This past weekend’s workshop was our second to last as Diller Teen
Fellows, and I for one thought that was crazy. How can it almost be over? We have
gone over a lot during our time together. I don’t regret it at all, and am looking
forward to the future of our group
For this workshop, our focus was mainly on our Tikkun Olam projects.
Instead of our usual meeting at the Squirrel Hill JCC, we all met at the Repair
the World location in East Liberty. When we had all arrived, we were split into
4 groups and simulated an idea for a community service project. We were all
given roles of a rabbi, urban farmer, funder, activist, volunteer coordinator, etc. We
were all given sheets specifically for our roles, each with a different point value
for different categories. The categories included: Weeding, Harvesting, Jewish
Education, Touring and Documenting, and Issue Education. Our job was to meet together in our group to come up with an agreement that would satisfy each role and give each role at least forty
points in the forty hours the project would take. After negotiations my group,
which consisted of myself, Allie, Elly, Jacob B. and two Repair the World fellows,
came to an agreement which we were all satisfied with. The point of the activity
was to show that a lot of planning and compromise has to be made for a project to
The next part of the workshop involved our groups planning our Tikkun
Olam projects with our new mentors from Repair the World. My group, made up
by Allie, Elly, Becca, Yael, and myself, had a lot of work to do. We straightened a
lot of the confusion of what we want to do out, and started working towards where
we want to go. We still have a long ways to go, but at least we started on a good path.
After dinner, Chris spoke to us about the Israel Winter Seminar. We are all
still hard at work planning what I know will be a great community week and an
amazing experience I will never forget. After we spoke about Israel, we had an
activity on the Ten Commandments. We were told to try to put them into a modern
perspective, which was really interesting. Then we were told to go to one of three
signs on the walls reading God! God? or God crossed out. We then were asked to
explain why we stood the where we were. The conversation went well and answers
ranged from “I don’t know if there is a God” to “I don’t really believe in God”
to “I fully believe in God and how I was taught”. It showed me that Judaism and
faith in general can have many beliefs and opinions, but we all consider ourselves
the same thing, a Jew. I thought that this activity showed me how Judaism teaches
us to question and that it is good. I for one, cannot wait to see what our final
workshop has in store.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Diller Pittsburgh Cohort 6 had a parent/teen workshop on October 5th. During the time, the teens and parents participated in similar activities. We welcomed three guests into our community, and participated in discussions and activities involving leadership.
During the workshop, we met with Rabbi Danny Schiff who questioned us about the goal of leadership in Judaism. Through debate on various leadership qualities, we discovered that the purpose of Jewish leadership is to help the Jewish community live as examples to the public. After concluding our discussion, we had dinner and teens and parents were separated. The teens engaged in an activity about leaders in our world today and in Jewish history, and then proceeded to an improvisation activity.
During the improv, we were taught how to be mindful and quick thinking through various activities. Overall, the workshop on October 5th was a success, and we all learned quite a bit about Jewish leadership skills.
Monday, October 6, 2014
About a month ago, Cohort 6 had their orientation. This was the first time we were all together, and it was really exciting just to meet everyone in the cohort and our JC’s. We all talked while eating dinner then sat down for a presentation from Chris. He explained what we should be expecting for the next 15 months, a rough outline of the schedule, and how amazing it will be. We each got a binder and notebook that we were told to bring to every Workshop, and before we knew it, Orientation was over. It went by so quickly and we were all looking forward to Workshop 1 on Sunday.
Just a few days later we had our first Workshop, which we all were so excited for. Once we all got to the JCC, we started with some icebreakers our JCs lead us in. This really helped us get more comfortable with each other and we all immediately bonded together. After the icebreakers, we talked a lot about community, and how to define a community. We learned there are many different communities, ones that you probably would not notice at first; your school, temple, neighborhood, friends, etc… After our discussion we went outside to find note cards with different words and pictures on them. We were told by Chris to choose one you want to describe your Diller experience. After everyone chose we talked about why we chose the card we did and it was interesting to see what different things people wanted to get out of Diller. We then made our list of group norms and basic rules we should always follow to make workshops and other events more meaningful. I think we all worked well together and will have no problems following the rules. Afterward Chris explained the committees and we signed up for the one we wanted. We ended Workshop one by learning Whoosh, a thank-you to visitors that we will use in the future.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
“Hey Henry, What’s up?”
“uhhhh not much, what’s up with you?”
“Henry I have some good news, you’ve been selected to be one of the Junior Counselors for Cohort 5, are you interested?”
I was speechless and struggled to form a simple “yes”
And just like that, I was a JC.
The 11 months that followed the phone call have truly been unforgetable. From the awkward introductions at the first workshop, to meeting our Israeli Family at NAS, to these past four days we spent together and everything in between; I loved every minute of it. No I really loved every minute of it, the cooking, the cleaning, waking up early, and even being the last one up at night; if I was doing it for one of my fellows, whatever it was, I loved doing it.
I have never been able to properly explain to anyone why I loved being a JC so much and I think I’ve finally figured out how. The first person who knew of my plans to apply for JC was my own JC, Felicia Tissenbaum. We were walking into the Rayman’s center during community week last summer when I told her. Her eyes lit up as she screamed “Hen!!! That’s great!!!!!!” and then told me how and specifically why she was excited for me. She was genuinely excited that I would get the opportunity, she was happy for me.
I didn’t realize this at the time, but throughout the year Felicia enabled, encouraged, and watched me grow, push myself, and learn about myself through the experiences Diller, and the JCs in part, provide for all of the fellows. It is through this process that the JCs develop an indescribably close, loving, and trusting relationship with each and every one of their fellows. Eventually, the JCs reach a point when they feel pure exuberance at the prospect of one of their fellows having an opportunity to grow and learn and be happy.
That is exactly why I love being a JC; the thrill of empowering my fellows and watching them grow as both Jews and leaders while learning about themselves along the way. After all that, I feel indescribable joy and a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride when I become witness to one of the fellows going to places they wouldn’t have gone without their time in Diller. It is the thrill of taking a group of teenagers unfamiliar to each other and making a family of leaders.
Honestly if these are my last words to the Diller community at large, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to everyone at the JCC, Federation, and at the Diller international office for making this life-changing program a possibility. Thank you to Chris, Nir, Ziv, Shay, Meital, Jared, and the rest of the staff that I worked with. Thank you to all of my friends/family from Cohort 4 for making the first leg of my Diller journey amazing. Thank you to Felicia and Orly for being the best JC’s a JC could ask for (and for helping me so much this year).
Lastly, I want to thank my fellows. You guys have changed me and taught me more than you will ever know. You guys taught me never to settle and pushed me to be the best me I could be. You all never cease to amaze me. Thank you for everything.
Its been Real,
Henry “cake” Cohen
Junior Counselor 2013-2014