Friday, August 15, 2014

Giving Back: Cohort 5's Spontaneous Summer of Service

 By Isabel Feinstein, Cohort 5

As is well known by the family and friends of the Boston Diller Teen Fellows, our summer trip to Israel was postponed due to the current events in the area. Thanks to our staff and parents, we have been able to participate in a wide array of group activities during the time we were meant to be away. Many of these opportunities to spend time together manifested in the form of volunteering. Giving back to the local community felt to us like the best thing we could do as a cohort in these circumstances. Once we found out we wouldn’t be going to Israel, we all began making individual plans to occupy ourselves for the few weeks following; therefore, it was understood that not everyone would be able to participate in everything. I am proud of how flexible everybody has been, and how we have adapted to working in smaller subsets of the group.

 The first volunteer event I participated in was an afternoon at Community Servings, a meal program for AIDS patients and their families. Along with Hannah, Sarah, Naomi, Dan, Ranen, Hillel, Josh P., Ilana and Liana, I prepared meals at the location in Jamaica Plain. It was a lot of fun to be with some of the cohort while doing something meaningful, even though we had to wash our hands about five times before we were allowed in the kitchen! The staff working there were funny and personable, and the facility was really nice and well organized. Some of the group had been to Community Servings before, and I know we are all interested in returning at some point, whether it be with Diller or otherwise. The next day, Liana had signed us up to serve dinner at Woods-Mullen Shelter in the South End. It took me a while to get there (shoutout to Hillel for waiting for me) but once I made it, it was a lot of fun. Dan, Izzy, Emma, Hillel, Adin, Sarah and Liana also participated. It was definitely different from Community Servings, since we actually interacted with the people the food was for. That was interesting as every guest was very different: there was a notable mix of age, gender, race, class, and religion. Overall, the people we served were lovely and gracious to us and made the experience better and more comfortable. One woman even told us that she was a part of the greater Boston Jewish community, and made it clear she was familiar with the towns, schools and synagogues we come from. That surprised us all, as we didn’t expect someone who could be one of our mothers to be at Woods-Mullen, but it was also illuminating. Poverty is not confined to one group of people. 

 These two days were just a couple of the many things Cohort 5 has done this summer, but each event has been significant. I am impressed by how fast we recovered from our disappointment, proud that we have been able to make these past few weeks productive, and grateful that I have been able to spend time with my friends.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dillers on the Farm!

Volunteering at the Needham Community Farms
By Rachel Goodman, Cohort 5

As a continuation of the our "Spontaneous Summer of Service" the Diller Fellows volunteered at the Needham Community Farm.  When we arrived, we were warmly greeted by Larisa, the head farmer.  She explained the Needham Community Farm’s goals, and why it was so special: the farm donates all of its “best” produce to food pantries, so that people who could not necessarily afford organic food in a grocery store could still have access to freshly grown food.  

Then, we headed over to the garden beds to start our first project.  We split up into two groups and weeded two garden bed sections.  By doing this, Larisa explained, we were making room for more people to come and have their own personal gardening spots.  After we completed this assignment, we came back as one group to conquer a larger challenge: to weed the compost pile.  Larisa explained the importance of this project: if there were weeds in the compost pile, their seeds would drop in the dirt and then next year when that dirt was laid out, weeds would grow all over the farm.  By doing this job, we were ensuring that the farm would have a “weed free” start to the next season.  We climbed the large pile of compost and weeded almost everything in sight, big or small.  

As we worked, the pile of weeds in our wheelbarrow grew bigger and bigger, until we couldn’t fit anymore. After two hours, the job was complete!  The weeds were gone, and the compost pile looked much healthier.  We thanked Larisa for the fun opportunity, and left feeling happy that we had been able to help the farm and those who it serves.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Boston Teens Stand With Israel!

Written by Hannah Goldstein, Cohort 5 

The Diller Teen Fellows is a pluralistic, international, Jewish leadership program. Over the course of 15 months Fellows learn about themselves and the world around them through the four pillars of Diller: Tikun Olam, Leadership, Jewish Identity, and Israel. A huge part of the program revolves around a seminar in Israel where the Boston Cohort joins 19 other contingents to deepen their connections with and learn about the country.

Unfortunately, due to the hostilities in the region, this years’ trip was postponed until the Winter. Israel has been under attack from Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization that governs Gaza. Israeli civilians and soldiers alike have been constantly bombarded with rockets fired from Gazan territory. Thankfully, the Iron Dome (missile defense system) has been extremely successful, intercepting around 95% of the rockets. Not only has Hamas been firing rockets, it has built an array of tunnels infiltrating the border allowing the possibility of an invasion. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been fighting back to reduce these dangerous threats and protect the people of Israel.

Although we, the Diller Teen Fellows, do not always agree with every decision the Israel Government and IDF might make, we do agree that Israel has the absolute right, and in fact the obligation, to defend itself. We fully support Operation Protective Edge to end the violence perpetrated by Hamas and bring peace to both Israelis and Palestinians.

To compensate for our postponed trip and demonstrate our solidarity with Israel, our cohort decided to host an active, teen-specific gathering called #BostonTeensStandWithIsrael. We wanted to raise awareness in addition to making an impact, so we hosted stations where participants could take action.

Stations Included:

Care Packages for Israeli Children and Soldiers: A drive to collect items for children in the affected regions along with soldiers in the field, and packaged boxes to distribute through our Israeli counterparts. We have sent items to the Navy in Haifa through CJP in Haifa, The Aleh Negev Rehabilitation Center, and the Israel Forever Foundation.

Social Media: Individuals learned how to advocate for Israel and voice their opinions via social media. For example, Participants could log into their Facebook and choose an article (that they agreed with) to post.

#RaiseYourFlag Campaign: Participants could take pictures of themselves holding posters and signs that were supportive toward Israel. These pictures were sent to Israelis and posted on social media.

Video Messages for Soldiers: Individuals (or groups) could record a video message to send to soldiers articulating support or just a little more attention.

Homemade Cards for Children and Soldiers/Artists4Israel: Participants could draw pictures to place in bomb shelters and write letters to both children and soldiers.

In addition to our stations, we had guest speaker, Perry Newman, the director of Israel Advocacy from CJP. He spoke about the current conflict and how important it is that we, as teens, advocate for Israel. Dani Weinstein, the director of Young Adults at CJP, joined Mr. Newman and helped us plan the event. We were joined by special guests Ariel Liebhaber,. Ruth Kaplan, and Jill Smilow from the Living Bridges Committee through the Boston-Haifa Connection. In attendance also were members of the Board of the JCC and supporters of the Diller program.

We also discussed a tragic event that had happened the day before our program, in which a former Diller Teen Fellow from Rishon L'Tzion was killed in Gaza while serving in an elite unite. We spoke about Matan Gottlieb z''l and read words about him from a former Boston-Haifa staff member who was a friend of his, Maayan Haagbi. We lit a yartzheit candle for him; this reminded us all how this operation can hit us so close to home as Diller Teen Fellows.

The event was vibrant and successful. We had significantly more participants than expected and sent over 16 large care packages. We achieved our goals of raising awareness and taking action. We felt good to be able to contribute with this event and provide an outlet for other teens to also help make a difference. #BostonTeensStandWithIsrael!

For all photos of our event please click here.  To see a video montage of our messages to soldiers please click here!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cohort 5 Summer Retreat in Narragansett

By Zoe Federman, Cohort 5

Since our seminar to Israel was postponed until December due to Operation Protective Edge, I thought it would be a fun and meaningful experience for everyone to go to my Narragansett, RI house for the weekend. Leading the weekend with Isabel Feinstein was amazing, especially because almost everyone was able to come. On Friday afternoon everyone met at the JCC to head off to RI. After facing some tiring traffic we all arrived in Narragansett ready to start the retreat. To kick it off, the Shabbat Committee led a short but beautiful service at the lake near my house. After, we headed back to the house for a staff led Ma’agal Lila. During it we were blindfolded and led into the backyard. There was a maze of strings set up crisscrossing and intersecting all around. We were all placed at different points and were told to start our “journeys”. Along the way we found little objects that we could choose to take with us or keep moving. The objects were scrolls of paper with different quotes on them, which we read aloud and discussed. 

We then devoured the Israeli chocolate brought back from Israel by our very thoughtful JCs and hung out until we all fell asleep. The next morning we decided to go to the beach pavilion to play board and card games, which shows how no one let the rain ruin the day. After lunch and a little relaxation, it was time for a beautiful Havdalah service. We then all piled into the cars to go get ice cream! It was delicious and super fun. We then all settled down for a fellow led Ma’agal Lila. We all stood in a circle, facing outwards, holding an unlit candle. The first person lit their candle and then chose the next person and lit their candle. Once everyone’s candle was lit, together we lit the fire pit. It showed how we all shine on our own, but when we come together we shine even brighter. 

After a full day of fun, we were all exhausted and went to sleep. Sunday morning the staff held a quick meeting about our future plans for our Impact Projects. We were all just throwing around ideas, but it made me very confident that our cohort’s projects will be a great success! Then, we all loaded into the cars to head to the Newport Cliff Walk. It was a great time to all sit together and take in the view. We took a little walk and then piled into the cars one last time to drive back to the JCC. This weekend was a great way to reconnect with the fellows and talk about the change of plans about Israel.