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Israeli and US Teens Support and Learn From Holocaust Survivors

The International Diller Teen Fellows Israel Summer Seminar brought 120 teens from North America to visit teens in Israel.
By Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 8/8/2011, 3:15 AM

The 2011 International Diller Teen Fellows Israel Summer Seminar, sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation and the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, recently brought 120 teenagers from North America to visit their sister-communities in Israel, for 21 days of leadership programming and cultural exploration.

As part of the varied activities on the trip, the teens also met with Holocaust survivors to hear their stories and bridge the gaps between the generations. Arutz Sheva was there during the exciting meeting.

“We’re understanding more about how [the survivors] live their lives here in Israel, why they’ve come here, what they’re doing, and how we can take the messages that we’re learning here back home,” said Jake Speyer from Los Angeles, California.

Nicole Miller, Executive Director of International Diller Teen Initiatives, said that meeting with survivors is “very much connected with the story of modern Israel and modern Jewish history and part of the reason why we are here today.”

“Certainly, as this population is dying out, it’s much more important and these teens are very much aware of how important it is to meet with and hear these stories firsthand,” she added.

Miller explained that the Israel visit is part of a year-long program in which the teens, who are carefully selected from the U.S., Canada, and Israel, work on their leadership skills, community service, Jewish identity and their connection to Israel.

“The Israelis come to their partnership community in North America in the spring for a couple of weeks, and now during the summer all of the North American groups came to Israel for three weeks,” she said.

The participants, said Miller, range from secular to modern Orthodox. They learn from one another and are strengthened by their diversity.

Aviad Turm, an Israeli teen from Beit Shemesh who is taking part in the program, said that he can learn from the Americans about their great love for Israel.

“Many Americans have strong feelings for Israel and want to visit Israel, donate money, and help any way they can,” he said.

The seminar culminated with a teen leadership Congress which united all 240 teenagers and empowered them to embrace shared Jewish values and Jewish diversity, examine Jewish communities worldwide and strengthen their sense of leadership and development for the future of the Jewish people.

The Diller Teen Fellows Israel Summer Seminar is part of a premiere year-long program for Jewish teens in the United States, Canada and Israel. The program was originated by San Francisco Bay Area philanthropist Mrs. Helen Diller in 1997.