Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Moment

Some say that you can pinpoint a moment in time when your life changes; my “moment” was spent with rocks, rubble and rifts between two countries which I will hopefully see stand together one day. I believe I embodied what the JCC Diller Teen Fellowship was as I sat in the rubble of a Palestinian bomb that had detonated only three months prior to our trip in December of 2010. As I looked on with 18 peers, a medic, four staff members and an Israeli tour guide, my thoughts raced through my mind. I looked up towards the 20 feet of vertical concrete above me, separating Israel from the Palestinian border in Jerusalem. I saw two countries, two different beliefs, and yet one human race. Suddenly the Muslim call to prayer flooded our ears as it poured out of mosques in both Jerusalem and Palestine, and all that was left for me was the reality of who I am. The Fellowship gave me the power and sense of mind to challenge what I feel is unjust and necessary to change.

Growing up in Scituate, a suburb of Boston with a very small Jewish population, I never thought that one day I would become as involved in the Jewish community as I have. Not only am I involved, but programs I have participated in, including a JCC Diller Teen Fellowship have impacted every aspect of my life. More specifically the fellowship led me in the direction to a Jewish identity. One could say I was a bit lost in the Jewish world between the years of my Bat Mitzvah and the beginning of Diller. It’s not to say that I found my place in Judaism, but I seemed to have found Judaism’s place in my world. Being among few Jews in my hometown  made it difficult for my Jewish identity to grow, but it was a challenge I was more than ready to except. 

 

The Diller Teen Fellowship is an international youth leadership fellowship available in 16 North America and Israel cities. Each city is paired with a “sister” community in Israel; the JCC Boston Diller Teen Fellowship is partnered with Haifa. The program consists of seminars, service projects, retreats, an Israel trip, and hosting our Haifa peers back in Boston.

 

Coming home from Israel I felt more connected to my people than I had ever before. I had created bonds with the Israeli teens in the Boston-Haifa partnership that I knew I would maintain and nurture. I also felt an incredibly strong and, most importantly, personal connection to the land and the State of Israel that I would never have been able to develop through any means other than visiting the country.  


In order to practice my Judaism and become more a part of the community I was forced to go looking for it. After my Bat Mitzvah I made the decision that Judaism needed to be a larger part of my life. As I stood on the Bima and read the Torah to a synagogue full of the people closest to me, very few being Jewish, I realized this was a part of myself that I needed to explore. As most teens spent the years post Bat Mitzvah navigating adolescence, I went searching for a Jewish community.  I began to make the trek to Prozdor at Hebrew College. From there I found the JCC Diller Teen Fellowship.

 

The application process was very competitive but I was determined to be a Fellow. As clich√© as it may sound, it really is who I have become. It was with Diller that my Jewish life combined with the secular life I had been living Scituate. This fellowship is not a “do it and leave it” deal, but more of a “do it and live it.” The community that I stumbled upon has become a family, and a place where I have not only been able to grow, but watched my peers find their paths through these exciting and sometimes tough high school years.

 

-Brynn Pollets

Scituate, MA

JCC Boston Diller Teen Fellow 2010-2011

Junior Counselor, 2011-2012

My Path to Leadership in the JCC Boston Diller Teen Fellowship

Throughout my JCC Boston Diller Teen Fellowship experience, the word “leader” has become more meaningful and relatable. In March, our Boston-Haifa Diller cohort of Fellows had the unique opportunity to run a Shabbaton (weekend retreat) completely on our own. This “Self-Management” weekend meant that 40 teenagers from across the globe were working together to run our own Fellowship experience for the weekend. 

At first we were all extremely excited; this opportunity had rarely been given to other Diller cohorts before, and it was incredible to be given this much responsibility as teenagers. We all had to figure out how a group of teens, Americans and Israelis, were going to put together a whole weekend of activities and achieve our goals for a successful Shabbaton. Once the reality of planning and preparing set in I realized how extremely hard I would personally have to work to be successful; everyone’s efforts mattered and people were relying on me.

Time differences and cultural barriers proved to be quite challenging!  In creating the closing ceremony, our greatest challenge was making a schedule that would work with the time we had.  It was difficult to communicate with the Israelis because of logistical issues, but we finally all decided together what exactly we wanted the closing ceremony to include and then the Americans set the time frame for each part of the ceremony. 

Following that, we faced another challenge; what we wanted to say.  The challenge here wasn’t so much having trouble discussing, but rather deciding what we would talk about out of all the amazing experiences we had.  In Diller we are given so many unique opportunities and experiences that choosing one to share is almost impossible.  To solve our problem, we asked several fellows to talk about an experience that was especially meaningful to them, as well as a challenge they face and how they were able to overcome it, to really show the differences in people and the differences we can make. 

 In the end, we were able to organize our ideas and programs to implement a successful (and very fun) weekend, and to reflect on the difficulties that came from working across the globe with our Haifa friends. I have realized that being a leader offers both challenges and opportunities, and no matter how difficult a challenge may seem to overcome it is important to never give up and have faith in yourself and the people around you.  The staff completely stepped back and allowed us to shine that weekend and gave us space to face our own challenges as mature, growing leaders.  We still all have space to grow, but we are definitely on the right path to be the best leaders we can be. 

-Sierra Weiss, age 15, Newton
JCC Boston Diller Teen Fellows 2011-2012