The Diller Teen Fellows is a 15-month pluralistic, national, youth leadership fellowship currently available in 20 North America and Israel communities. Twenty Boston area teens - the JCC Diller Teen Fellows - are selected yearly based on their leadership aptitude, commitment to Jewish learning, interest in exploring their connection to Israel, and passion for serving their community.
The Diller Teen Fellows of Cohort 4 have reflected on their first Shabbaton, which took place from November 9th-11th, 2012 at Camp Grotonwood in Groton, MA.
Andrew Jacobson (Swampscott):
Let me begin me making myself clear: Although I knew many of the people mostly by name, before attending this amazing shabbaton, I was not really friends with anyone in Diller. After just a short 48 hours, I consider all 19 other fellows my best friends (yes, even better than school friends). It feels like I’ve known them my whole life. We are already planning events to see each other outside of workshops! Just this past sunday, it was Kineret’s birthday. Despite the fact that it was the day after the retreat, a bunch of us grabbed the chance to meet up and get some froyo in Newton. Living on the North Shore, it was just too far for me to show up.
Diller is such a unique and special experience that I am honored to have given the opportunity to participate in it. Unlike anywhere else, I can share my controversial opinions, and know 100% that they’ll be included. Each and every one of us share a strong bond that isn’t present anywhere else in my life. By browsing the photos on Facebook, this is extremely clear.
Everyone is truly accepted for him/herself. This is the most remarkable aspect of Diller. In this day and age, it is rare to find a place like that. Whether you’re at school, or even an extra-curricular, trust is difficult to come by. Here, I can genuinely trust anyone with anything. This may not seem like a big deal, but as teenagers, it is.
A lot of people might ask: What caused this everlasting friendship? There are numerous answers to this questions, but it all boils down to outlook. Walking into this program, we were all optimistic, hearing about the wonderful things to come. Now that it’s a reality, we embrace Diller, and allow it to become the largest part of our lives.
Liza Sherman (Needham):
Something we did this weekend right before leaving the camp was an activity called the appreciation box. Into the box each fellow put anonymous note cards addressed to somebody or a group of people who they appreciated for any reason. Some note cards were thanking each other for funny things said or shared inside jokes, but others were truly kind and showed the deep connections that people had formed over just the 48 hours we spent together on our retreat. These cards helped to show how each person of our cohort was truly important and helped benefit the group in their own ways. This appreciation box was a great way to close our retreat and sum up the overall great weekend we had together. Never did I expect how deep the bonds and friendships we all made this weekend were going to be. This weekend was a truly special experience that I have never had before and already we all share deeper connections than others I have made with people I have known for years.
Julia Habbe (Sharon):
On Saturday night our JCs (Andrew and Liat) led our magaal. The fellows were told to report to the main room at night with something to blindfold ourselves with, and that was all we knew of the plan. When we arrived, Andrew and Liat made sure our eyes were covered and put us into a line holding hands. From there we were led in a silent trust-walk through the woods. This was such a bonding experience in that none of us knew who we were following, where we were going, or how long it was going to take, but we trusted each other enough to keep going. After that the experience got even more intense as we were led into a dark gymnasium (although we didn't know it at the time!) and separated. We were given two glow sticks and told to remove our blindfolds. Then Andrew and Liat asked us our goals and biggest fears. When we had something to say, we cracked our glow sticks and said it to the group. It's indescribable how connected we all felt watching the glow sticks slowly light up in the darkness and hearing each other's fears and desires. Once everyone had spoken we ran to hug each other and that was the moment, for me at least, where Diller really began to feel like a family. These kids that had been strangers only hours before now felt like people I could trust to lead me in the right direction and to trust with my secrets. I know I'm speaking for everyone when I say I'm counting down to our next Shabbaton!
Hannah (Newton) & Noam (Needham):
This past weekend we had our first retreat! It was amazing for all of us to spend a solid 48 hours together and really bond as a group. There were too many amazing programs and moments to list here, so we will just mention a few. At our first workshop we created a list of ten different qualities we want to have as a group. We had a “Chalk Talk” (actually a Marker Talk, but that doesn’t sound as fun), with each trait on a piece of paper. After being given a marker, we walked up to the papers and wrote times during our retreat where we saw them in action.
Later that evening, we did a trust walk where each person, blindfolded, was placed in a line and instructed to hold the hand of the person next to them. With a staff leader and a few called out direction (“There is a tree of your left, and a puddle on your right”) we made our way slowly through the woods, putting all our trust in the person leading us.
Reaching the gym and walking down a flight of stairs, we were separated, giving us a sense of trusting each and every person, as we did not know who was in front of us. We were placed spaced out in the pitch-black gym and given glow sticks to crack as we answered what our goals, and then fears are for this year. Then we had a campfire with s’mores!
This activity was part of that night’s Maagal Lila, a circle we do every night. These times are when we learn more about each other as people, and not just our religious practices, or opinions on today’s controversial issues. The best part? Maagal Lila ends with hugs for everyone!
There is no way to explain how close we have gotten with these people without us pretty much melting into a pile of goo, explaining how much we love them. None of us realized on Friday that we were more or less still strangers to each other, and within about 2 hours, that had changed. Living in such close proximity, as well as being Shomer Shabbos (keeping Shabbat) allowed us to develop relationships that made us not want to leave on Sunday afternoon. None of us really know how that happened, we just know that it did, and now we are all best friends.
We can’t wait for our next meeting!
Emily Wood (Westford)
Imagine 20 Jewish teens from multiple different backgrounds those of which barely know each other. Now imagine them putting aside their differences and discussing highly disputed topics with respect and understanding towards differing opinions. Well, that’s exactly what happened on Cohort 4’s first retreat last weekend. For two and a half hours straight the Diller teens discussed topics ranging from kosher foods to who should have to serve in the Israeli army. This activity was named the jellybean activity. The way it works is that different topics get written on cups and each teen would put a different color jelly been in the cup depending on where they stood on that specific issue. As the issues got harder the group felt increasingly more comfortable in expressing their opinions. When differing opinions started to become more apparent, the group talked about both sides of the argument and was able to move on. At the end of the activity a new sense of understanding and respect was apparent and in following discussions this same respect was demonstrated. The jellybean activity was one of the highlights of the retreats and cohort 4 really benefited from doing it.