The Tenuous Relationship between Teens and Israel

Tags: Jewish Unity, Jewish Identity, Am Yisrael, Youth, Israel Engagement

Diller Teens Fellows Visit the Israel Forever Foundation

Israel-focused programming isn’t an easy sell anymore.

It used to be that people were full of great ideas and fun initiatives, always ready to get into the blue and white spirit.

Those days are sadly not today’s reality. More and more people are willing to let the politics, the conflict or the discomfort caused by the mere mention of Israel to dominate our relationship with her.

That is why it makes us so proud to be perpetuating the former - helping people see that we CAN look deeper into important issues related to Israel so as to foster the ongoing connection in spite of, and even to repair, the growing desire to simply hush up or shy away.

Recently, we had the immense pleasure of hosting a group of Diller Teen Coordinators for an interactive exploration of issues that their young members are looking to better understand.

The Diller Teen Fellows work with over four hundred Jewish teens each year. The main focus for these teens is building and strengthening their leadership skills within the fields of Judaism, Israel, and Tikkun Olam. Twelve coordinators - coming from the USA, Canada and as far as South Africa - joined us in our Washington D.C. offices to analyze how they can improve the effectiveness of their own Israel programming.

The number one dilemma facing these coordinators was something that many of us struggle with: the ominous question of how to connect teens in the diaspora to our Jewish homeland.

In the face of ongoing terror, hate, and delegitimization, connecting to Israel from afar is challenging at best, impossible at worst. This generation, as teens, want to be able to seek understanding corresponding with their sense of self and world view. To delve into this specific way of looking at the world and to help the coordinators better see the value of our emphasis on personalizing Israel, we brought in two former lone soldiers - Raquela and Juliette - to share their anecdotes from service in the Israel Defense Forces.

Their stories were powerful. The subsequent discussion, truly inspirational - for us, for them and hopefully for the coordinators’ teens who stand to benefit most from this shared experiential learning.

Heidi Krizer Daroff, North American Director of The Israel Forever Foundation noted, 

In continuing to explore this growing partnership we shared ideas on how our programs and blogs can actively be used to engage their teens in a meaningful way. We concluded that not only was it salient to show a different side to Israel, one removed from the conflict, but also by demonstrating the variety of apolitical activism related to Israel endeavors that can make a difference in these teen’s pride and commitment to this seemingly far-away land."

Depoliticizing Israel, and framing her in a more approachable manner also worked in initiating interest in activation of a cause for which the teens chose to pick up.

The Diller programming is highly effective at creating future Jewish leaders and we are so pleased to be growing a relationship through which they see us as both a resource and a partner in their success.

As I shared with the coordinators, we are all part of a monumental effort in sharing our passion and knowledge of Israel with the next generation. The more we work together - collaborate, cross-promote and join hands as one people for the sake of our one and only Jewish State - the more we can achieve.

Our focus on creating dynamic programs and mutually-beneficial partnerships with organizations such as the Diller Teen Fellows allows us to broaden our reach and fulfill our mission of supporting and promoting experiential learning opportunities to celebrate and strengthen the personal connection to Israel. Educating this next generation and the proliferation of learning opportunities is how we can ensure that Israel is and will be FOREVER a part of Jewish life and identity - no matter how far away we might be.

The Diller Teen Fellows program was established in San Francisco, California, in 1997 by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a Supporting Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund of San Francisco. Since then the program has expanded to include 10 participating communities in North America and 10 communities in Israel.

Here are some of the questions we were asked - what are YOUR answers?

  • How can people like us (American/Canadian teens) make an impact on a country/situation that’s so far away geographically?
  • What do you wish more people realized about Israel?
  • Have you ever believed something about the situation in Israel and had your belief change? If so, what/when/why?
  • What has been your most important achievement in your involvement with Israel?
  • How do we fully support Israel without being there or physically going there to show our solidarity?
  • How do we best react to celebrities tweeting/promoting anti-Israel positions (many of which are inaccurate)
  • How do we advocate and educate in the future on college campuses?
  • How do we find unbiased resources?

Have your own questions? GET INVOLVED!

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Tags: Jewish Unity, Jewish Identity, Am Yisrael, Youth, Israel Engagement