Jake Gardenhour participated in The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Global Teen Twinning Program in 2013 as a high school freshman. He was paired with Matan Sokolvsky in Israel, and they remain close friends. Jake shares his experience with us and the program’s impact on his life!
What was the most memorable experience of your Twinning journey?
The most memorable moments from my Twinning journey took place in Israel. The highlights for me were the unprogrammed elements during which my host family would take me out and about in Tel Aviv visiting their extended family and favorite places. Riding bikes, playing in the park, picnics on the beach, and BBQing at home were just some of the experiences I will remember forever.
What led you to participate in Twinning, and how did your time in the program impact your high school experience?
I joined the delegation partly as a member of my temple youth group experience and partly because my mom was involved in bringing the program to Stephen Wise. My parents were very committed to the idea of my building my own authentic experience with Israel. None of us could have known, however, how life changing it would be for me and our entire family.
How did the experience of living with your host family (and hosting your buddy) impact your views of the global Jewish community?
Living with my host family cemented my understanding that the Jewish community really is one big extended family and I am part of it wherever I go in the world. Since this experience, my own family has hosted our twin many times here in the U.S., and I have been to Israel many times staying with his. They have been a significant part of our family events, and I just can’t imagine a life where they are not in it.
What words of wisdom or advice would you share with teens who are slated to participate in The Jewish Federation’s Global Teen Twinning program?
This is truly a life-changing opportunity that should not be passed up. Being in this program has added new relationships and global friendships. It has expanded my family and friend group and helped me understand the Jewish world in a different context.
What are you currently up to? Studies? Activities? Leadership roles?
I am currently taking a year off of school, Columbia College Chicago, to write and develop my music. This summer I participated in Birthright Israel and spent six weeks in Israel with both of my amazing families.
The Jewish Federation’s Global Teen Twinning Program (GTTP) is the largest student delegation program in the Jewish world. Every year, 600 students in 6th-10th grades from 30 schools in Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, and Vilnius, Lithuania participate in this transformative program. To learn more, visit www.JewishLA.org.