(JNS) A total of 700 Jewish teens from 32 communities in seven countries completed a life-changing seminar in Israel as part of a year-long Diller Teen Fellowship, an immersive leadership program for teenagers from across the world.
The three-week program included a Shabbaton retreat, a “Community Week” and a “Global Congress” with all 700 teens (including 350 international Fellows gathering with 350 Israeli Fellows) for a period of cultural exchange, exploration of Jewish peoplehood and shared community-service projects.
International teens who traveled to Israel hail from Pittsburgh, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, central New Jersey and Philadelphia in the United States; Toronto and Montreal, Canada; Melbourne, Australia; Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and throughout the United Kingdom.
“Diller has been an amazing experience for me,” said Ethan Goetz, who attends North Allegheny Senior High School. “Meeting people all over the world is such a cool thing and keeping in touch with them is even cooler. I have made friends from cities like Karmiel, Misgav, Chicago, Miami, Melbourne and so many others. I wouldn’t give this program up for the world.”
Each Diaspora community has an Israeli partner community, including Upper Galilee, Ashkelon, Rishon Letzion, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheva/B’nei Shimon, Karmiel/Misgav, Eilat/Eilot, Yerucham, Kiryat Gat/Lachish/Shafir, Beit Shemesh/Mateh Yehudah, Golan, Shoham, Hof Hasharon, Herzliya and Mate’ Asher.
Participants are self-identified Jewish 10th- and 11th-graders selected for their leadership potential. They become part of the program’s international network of Jewish leaders. Today, there are more than 6,500 Diller alumni worldwide.
“At a time when our world can feel more fractured and divided than ever before, Diller Teen Fellows from across the globe are uniting to build understanding, create connections and help repair the world,” says Jen Smith, executive director of the Helen Diller Family Foundation Programs. “Diller serves as a foundational year that can impact the life of a teen as they explore their Jewish identity and the good they want to do in the world as a leader. While the goals, values and mission of the program unite participants as one global Jewish family, each teen brings their own unique perspective, lived experience and leadership qualities. Working together, we believe they can change the world.”
Throughout the yearlong fellowship, all 700 teens participate in local workshops (mifgashim in Hebrew), where they learn about the diversity of their local Jewish community and peers; hands-on opportunities to lead tikkun olam initiatives, where they learn to lead through a Jewish lens; local weekend retreats (Shabbatonim), where they experience Jewish pluralism; and active partnership connections between Israeli and Diaspora communities. PJC
Toby Tabachnick contributed to this report.