Tikkun Olam, Jewish Identity, Leadership and Israel. These values of the Diller Teen Fellows are present in everything we do. In eight North American cities, and eight Israeli cities, 20 sophomores and juniors apply and are chosen to be part of this amazing 15-month experience. We (Hannah Elbaum and Noam Kahn) were accepted last spring to be a part of the Boston cohort, a total of twenty teenagers from all around the greater Boston area.
So far, we have had two workshops and one retreat. Our workshops are generally four hours long and at the JCC of Boston, consisting of thought provoking, yet incredibly fun programs, and time for us to get to know each other better. In our last one, we had a “Jewish Identity Buffet.” We each took slips of paper from a long table that had statements we agreed with or believed, and left the ones we did not agree with or understand. (There was candy that we got to eat, too.) After small group discussions of our choices, we came back together as a group and spent some time talking about some surprising discoveries. We also spend time learning about each other much more informally, with games like “The Wind Blows For…” and “5 Minute Hot Seat.” One of the very first things we did at the first workshop was to write letters to ourselves that we will read at the end of out fifteen-month journey. For our next workshop, we participated in a day of Jewish learning run by LimmudBoston.
In November, 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.
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.
Hannah Elbaum is a sophomore at Newton South High School. Hannah currently serves as Vice President of Religion and Culture on the BELY Board, is an active member of Havayah: the Teen Community at Temple Beth Elohim, and spent last summer at Kutz: NFTY's Campus for Reform Jewish Teens. You can read her blog post about that, too!
Noam Kahn is a junior at Needham High School. Noam currently serves as the Chanukah Carnival Co-Chair on the BELY Board, and as an active member of Havayah: the Teen Community at Temple Beth Elohim.
Temple Beth Elohim is extremely proud of our teens who are involved in the Greater Boston Jewish community! Visit the Boston JCC website to learn more about the JCC Diller Teen Fellowship, or speak to Hannah, Noam, or a member of the TBE Youth Programs Team.