiration and example for us all,” said Jackie Safier, Helen Diller’s daughter and President of the Helen Diller Family Foundation.  “We are extremely gratified to be able to acknowledge the work of these 15 teens in a way that helps them build confidence to tackle even bigger problems on a national and global scale. I am so pleased to welcome these young change makers to our alumni group of 55 tikkun olam award winners and we all look forward to witnessing their journeys as they make this a better world.”
The 2015 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 at the time of nomination, 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, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, to develop leadership in teens and enhance Jewish education. Now in its 15th year of giving, the Foundation has granted more than $220 million to support education, the arts, medical research and development, leadership training programs for teens, and many other charitable endeavors.
The 2015 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award recipients are:

  • Shira Alcouloumre, 16, Laguna Beach, CA: Laguna Friends in Need – organized a project to support Hispanic day laborers by helping to develop a safe gathering site, providing ESL classes, and helping to provide for the needs of workers and their families.
  • Zachary Azrael, 18, Baltimore, MD: Tutoring Outreach Program (T.O.P.) – recruits and engages teen volunteers in programs that tutor and mentor Baltimore youth at high risk for incarceration, through academic clubs and extracurricular activities.
    • Sophie Bernstein, 15, St. Louis, MO: Go Healthy St. Louis – mobilizes community members and volunteers to fight hunger and promote nutrition in low-income communities, by establishing and maintaining vegetable gardens that support local food banks.
    • Liesl Eibschutz, 17, San Luis Obispo, CA: SOS (Strengthen Our School) – formed a club that raises funds that enable her school to provide emergency assistance, fundamental necessities, and college scholarships to its homeless and/or low-income students.
    • Emily Eisner, 16, Encino, CA: Play it Forward – developed an organization that provides underfunded schools with the sports equipment they most need, helping students learn team-building skills and confidence through physical education.
    • Hart Fogel, 16, Mill Valley, CA: Marin City Community Garden Project – forged a partnership between the Marin City Community Garden and Marin County Youth Court, strengthening community and restorative justice by enabling youth offenders to log service hours alongside other area volunteers in the garden.
    • Jake Galant, 17, Dallas, TX: Tera Byte Outreach – created and runs a computer programming boot camp designed to helping low-income youth acquire marketable skills in computer science through building video games.
    • Riley Gantt, 14, Sherman Oaks, CA: Rainbow Pack – initiated an organization that provides backpacks and essential school supplies to elementary students below the poverty line, equipping them for success regardless of socioeconomic background.
    • Marissa Hacker, 18, Voorhees, NJ: Fantastic Friends started a social organization that helps special needs students feel accepted, build friendships, and promote understanding with their typically-developing peers.
    • Matthew Kaplan, 18, Phoenix, AZ: The Be ONE Project formulated a peer-to-peer initiative that engages middle school students nationwide in anti-bullying games and guided discussions to create a more inclusive school environment.
      • Jessica Markowitz, 19, Seattle, WA: Richard’s Rwanda – IMPUHWE founded a youth-driven organization that raises money to fund educational opportunities for girls in Rwanda, while combating gender discrimination and promoting global understanding of the Rwandan genocide.
      • Lauren Maunus, 17, Palm City, FL: school lunch and nutrition information – developed an initiative that promotes school nutrition and food allergy management through innovative software and policy reform.
      • Benjamin Moelis, 18, Hewlett, NY: The Magic Arrows initiated development of a game that helps children with Fragile-X Syndrome minimize anxiety-induced episodes while maximizing personal growth and improving their quality of life.
      • Ruthie Perlman, 17, Greenville, SC: Gesher BBYO – organized a South Carolina chapter of the BBYO Jewish youth organization, helping previously isolated local teens connect and develop pride in their Jewish identity.
      • Andrew Plotch, 19, Fair Lawn, NJ: Fight Apathy Campaign designed a nationwide campaign that sparks discussion among high school students about critical social issues

Nominations for the 2016 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards open today. For forms and more information, please visit or contact Ariane Sloan at (212) 561-7463 or

One thought on “Press Release: 15 Young Leaders Receive Prestigious National Award

  1. What a MAH-velous group of young people! Their ideas and efforts make me remember how very much nachas I personally gleaned when I taught exceptionally bright, involved teens. May G-d bless and keep them, for our country sorely needs their vision and their muscle.

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