May 22, 2024
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May 22, 2024
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Diller Fellows Spend Summer in Israel

(Courtesy of Diller Teen Fellowship) Three-hundred and fifty Jewish teens from 16 communities in six countries spent three weeks in Israel last month as part of a year-long Diller Teen Fellowship, an immersive leadership program for teenagers from across Israel and the world.

The teens hail from central New Jersey, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Montreal, Melbourne, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Buenos Aires and the United Kingdom. Each community has an Israeli partner community, and shortly after arriving in Israel, the international teens joined the Israeli teens also taking part in the program.

After arriving in Israel, the teens traveled and learned about the country, experienced a Shabbaton retreat experience and participated in Community Week with teens from their Israel-partnership communities: Upper Galilee, Rishon Lezion, Karmiel/Misgav, Be’er Sheva, Haifa and more. The last part of their Israel visit, known as Global Congress, saw the 350 international participants gather with the 350 Israeli participants for a week of global connection, exploration of Jewish peoplehood, and shared community service projects.

Throughout the yearlong Fellowship, all 700 teens participated in local workshops where they learned about the diversity of their local Jewish community and peers; hands-on opportunities to lead tikkun olam initiatives, where they learned to lead through a Jewish lens; local Shabbatonim; and active partnership connections between Israeli and diaspora communities.

The Diller Teen Fellows program is one of the world’s most respected global leadership opportunities for Jewish teenagers. Participants are self-identified Jewish 10th and 11th graders selected to participate for their leadership potential and encouraged to apply for this unique, international program. Participants then become part of the program’s international network of Jewish leaders.

The Diller Teen Fellows program has been cultivating new generations of Jewish leaders since 1998. It started when philanthropist Helen Diller (z”l) observed the effectiveness of existing leadership programs for young professionals and saw the need to reach potential leaders much earlier, when they are in the critical teenage years. Today, there are more than 6,500 Diller alumni worldwide.

Jen Smith, executive director of the Helen Diller Family Foundation Programs, said, “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. Diller serves as a foundational year that can impact the lifetime 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.”

Among the participants was a cohort from MetroWest New Jersey, among them Samantha Bachenheimer (17) from Randolph, who attends Randolph High School:

“Being a member of Diller Teen Fellows has truly changed my life for the better. I walked into this program with my heart half-full, searching for a new sense of meaning. Now, I walk out, with not only a deeper understanding of my identity as a Jewish leader, but a family. These people have taught me more about myself than I could have possibly dreamed. I’ve learned that we are all capable of making change; whether it is helping those in need, or simply showing others we care for them. Even the smallest acts can make this world brighter. I’m so incredibly grateful for this experience. Because now, coming to the end of this adventure, I can say that my heart is full,” Bachenheimer said.

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