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