Two weeks ago, our Philly Diller Teen Fellows met and hosted their partnership group from Herzliya. The week was filled with energy, learning and making new friends. Our Israeli Fellows learned about Philadelphia, the diversity of Jewish life here and even tasted the coveted Goldie’s tahini shake. Read current Fellows Elliott, Nathan, and Raphael’s reflections below!
But before you do, we are so excited to announce that the 2023/24 Philadelphia Diller Teen Fellows applications are now open for next year! If you know of a Jewish teen who is a rising a sophomore or junior, and who may be interested in the leadership program of a lifetime, send them our way! They can fill out the application (as soon as possible), and get in touch with me, Darren Rabinowitz, Diller program coordinator, with any questions. There are limited spots available and applications close May 28th!
This past week was incredible. I didn’t know what to expect going into it, but it exceeded my expectations. Hosting Liana, a student from Israel, was very special. We bonded over sharing food and music, and it was extremely interesting comparing our different cultures. She became a part of my family for a few days. Not only did I get to become close to her, but also I got to know the rest of the Israeli group. Everyday after school we all met up to do something fun like go out for dinner or get froyo, which was really meaningful before spending the whole weekend together on the shabbaton. They even came to my jewish private school, Kohelet Yeshiva, which was interesting since most of them attend large public schools. 16 loud Israelis roaming the narrow halls of Kohelet was a fun sight to see.
After visiting the school, we all got on a bus and drove to Camp Pinemere. This Shabbaton was very impactful. Through planned activities run by the fellows and just hanging out in the bunk, we all got much closer. One of my favorite activities was when we all sat in a circle with a candle in front of our feet. Each person took turns lighting someone’s candle and saying something nice about them. Although we come from such different backgrounds and have only known each other for a few days, we all had something special to say to each other, which was so heartwarming. Also, a highlight of the weekend that was not initially planned was the soccer game. It was very hot and most of us don’t normally play soccer but we all had so much fun running around together for hours. Overall, the JCM experience gave us the opportunity to connect and become friends with the Herzliya Diller Fellows. I miss them already and can’t wait to reunite in Israel this summer!
Participating in the Jewish community mifgash and hosting an Israeli in my house as a Diller fellow was, to say the least, an experience I will never forget. The first thing I noticed was how different yet the same we were. As a whole, the Israelis seemed more carefree and open; they were louder, laughed harder and danced more. In contrast the Americans were a little more reserved, yet as the week progressed we were pulled into their way of enjoying life. I learned a lot about just how much one could experience with just a positive, open attitude to life.
The biggest challenge I faced throughout the whole week was the language barrier. The teen that my family and I hosted did not know how to fully express himself in English and we did not know a lot of Hebrew so we ended up reverting to Google Translate a lot. Although this was a challenge, it did not stop me from having a blast with my Israeli guest. I showed him around the local area, made him try my favorite food and introduced him to American culture. The whole experience from start to finish was a full on exchange of cultures. I learned so much from my Israeli brother and I hope he learned a lot from me.
The JCM was an incredible experience. Not only did we meet people from across the world, and spend a week together sharing our homes, but we also bonded, created lasting relationships, and learned an immense amount about each other’s cultures.
Arriving at the JCC on Sunday morning, after an incredibly tiring day of traveling, the Israeli fillers showed no signs of fatigue irritability, or anything but excitement and joy at the prospects of making friends. They were extremely polite, kind, but unique in their own ways. I was told at least 5 separate times by Ilan’s companions, that I was extremely lucky to be paired up with him. Even Yochai, the stand in coordinator expressed plainly that “you are with Ilan? Then you win. You have won, congratulations”. As I came to realize over the next week, Yochai’s bold claim was absolutely true with no exceptions. Every day, Ilan had something to bring to the table, whether it was his descriptions of politics or his generous offer to help with chores. I’m proud to speak for Diller Philadelphia when I say that the Herzliya cohort was a pleasure to be with and were amazing to get to know.
As stated before however, we didn’t simply make bonds during our time. We learned so much about our similarities as well as our differences. For example, I learned that Israeli culture tends to include characteristics of kindness, speaking the truth, and being extremely friendly and talkative. We also learned about the differences in our values as well as the values of our cultures. Some may favor certain characteristics while some preferred others. However, having honest, open, nonjudgmental discussions, truly allowed us to all achieve a greater degree of understanding, and walk away from that fateful experience with a new level of respect and acceptance of each other. It simply cannot be stressed enough: this JCM was an incredible and irreplaceable experience.