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Diller Teen Fellows North American Seminar 2013
When I initially told my friends that I would be taking part in a Jewish teen leadership program known as Diller Teen Fellows, they immediately asked: “What’s Diller?”
Diller is not the type of program that can be summed up with a few generic adjectives; it is so much more. It’s one of a kind! It gives Jewish teenagers the opportunity to explore Israeli culture not solely by visiting Israel, but by also being able to interact with Israeli teens that are participating in Diller in Israel, and work to better the Jewish community both in America and in the Holy Land.
During mid-March, the 8 Diller Teen Fellow cohorts across America and Israel participated in the North American Seminar (NAS): 10 days during which members of the various Israeli Diller cohorts traveled to meet with their sister Diller cohorts in America. For the Los Angeles Diller Teen Fellows, our sister group is located in Tel Aviv. During this time, each Israeli stayed at an American buddy’s home, all the while learning about how Judaism is integrated into their respective communities and making friendships with teenagers from across the world with whom they quickly realized have so much in common.
For me, NAS was a period filled with interesting initial encounters and a very sweet ending. Before the seminar, many of the fellows from both Israel and the US contacted each other through social media, getting to know one another and building bonds by texting their buddies and other members. However, no matter how much you text someone and stalk their Facebook profiles (I mean, we’ve all done it), that pales in comparison to the feeling of seeing and hearing the Israelis for the first time.
We commenced the North American Seminar with a Shabbaton at Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu. Though it was initially awkward getting used to the way Israelis spoke English and interacted, a few classic icebreakers softened the mood.
Among the multiple exercises we did as a group during the weekend, was one that required the fellows to discuss which aspects of Jewish life were more valuable than others. Each fellow had his own opinion and it was incredibly interesting to learn about all the different customs and backgrounds we all come from.
But I also found out that Americans and Israelis aren’t so different after all. In fact, Tel Aviv’s culture is quite similar to that of Los Angeles. Since both groups are coming from large metropolitan cities, we all contribute to Cohort 6’s eclectic and diverse vibe. Everyone brings a unique characteristic to the table, whether it’s a passion in politics, sports, or fashion. However, greater than all factors is that despite our differences in the way we were brought up, we are all ultimately united under our religion, and I think that was the most powerful discovery of all.
The last day of the Shabbaton was when I feel all the dots were connected and people really started forming long-lasting friendships with each other which only got stronger as the week progressed. Through the various ropes course activities, everyone learned the importance of teamwork and trust, and that each person plays a crucial role in the function of a group. It built the perfect foundation for the upcoming week, which was spent exploring our Jewish identity and bettering ourselves as leaders in the community.
Not only did these activities set a basis for the remainder of NAS, but they helped establish a strong sense of unity among 40 teenagers who have only known each other for 10 days. The amount that each fellow has grown from this short experience is tremendous and it made both the Los Angeles cohort and the Los Angeles/Tel Aviv partnership much stronger. Though it was sad to see the Israelis go home, it was a bittersweet ending, for we all knew that this wouldn’t be the last time we would see each other. All of us are still in contact through Facebook and I can honestly speak on behalf of every Los Angeles Diller Teen fellow to say that we are looking forward to seeing what Israel has in store for us in July and August during the 3-week Israeli Summer Seminar!
The Los Angeles Diller Teen Fellows Program is a partnership of the Helen Diller Family Foundation, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Westside Jewish Community Center.
For more informationa about the Diller Teen Fellows, please call 323-556-5207 or go to visit the website.