The Jewish Federation’s Global Teen Twinning Program is the largest student delegation program in the Jewish world. Every year, hundreds of students in 8th-11th grades from 21 schools in Los Angeles; Tel Aviv; and Vilnius, Lithuania participate in this transformative program. One of our participants, Michaela Springer, shares her experience.
By Guest Blogger Michaela Springer
What year were you involved in the Global Teen Twinning Program and what school and grade were you in?
From March 2018-January 2019. I started as a freshman, and now I am a junior at Los Angeles Hebrew High School.
What was the most memorable experience of your Twinning journey?
As cliché as this may sound, the GTTP truly changed my life. It is difficult to choose one memorable experience, so I am going to share a few. The Americans involved in the program started as classmates — some of us knew each other and were friends, while others barely knew each other’s names. By the end of the Twinning program, I can wholeheartedly say that we had become a family. In Israel, we had a lot of free time to spend in the late afternoons and evenings. This allowed for all of us to work together to create social plans and, overall, brought us much closer. All the time that we spent together as a group allowed for one-on-one and group bonding between everyone in the program. Not only do I feel bonded to the Americans, but I feel very close to the Israelis as well. I can say that I have best friends in Israel! How many Californian teens can say that?
What led you to participate in Twinning, and how did your time in the program impact your elementary and high school experience?
I participated in the GTTP because I learned about it at LA Hebrew High School. My time in the program impacted me in a variety of ways. For instance, the friends that I made — Americans and Israelis — are all very different people, who if not placed in this program, I probably would not be close with today. Additionally, living in somebody else’s house across the world gave me a sense of independence. In Israel, all the kids just leave their houses and walk around whenever they want, which is something that the Americans weren’t really used to. Doing this was new, and in a way, scary. I was wandering around a foreign country with a girl who I had only known for 10 days beforehand. Overall, it was an incredible learning and growing experience, and I had so much fun!
How did the experience of living with your host family (and hosting your buddy) impact your views of the global Jewish community?
Living with and hosting my partner gave me a more well-rounded perspective on Jews around the world. It came as a shock to the Israelis when we went to Kabbalat Shabbat services in America. The synagogue welcomed them with open arms. I guess they were not used to the type of prayers that we were reciting. They kept asking, “Do you know what this translates to? Do you know what you’re saying?” This experience showed me that Jews are different everywhere you go, but we are also the same in a sense. We have the same feeling of community when we are together.
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?
I would say just go for it. This was hands down the BEST experience of my life. When we left Israel, EVERYBODY was crying. There was not a single kid, Israeli or American, with dry eyes. The goodbyes will be hard, but the memories are well worth it. I FaceTime my closest friend in Israel usually every Sunday night. We are best friends. Be prepared for things not to go as planned. It teaches you how to be flexible. Also, BE INCLUSIVE of everybody. Everyone wants to enjoy their time in Israel/America. Nobody wants to worry about feeling excluded from the group. And most importantly, live in the moment and HAVE FUN!!!!
What are you currently up to? Studies? Activities? Leadership role?
I am a junior at Agoura High School. It’s going to be a challenging year in honors and AP classes. Additionally, I am on Link Crew at school. I am on the Executive Board as Commissioner of Fundraising. In my free time, I attend events with my youth group USY and I attend LA Hebrew High. I also love to play guitar and hang out with my friends.