By Adam Grobman
Max Astrachan, a local Jewish teen and Sababa student, is among 15 teen leaders announced as recipients of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards.
Presented by the Hellen Diller Family Foundation, the award recognizes teens working across the globe to address urgent issues, from racial justice to climate change to supporting seniors.
Max recognized that discrimination of all types is rampant in high schools across America. After witnessing firsthand the detrimental effects of harassment at his school, Cumberland Valley High School, Max founded the Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (SPIRIT) Council.
SPIRIT addresses discrimination by organizing diversity programs, school-wide assemblies and trainings, revising policy, changing curriculum, and networking with other diversity groups across the country to create models for ending discrimination, according to a press release.
“Max has really put the values of tikkun olam in to powerful action,” said Jen Smith, Executive Director of the Helen Diller Family Foundation Programs. “He not only wanted to make a difference in the moment, but to create something that would have long-term impact and change the experience of those around him.”
Max was exposed to social justice advocates through BBYO leadership conferences, including Jonathan Greenblatt of ADL and U.S. soccer great Abby Wambach. “I was motivated to fight for others after interacting with these prominent change agents,” Max said in a press release. “I was also inspired by reading the novel, The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. The narrative challenged me to think critically about the degree of force used by police officers and demonstrates that community members must actively work together on solutions to prevent racism and injustice.”
Since founding SPIRIT, Cumberland Valley High School has noted a significant reduction in discrimination incidents and the district handbook has been updated to use inclusive policies and language.
“Students are learning to be more respectful of cultural differences and are more aware of their biases and stereotypes,” says Max. “SPIRIT has helped shape new perspectives and increased understanding in our school and our larger community. Of course, this work must continue and be expanded.”
The Diller Award provides $36,000 to support the work of recipients. Max plans to use the scholarship to fund his education at the Stern Business School at New York University. His plan is to major in Business with a concentration in Marketing and to become a successful entrepreneur who fights for social justice and gives back to his community.