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An Interview with Jake Schochet, Global Teen Twinning Alum

The Jewish Federation’s Global Teen Twinning Program is the largest student delegation exchange in the Jewish world. Every year, 600 students in 6th-10th grades from 35 schools in Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, Israel, and Vilnius, Lithuania participate in this transformative experience. They live in each other’s homes, study in their partner schools, and immerse themselves in the local culture.

Since Twinning’s inception in 1997, more than 60,000 middle school and high school students, parents, and faculty have built lasting relationships with the greater Jewish community and the state of Israel through reciprocal student delegation exchanges, jointly prepared curricula, and teacher training.

Jake Schochet attended Maimonides Academy and participated in the Global Teen Twinning Program in March 2013 when he was in 6th grade. He traveled to Israel and had the time of his life! Read more about his experience.

What led me to participate in the Global Teen Twinning Program was that my sister had participated in it two years prior and loved it. I was eager to experience meeting and living with a true Israeli family and visiting Israel. My participation in this program led me to be more accepting of all Jews around the world and strengthened my personal affinity toward Israel. I believe this experience planted early seeds in me that germinated and grew into my love of Israel and my current interest and involvement with Bnei Akiva.

Traveling to Israel truly opened my eyes. I learned that regardless of the cultural differences, time zones, and language barriers, all Jews are one. I found more similarities than I thought I would, and this made an everlasting impression on me as a proud Jew. I felt very connected to people I had not known for long and became even closer to a land I did not know as my home until then. I will always remember that feeling of warmth and comfort I found in my fellow Jews. I now know that I want to spend my life spreading that warmth to other Jews and people I encounter. Experiencing a foreign concept of having school on Sunday and none on Friday didn’t matter after the trip. It made me realize that I shared more similarities than I did differences with these people. We were all united with the same love of Torah and Judaism in the Jewish homeland of Israel.

Being so warmly received and welcomed by a family to whom I was a virtual stranger impacted me greatly. The warmth and generosity they displayed was the truest example of a Jew welcoming a fellow Jew into their family. My hosts greeted me with personalized clothing, insisted on taking me shopping and purchasing snacks for my siblings back home, and even included my actual older sister who was studying that year in Jerusalem in a family dinner and outing. As I’ve grown older, I remember this experience and try to emulate the love they showed me in all my interactions with fellow Jews anywhere and everywhere.

I would tell anyone who has the opportunity to participate in the Global Teen Twinning Program to grab it. Israel is an amazing place to visit and the opportunity to live there as a member of an Israeli family and not just a visiting tourist is incredibly unique and worthwhile.

I’m currently in my junior year at Valley Torah High School where I have held positions in student government for the past two years and founded a school program revolving around finding opportunities to perform Chesed (good deeds). I serve as Co-president of the Etta Israel Youth Board, volunteer weekly for Chai Lifeline´s Ishine program, and am the Rosh Snif (Chapter Head) of the North Hollywood Bnei Akiva. I can clearly reflect and see that I would not be the same person I am today if it weren’t for this program. Since middle school and this specific trip, I have grown immensely, which has allowed me to broaden my interests and passions. I have learned the importance of being an independent individual, which has contributed to my growth and upholding leadership positions. In addition to independence, this experience personally influenced me to always be looking out for my fellow Jews and dedicate much of my free time to giving back to my community.

To learn more about the Federation’s Global Teen Twinning Program, e-mail MKetayi@JewishLA.org.

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