Monday, 7 August 2017

Summing Up the Summer by Britney Slimovitch

For the past 10 months, I have had the opportunity to be a part of an amazing Jewish leadership program called Diller Teen Fellows. My cohort of this program started in the fall of 2016 with leadership workshops and volunteer opportunities that continued throughout the year. In July 2017, me and 16 other Montreal Jewish fellows boarded the plane to Israel for the experience of a lifetime: Diller's Israel Summer Seminar. The trip started and ended with a week of touring and volunteer opportunities while always keeping in mind our goal of exploring the Many Faces of Israel. From our visits to Save A Child's Heart, to the Children's Museum’s “Invitation to Silence” interactive exhibit on deafness, to the Western Wall, I can truly say that we got a good first hand glimpse of how beautiful this country is. Our week of touring ended with an International Shabbaton bringing together all of the teens from the English speaking partnerships (San Francisco, Baltimore, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Boston, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Miami, Chicago, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Brooklyn, Buenos Aires and London). After this was our Community Week where we lived with our Israeli partners and took part in the activities that we had worked so hard to plan throughout the entire year. Next, was our International Congress where all of the communities from the Shabbaton joined their Israeli communities for a week that brought together over 600 Jewish teens from around the globe.

It still baffles me to think that just two weeks ago, all of these people that I now consider friends, if not family, were all strangers to me.

I am so grateful for all of the people that I have had the chance to have enter my life and hopefully remain there forever. We came together from almost every continent seeking leadership opportunities, a visit to our homeland, and a chance to repair the world. Over the past three weeks I have made memories that I will never forget, and have lived experiences have helped to shape me, not only as a young person, but as the Young Jewish leader that I want to be and for that I am forever grateful.

Over the course of this experience, I have learned that family does not have to be though blood. It is more so, the people who want you in their life and that you want in yours. Family are the people that accept you no matter what, and will do anything to see you smile. It is people whose names you can learn and with whom you can talk about G*d - all in the same conversation. They will learn to love you unconditionally no matter how many times you mess up. Diller 2017 has become my extended new family and I could not be happier. I am grateful for this incredible opportunity and all of the amazing people that I have met along the way. Honestly, the only down side to this wonderful adventure is its future impact on my parents’ bank account – they will now have to help me travel all over the world to visit my new friends - sorry mom and dad!

I wish to conclude by saying a huge thank you to the Diller Montreal staff and in particular, Sarah Benmergui for allowing me to have the opportunity to meet a group of young people that have made saying goodbye so ridiculously hard.

-Britney Slimovitch, Montreal Cohort 9

Sunday, 16 July 2017

ISS July 8&9 by Jarred and Malka

From July 7-9, we took part in the international shabbaton. An amazing experience where all the English speaking diller communities came together for a powerful and meaningful Shabbat. We had the opportunity to meet new people, participate in fun activities, attend a variety of Shabbat services as well as end off the weekend with a tour of the old city and havdalah by the kotel.
All in all, we had the most amazing Shabbat experience. 

On July 9, we went to the military cemetery on mount Herzl, then toured the museum Yad Vashem. On Mount Herzl, we visited the graves of Max Steinberg, Michael Levine and and Jason Friedberg. We recounted the stories of their lives and paid our respects to these fallen soldiers by placing rocks upon their graves. At Yad Vashem, we thoroughly learned about the sufferings of the Jews in the holocaust, and established the importance of remembering the names of the victims. We visited the children's memorial, a dark room lit up by candles, reciting the names of the 1.5 million children who perished during the holocaust. This day we explored the sacrifices made to protect our Jewish state, as well as the importance of Israel to serve as refuge for Jews around the world. Our love for Israel has multiplied tenfold, and we are incredibly grateful for the courage of the soldiers in the Israeli army. 

ISS July 7 by Josh

For my day, first I woke everyone up at around 7:30, then we went to go eat breakfast and bring all the bags to the front, at around 8, then we had a presentation from a guy named Joey, who told us about his organization - Stand With Us, which advocates for Israel. 
We left for the international shabbaton around 9:30 and then got to the international shabbaton at around 10.

We had opening ceremony at 10:30 at the venue where we all cheered for our cities and watched the Diller commercials that each community made. After. That we listened to a funny and interesting speech by Avraham Infeld about his theory of Peoplehood - the 5-legged table. Then we had lunch dates with Melbourne where we did icebreakers and also discussed Avraham Infeld's speech. Then we had break till like 5, then we had white parade. At 6 was Oneg Shabbat, where everyone else went to go do fun activities. After that was dinner with a speech from a guy from San Francisco, then we had a blur of activities then break for a little bit and finally Maagal  Laila at 10:30.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

ISS July 6 by Hilla

Already, another day begins in the land of Israel. Another day, the fourth day, of our Diller Israeli trip. Another day, to explore a new face of Israel. And today, we’re at the spiritual and religious heart of Israel, Jerusalem. We started our day with a visit of the old city of Jerusalem. In the gated area, we walked through beautiful ancient structures and quaint stores selling various memorabilia. Coloured scarves lined the shop walls, and silverware glistened in the sun.

Soon, our cohort arrived to its first destination: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This specific church is considered to be he holiest place in Christianity, as it is said to house the tomb of Jesus Christ. As soon as we entered the church, we took in the marvel of our surroundings: a gorgeous domed ceiling decorated with detailed artwork of Christian figures, twinkling multicoloured light fixtures, and various people praying to their Christian messiah. This, too, is a face of Israel. This country is also a place in which believers of many religions, including Christianity, come to in order to connect with their G-d. And, of course, many religions, including Judaism. So, after concise and engaging information from our incredible tour guide Sam, our cohort made its way towards the Western Wall. This was a beautiful moment for everyone in the diller group. Each member went up, put their wish in the walls of the Kotel, and stood next to the wall for a moment of prayer. 

Afterwards, we returned to our hostel to listen to a speaker from the Women of the Wall organization. The organization has as goal to give women more liberal rights at the wall. Their goal is for women, who do not conform to ultra-orthodox beliefs, to pray more freely. Our speaker’s explanation of Women of the Wall sparked much controversy within the diverse cohort. She has a somewhat extreme point of view, and many of our group’s members felt uncomfortable with her words. However, after the speaker left, we sat down in a Diller Maagal, and discussed each other's opinions on the matter. The talk highlighted and showcased the beauty of Diller: our cohort civilly voiced their different thoughts on the issue. We tried to understand one another, and see where our dissimilarities come from. Yet, at the end of the day, we are all part of the Jewish people. We are not all the same, but we are united under one religion and one nation that is part of our identity in one way or another. And so, closes another incredible day on our summer Israel trip, with the promise of many more to come. 

ISS July 5 vlog by Leah P and Zach A