Nearly 400 teens from Israel and the United States are convening in Jerusalem this week for the third annual Diller International Jewish Teen Congress, a four-day festival bringing together some of the next generation's Jewish leaders.
The event is aimed at helping the youths explore what it means to be Jewish, according to the organization, which will soon complete a three-week summer seminar entitled the “International Diller Teen Fellows Congress.”
The seminar, which ends on July 26, serves as the culmination of a year-long community exchange between six Israeli and U.S. communities, and is one of two initiatives funded by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Federation's Jewish Community Endowment Fund of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties.
Also funded by the Diller Foundation this year were five teens in California, each of whom was given a grant of $36,000 and told to “repair the world.”
The recipients of the 2010 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award each submitted a winning proposal for an innovative social action project to the award program, now in its fourth year, ahead of more than 175 competitors.
Tikkun olam is a Hebrew idiom meaning "make the world a beter place", a basic precept of Judaism which enjoins Jews to "make the world a better place as G-d's kingdom" . Helen Diller, the foundation's president, added that “in a world struggling valiantly to recover from economic, environmental and humanitarian crises... we know this recognition will further the work [the awardees] have begun in the spirit of tikkun olam and create lasting differences to protect and preserve the earth and its people for generations to come.,”
The five Bay Area honorees were: Jason Bade, 19; Megan Kilroy, 18; David Schenirer, 18; David Weingarten, 18; and Kyle Weiss, 17.
Their winning projects included:
* a student-run environmental and recycling movement that saves six high schools millions of dollars per year
* a marine preservation program that sparked youth-created environmental activist groups across the country
* a teen culture and community center for Sacramento youth
* an international partnership with Ugandan teens to strengthen Jewish identity, and
* an innovative social network and fundraising web site that empowers African youth through soccer.
Although the grants are unrestricted, the awardees are urged to use the funds for college or to further implement their vision for making the world a better place. All recipients were required to be California residents between the ages of 13 to 19 and self-identified as Jewish.