Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Reflections from the Diller North American Seminar

As part of the 15 month Fellowship, the Haifa Diller Teen Fellows (our partner cohort) visited Boston for 10 days as part of the Diller North American Seminar. They began the seminar with a Shabbaton at Camp Ramah with the Boston Fellows. Haifa Fellows stayed in the homes of Boston Fellows, and particpated in programs and seminars for the remainder of the 10 days. Themes included Getting to Know Boston, American Jewry, Coexistence, and Social Justice. The 10 days culminated in a final ceremony planned and led by the Boston and Haifa Fellows.

Check out all of our photos here: jccbostondillerteenfellows.shutterfly.com/pictures/133

See below for some of the speeches that Fellows gave at the ceremony:

Shabbaton: Emily Wood, Boston:

It is weird thinking back to the Shabaton. It almost feels like that happened over a year ago. The closeness we are feeling already even after this short time, makes us feel like old friends that have known each other for years. One thing that I will never forget was the first program that we did after meeting each other. The teens from Israel were asked to draw what they thought a Stereotypical American teenager was like and The American kids drew what they thought the stereotypical Israeli teenager was like. You know, contrary to popular belief, not every American girl wears high-heals with a bikini on the beach and not every Israeli has hairy legs… Looking at these drawings and seeing how some parts were so inaccurate and that other parts were very accurate helped us to bond together. This simple exercise allowed us to leave the inaccurate stereotypes behind and truly learn what the other group actually was like.

Getting to Know Boston: Yuval Regev, Haifa:

On Monday we had so much fun touring Boston. We did a lot of activities, including a duck tour.  On the duck tour, we had an hour around Boston on a bus that can become a boat.  After driving around Boston and seeing a lot of historical sites, we got in the water and saw the city from the water.  We all got to drive the boat, which was very special and fun. This was the first time that we actually saw the city of Boston because when we got here it was late at night and we went straight to camp Ramah.  It was very meaningful to get to see the city and learn about it because we had been waiting to see it for a long time. 

Another activity we did that day was touring the JCC.  I really loved to see that even though it is so far from Israel, people still create a meaningful community centered around Judaism. 

The whole experience of touring around places in Boston, some important to Jews and some important to all of the citizens of the city, was very fun and educational.  It was a great beginning to the best seminar ever!

Judaism in America: Yuval Zelig, Haifa:
 Tuesday's theme was "Judaism in America". Because of the snow almost everything we planned to do was canceled. But we did have the rabbi panel. Although the reform and the conservative rabbi didn't come we de had a great conversation about different kinds of Judaism. This was a meaningful experience from some reasons.
First of all, in Israel we have almost only orthodox judaism. For me, as an Israeli teenager it was really good experience to meet other kinds of judaism.
It also was really interesting to speak with the orthodox rabbi because he was really different from Israelis orthodox rabbis.
It was interesting to hear their point of view about religious conflicts in Israel. We heard their opinion about separation between religion and state, about how Shabbat should look in the public areas and about civil marriage in Israel. That's was really interesting, for me as an Israeli teenager, to hear an outside point of view about Israel as the Jewish state.

Coexistence: Bramm Watkin, Boston:

March 20th began with a representative from the American Islamic Congress who showed us their location on Newbury Street, right in the heart of Boston. He showed us a short film that spoke of the history, importance, and necessity of human rights for all people, all religions, all races. Something so quintessential to humanity has been limited to few individuals for centuries, and I had been oblivious to its unfair effect on different groups. Very few countries guarantee basic human rights to their citizens. I am blessed to live in one of these countries! Along with this blessing, simply earned by where I was born, comes a responsibility to work as hard as I can to bring these rights to all people, all over the world!

Social Justice: Arianna Dines, Boston:

On Thursday afternoon, Like usual, we excitedly greeted each other and boarded the bus. Somebody said we were going to the statehouse but I didn’t know why. I knew it was something about a press conference and tax revenue, but that was all. I even tweeted, “Why am I at the state house, like what am I doing here?” We entered the statehouse and went into a large room where a workshop took place. A woman gave statistics on America’s wealth distribution and Massachusetts recent tax decreases. She advocated that it is unfair and that wealth should be distributed equally. The statistics on wealth distribution shocked me, but it was hard to agree with her ideas on solutions because it seemed like socialism. Nevertheless, it was an interesting snippet of today’s economy. We traveled to an open area where groups from all over Massachusetts gathered for a press conference on economic reform. Several teens advocated for higher tax revenue to support schools, public transportation, and youth employment. Then Deval Patrick entered and spoke. It was so cool to see him only about 20 yards away!! He spoke passionately about our duties now to improve the future. It was amazing because I never would have expected that he would have been such a great and enthusiastic speaker, even when it was for teens. I felt privileged to be present at such a relevant and important event. While I walked into the state house confused, I walked out raving about what had just occurred. This part of Social Justice Day came as a pleasant surprise made us informed and involved in something important. It is a memory I will never forget.