Harrison Angoff of South Orange, who is a student at Columbia High School, has just returned from participating in a prestigious international leadership program, through which he was part of a delegation of teens from MetroWest New Jersey.
As part of the selective Diller Teen Fellows 15-month international leadership program, delegations of Jewish teens from six North American communities, including MetroWest New Jersey, have just returned from their summer experience in Israel. Organized by Diller Teen Initiatives, a program of the Helen Diller Family Foundation, the Diller Teen Fellows program pairs cohorts of incoming high school juniors from North American communities with cohorts of Israeli students their same age.
"The Diller journey was life changing," Angoff said. "Not only did I experience the long history of the Jewish people with my best friends, I was exposed to Israeli culture by living with a family. By the end of the journey, both touring and living with a family, I finally found my Jewish identity, which is one of the key aspects of the Diller program."
This year, 120 North American students were in Israel between July 18 and August 8. Nineteen of the students were part of MetroWest’s delegation. Through educational workshops, weekend retreats and the creation and implementation of social service projects in each partner community throughout the year, the Diller Teen Fellows program empowers participants to be engaged, effective leaders with a strong understanding of their Jewish identity and respect for Jewish pluralism and peoplehood.
“These young teens are our future,” said Helen Diller of the Helen Diller Family Foundation. “We need to invest in them, show them they can lead us, and empower them to help repair the world. It fills me with pride to know that these teens will unite under the banner of Jewish peoplehood, learning to guide the next generation in meaningful pursuits during this inspiring trip to Israel.”
“This is not a typical Israel experience,” said Tal Gale, Diller Teen Fellows Co-Director. “Our teens are emerging leaders in their own communities who are going to Israel not just to explore their roots, but to continue developing real relationships with their Israeli counterparts. They have the opportunity to have shared experiences and to see first-hand the successes and challenges of diverse Jewish communities. As a people of a dispersed existence we must ensure that current and future leaders of the Jewish people choose and have the capability to make decisions and effect change in a global context.”
Liat Cohen Raviv, Co-Director of the program, adds, “In the Diller Teen Fellows Program, exploration of Jewish peoplehood is intentional and pervasive. Through the acquisition of knowledge and skills, peoplehood experiences and personal connection to the Jewish narrative, teens become active leaders within and beyond this experiment in Jewish peoplehood, providing us insight into our collective future, our future identity.”
This year, six Diller Teen Fellows partnerships participated in the Israel Summer Seminar:
- San Francisco/Upper Galilee
- Los Angeles/Tel Aviv
- MetroWest New Jersey/Rishon LeZion
- Montreal/Beer Sheva-Bnei Shimon
As part of their three-week seminar in Israel, 240 North American and Israeli participants from the 12 communities came together for the Diller Teen Fellows International Congress. The international seminar, which focused on the concept of a global Jewish Peoplehood, was largely facilitated by more than 60 North American and Israeli program graduates participating in follow-up programming, providing them with platforms to put their leadership training into action. The rest of the time, the fellows engaged with the “real” Israel, focusing on both its beauty and blemishes, in Israeli cultural and exchange activities, as well as gathered to celebrate Shabbat and other Jewish religious ceremonies, visit historical sites, hike and experience outdoor activities, volunteer through community service activities chosen and created by the teens themselves, and be hosted by their partner communities.
The staff and lay leaders of the North American and Israeli delegations will convene in the fall in San Francisco for the Diller Teen Fellows’ Professionals’ and Lay Leaders’ Conference, a gathering bringing together North American and Israeli program leaders from 16 communities. Delegates will participate in professional development activities, deepen their cross-cultural partnership, and explore the relationships between Jewish communities in Israel and abroad. In addition to the 12 communities participating in the Israel Summer Seminar, the following additional partnerships will take part in the fall conference:
The Diller Teen Fellows program was established in 1997 by San Francisco philanthropist Helen Diller. More information is available at http://www.jewishfed.org/diller/fellows.