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. The Global Teen Twinning Coordinators recently traveled to Thessaloniki, Greece, and Sofia, Bulgaria for the 16th Joint Teachers Seminar (JTS). We recently interviewed Sabrina Brotons, Global Teen Twinning Coordinator and Assistant Director of Experiential Education at Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay in California, about her experience at JTS!
Tell us a little bit about your experience as a Global Teen Twinning Program Coordinator. What has the highlight been?
It has been such an amazing experience being Coordinator for Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay (CNT). I love working with all of our students and making the connection with our twinning school, Ironi Hey, in Tel Aviv. This is such an important and vital program for our community. My favorite part of the program is seeing the friendships made by both schools. The program has a strong impact on our students and is a major highlight of their Jewish high school experience. It is so special and meaningful to see them not only making new friends, but also absorbing and learning about Israel. We have incorporated tikkun olam projects as part of the curriculum, both in Israel and America. One of the of most memorable days was volunteering with Sudanese refugee children in South Tel Aviv. To combine our love for Israel and the Jewish value of tikkun olam — to repair the world — felt so rewarding. Our students will always remember that day. When we hosted the Ironi Hey students, we brought them to a homeless shelter in Long Beach, which also was a highlight for them. I want to thank everyone at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and in Israel for all the thought and care they put into the Global Teen Twinning Program. I also wanted to show appreciation to Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei and Ami Berlin, from Congregation Ner Tamid, for giving me the opportunity to attend JTS along with all of their planning and support of all of our delegations. Finally, I’d like to express gratitude to my counterpart, Anat Margalit from Ironi Hey, for her endless amount of enthusiasm and hard work.
What did you learn or experience during JTS that you brought back to include in your teaching and curriculum?
It was truly an unforgettable experience. I am excited to use all of the information and resources provided. We have a tarbut (culture) class in our religious school that I look forward to sharing about Jewish life from Greece and Bulgaria. One of my favorite new resources is Centropa — I love that it is a central video hub to see Jewish family stories made by them. We also had the amazing opportunity to learn from the locals in person, which makes their stories more impactful. During JTS, I loved all the workshops and how the information can be used at our schools. One example included the closing reflection session. The Federation staff modeled the session thoughtfully so we can use it with our students. I loved that there were visual aids and written components to allow for processing such an amazing, jam-packed experience.
Describe one or more parts of JTS and how it connected to the Global Teen Twinning Program.
There are many correlations between the JTS and Global Teen Twinning. Everything was beautifully organized, planned, and coordinated by The Jewish Federation. The “Leadership in Action” series featured presentations by fellow coordinators from the other schools. I enjoyed learning from my colleagues and hearing their best practices. Some of the coordinators at JTS have been there all 20 years since the establishment of Global Teen Twinning. Being able to utilize their knowledge was extremely effective for our own learning experience. Face-to-face communication is so important, and to have the opportunity to discuss our goals for next year was much better in person than having a phone meeting. We had the opportunity to learn about Greece and Bulgaria and also embrace the goals of the Global Teen Twinning Program. The JTS created the connections between schools and communities while learning in a new place. Because This educational cross-cultural program, it demonstrates how we can all organically learn, live, and work together — even if it was just for a brief week.
The Global Teen Twinning Program’s 16th Joint Teachers Seminar (JTS) was held at the start of July in Thessaloniki, Greece and Sofia, Bulgaria, bringing together 45 program educators from Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, and Vilnius. Through Federation-led workshops, meetings with local community leaders, and site visits, the Twinning coordinators expanded their knowledge of Sephardic Jewry, both broadly and in these specific communities, and worked together to identify practical, meaningful, and creative ways to apply the knowledge with future Twinning delegations. The JTS cultivated personal and professional connections and strengthened the relationships between all program partners as we head into the 2018-19 school year.
To learn more, visit www.JewishLA.org/twinning.