Monday, December 15, 2014

Cohort 5 Diller Reflections Part 2

451 days ago I sat in a strange room I’d never been in with a lot of strange people I’d never seen before. The strangest part of it all is that I can distinctly remember where each one of you was sitting. I remember walking towards the building and some kid with read hair holding the door for me. I remember sitting and eating a cookie to avoid awkward conversations. I remember the weird looks I got for coming straight from my field hockey game still wearing my uniform and bright orange headband. I remember the feeling of having absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into with this so-called Diller program.

Honestly, I’m not really sure that I could describe what Diller is any better than I could that day. But I am sure that Diller has become more a part of me than I ever could have imagined those 64 weeks ago.

 “We’ll sleep when we’re dead!” I can’t even count how many times we said that in the past 15 months, or at least how many times I said that in a desperate effort to convince myself it was a good idea to stay awake through all hours of the night. You see, unfortunately Sundays in Diller never quite agreed with that statement. The first Shabbaton wasn’t too bad, we at least made it fully aware and awake through the Laurel Caverns, but about twenty minutes into the bus ride home we were all completely out. The second Shabbaton, well, I think it’s evidence enough that I’m guessing none of us remember that Sunday very well. Chris, Henry, and Jared had quite a job that day of constantly tapping us on our heads as they hit the table or whispering across the circle at our neighbor to wake us up. And NAS, well that was a whole new level of sleep deprivation. The last night of NAS we pulled a collective all-nighter, and I think I speak for all of us when I say I don’t regret that at all, but once the Israeli’s bus pulled away from the JCC the exhaustion just hit me smack in the face. I honestly barely remember anything that happened that morning. I’m pretty sure we tried to have a wrap-up group discussion and within like 20 seconds at least 5 people were asleep. I remember being so sure I wouldn’t fall asleep yet the next thing I knew I was being awoken by Henry singing or saying weird things into the microphone and then him and Tyler wearing Jamie’s jean vest wall twerking. Just one of the many Diller moments that have made me question, wait what the heck is going on right now.

The defining moments of Diller

Sheep, park bench, football in the snow, marissa in dance (everything marissa did/does), Jamie falling over last workshop, henry on the bus from NYC, last morning of NAS, mini golf at URJ, rope swing, whatsapp, chasing with cupcakes, times square, jumping on beds in hotel, nicknames,
We’ve had quite some interesting travel experiences with Diller this year, but I have to say my favorite moment was when we were stranded on the side of the highway somewhere between here and New York. It was really the ideal situation. We’d already been driving for about 6 hours, had gotten minimal sleep over the previous few days, weird smells started coming from nowhere, and the air conditioning shut off so the bus became an oven. Fantastic. It got even better when we had to get off the bus and trek up a grassy hill on the side of the road. I even saw my life flash before my eyes when a giant spider crawled past my foot.

The best part of that whole unfortunate event was that no heat, creepy bugs, or sleep deprivation could stop us from making the best of it. Within just a few minutes we had began a game of wah, of course. We’ve rarely gone more than a day with each other without that ridiculous game, which is impossible to play without laughing. And as they say, laughter is the best medicine. Somehow just about all of us were running around with smiles on our faces, but you definitely wouldn’t be able to tell from the picture we took where we all tried to look as miserable as possible, except for Henry of course.

And sure enough we were eventually rescued from our hill with a beautiful view of the turnpike and put onto a new bus to make it the rest of the way back to Pittsburgh. Sure, this bus was different, it hadn’t spent the past few days with our messy selves travelling around Philadelphia and New York City, and it didn’t have the same patterned seats. But it still got us home.

This was one of the defining moments of Diller because it so well exemplifies what I see when I look at our cohort. Sure, we’ve had our fair share of breakdowns in the middle of our journey, but we’ve always known how to make the best of everything. Having fun didn’t change how fast the new bus came, or how much the hot sun beat down on us, or how many bugs crawled across our feet. We could’ve just given up and sat there in all of our misery, but we didn’t. That break in the journey, the change in the schedule, just made us appreciate all the more when we arrived at our final destination. Diller, however, doesn’t have a real endpoint. I truly believe that. Yes, going to Israel may be the last official place we go in Diller, but in no way is it our final destination. Diller is about the journey, whatever that means to each one of us. It’s been a crazy journey, one I certainly never saw coming. One with ups and downs and hills and turns and twists and bumps and loops and all different speeds and terrains. But I wouldn’t change any of it, the good or the bad. This journey was all ours, it still is all ours, and it’s one I know I will never forget. 

~Allie Shepard

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The First Shabbaton for Cohort 6


So I got out of school about an hour early.  As we drove to the JCC I was thinking about the bus ride to EKC guessing I would probably catch up on my sleep during the ride.  Well I am more than happy to say I did not get to catch on my sleep during that ride.  Various activities like speed dating and singing happy birthday got everyone on the bus, including myself, pumped up for the weekend. 

After arriving at the camp and unloading all of the luggage, we did some icebreakers since we still did not all know each other.  Next was candle lighting, and after this we went back to the cabin for a small Shabbat service.  I learned many new tunes and variations of prayers.  The Friday night Shabbat experience was definitely a bonding moment. 

A new aspect of Shabbat for me was dressing up in white (which the whole cohort did).  I thought this was awesome and brought even more of a sense of community to the group.  During the workshop that night, we explored identity and more specifically our Jewish identity.  Talking about what identity is, how you would describe your identity, and how identity affects you.  I personally enjoyed delving deeper into this conversations. 

The Ma’agal Lilah was a very good group bonding moment as well.  Discussing more personal questions with the group helped build our relationships.    It was easy to fall asleep Friday night having a great weekend to look forward to.

~Danny Lebovtiz


After an eventful Friday evening of a unique Diller Shabbat experience, fun games, ruach, team building and bonding, we woke up bright and early on the chilly Saturday morning at Emma Kaufmann Camp to start what would be a totally fabulous day!!! Once we managed to rise from our heavy slumber, we met outside and walked over to the cafeteria where we had breakfast, consisting of bagels and what appeared to be French toast! Yum! Then we cleared our plates and headed back to the CIT building (where we were staying for the weekend) and played an amusing sock game, where we had to see how many pairs of socks we could pull from other people’s feet!  It was pretty intense! (A few of us got out after the first few seconds!) Once we put on our hats, gloves, and warm coats, we headed back outside to start our “Shabbat experience”. We walked down the beautiful path which led to the lake.  It was absolutely stunning and breathtaking to gaze down upon the lake which glistened under the precious sun rays!   Although it was freezing, the utter beauty of the bare trees with sprinkled snow dust on the branches, and the harmonious trickle of the waterfall in the distance made up for it.  Along the way, Chris told us to be as quiet as we could, so that we could truly feel the silence of the barren forest.  Every so often, we talked about how we felt by the silence and what the nature symbolized in our minds.  Given that the theme of the Shabbaton was identity, this played right along.  Different people had different opinions about the meaning behind the natural surroundings showing a wide range of diverse identities, which was very interesting.

Once we got down to the lake, we talked about the role of god in our lives, and stood by several different posters, each with a different interpretation of god.  Some people had a clear view of god, while many were unsure about how they felt.  Most thought that god represented a symbol for something rather than an actual all-powerful figure. We then dispersed around the beach area and had a few minutes to just sit in the silence of the natural surroundings, and reflect on what the word identity really means.  After the lake activity, we walked back up to the camp and went to this huge gazebo near the cafeteria where we played many team building games, led by the JCs.  This was called “Outdoor Training.”  Then we went to lunch.  After lunch, we walked back to the CIT building where we met Benji, a local song leader, and we participated in some super fun Hebrew songs!  By the end, we were all on our feet dancing and singing along with Benji.  After getting all energized, we had a small break for about 45 minutes.  Some people played sports, while other people stayed inside and played cards, did homework, went on a nature walk etc.

We then gathered again in the gym, and participated in what was called the “Jewish Identity Buffet.”  Basically, we went around the gym and picked different papers with captions on them that we agreed with; all related in some way to our Jewish identity.  Then we organized our papers by the food symbol on them and got colored beads to string on a bracelet.  Apparently, each color represented a part of our Jewish identity.   A lot of people’s bracelets showed different beliefs than they thought they had.  For example, I thought that I was completely Conservative (in terms of Judaism), but apparently, some of my beliefs are part of the Reconstruction movement.   After learning a lot more about our Jewish identities, we got a quick snack and headed to the CIT building once again to talk about what we learned about our identities.  We even made t-shirts where we wrote words to describe who we think we are, who other people think we are, how social media perceives us, and what society thinks we are.  Even though it was a bit uncomfortable for most people, we had to walk around the room wearing the t-shirts, showing our flaws and our quirks with the entire group.  Next, we wrote our biggest flaw/fear on a piece of paper, and folded it within a balloon.  We went around popping random people’s balloons, reading their flaws and giving them advice on how to possibly fix/improve themselves.

Then we had a really nice Havdalah service led by the ritual committee, filled with ruach and reflection.  After, we had dinner and then headed back to the CIT building to do this activity called “Sacred Trust.” By this time, it was really dark outside.  We lined up in a single file line and were blind folded while walking with no pre-determined idea of where we were going.  We had to trust the every move of the person in front of us, which was indeed a bit difficult.  This led us to the gym, where we were given a glow stick.  Slowly, as each person yelled out their fear, they cracked their glow stick.

Finally, we walked up to the basketball courts, where we had a bonfire and s’mores!  It was a perfect end to our fascinating day! It was such a wonderful experience!  We are super excited for the next Shabbaton! Yay!

~Ariana Finkelstein


On November 9th (Sunday) the last day of our first Diller Cohort 6 Shabbaton, we did a lot of different activities in the short amount of time we had left. We woke up really early, at 8:00am to start the day. Many of the girls woke up a little earlier to get their things packed and ready, so we would not need to do too much later in the day. At 8:30 we had a light breakfast, one of my favorite parts of the day. It’s a time for all of us to sit at one long table and hang out like a family would for family gatherings and Holiday’s. 

We started to film our video for the Israelis at 9:00 am. It was so fun doing this and turned out really well for the one hour we received to put it together. We danced, joked around, played lap tag, and were truly excited for our Israelis to see it. I hope they don’t think we’re too weird! At 10:00 we had our feedback session and described TKTS (Traits, Knowledge, Tools, Skills) that we had gained during the Shabbaton. We gathered into the common room and walked around to the different posters marked with different activities we did throughout the week that the staff planned. It was a time for us to anonymously right down our feedback for them and the programs that were planned. After that, we openly gave feedback to the committees that were in charge of different aspects of the weekend. This was also a time to regroup and reflect about what went well, what did not go so well, and what to do differently next time.

11:30 we had brunch; our last meal at EKC before leaving. After brunch we also had our final ma’agal. We used this time to hang out and squeeze in time for one more game of lap tag. At this point we were very tired, but also not ready to leave and say goodbye. After, moved all of our bags out of the cabin and on to the bus. 1:30 we left EKC and started the long, bumpy ride home. Many of us were sleeping the entire way home, or some who were so hyper from being so sleep deprived, did not sleep at all. We were all sad to be going back to Pittsburgh. At 3:00 pm we arrived back home. We were not excited to see our parents because that’s when it finally hit us. Our weekend with our favorite people was now and officially over.\

~Rachel Gorby

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cohort 5 Diller Reflections Part 1

I am the worst at goodbyes. I always end up crying. I cry the days leading up to
saying goodbye, during the goodbye, and then even the days after. So I guess I should start
crying now to prove my point, right? But it’s ok, because it’s a happy sort of parting. It’s ok
because I know that I am lucky to have something this hard to say goodbye to. I decided to
write a poem for my speech, so here it goes.

This might come at a shock to half of this room,
And the other half
Probably knows exactly what I’m talking about
When I say,
My best moments in Diller were those in which I was crying.
And I don’t wanna say goodbye,
So I won’t

I won’t talk about the time the girls woke everyone up at two a.m
Just to do a ridiculously funny
But exceptionally choreographed dance
To a mildly vulgar song….
And afterwards I laughed so hard
I cried.
I won’t say it.

I won’t reminisce on the memory of the time
Camped out in Noah’s house
We, the Dillers, sat in the basement laughing and talking
And Allie did something so funny
I exploded into hysterical laughter,
The kind that makes me cry,
For a few seconds,
Until I was actually crying.
I didn’t want to say goodbye.
So, I cried.
I won’t say it.

I won’t act like
The times we stayed up all night
Until I thought I saw “the mothership”
The things I’ve woken up to
Like Henry wall twerking
Or being told my new nickname was Jessus (not to be mistaken for Jesus)
Weren’t some of the most endearingly bizarre
Things I’ve experienced
And yeah,
I think we all get it
I probably cried of laughter or maybe out of love
But I still won’t say it.

I won’t say the word,
Because I don’t think it does the experience service.
Sometimes words can be meaningless
And sometimes the meaningless becomes meaningful,
And there was once a time where Diller was just a little word.
And now it means so much more.

It’s the Diller pickles
It’s the Diller twists
It’s the Papa Chris
And the Henry and Jared
It’s the shabbatons
And the long bus rides
It’s the Israelis
It’s the Ma’agals
And all 18 of us fellow fellows

It’s everything that’s happened over the past fifteen months
And although it might be over
It’s not that seven letter word
Because no matter what happens next
Saying it’s all over
Would be absurd.

Jessica Hertzberg

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cohort 6 Meeting Nir

Last week we got a chance to meet Chris’ and Deb’s counterparts from the Diller cohort in Karmiel-Misgav, Nir and Tomer, and learn about one of the many exciting aspects of Diller- the Israeli cohort!  The event started off with two great ice-breakers, one led by Allie, and the other by Nir.  The icebreakers worked very well, and by the end of them we were all joking around and laughing.  We then sat down to have dinner.  During dinner we asked Nir questions about the cohort in Israel and about Israeli life in general.  We learned a lot of cool facts, one of which is that people in Karmiel-Misgav are Steelers’ fans!  We found out where many Israeli cities are located geographically, and learned a little more about what to expect in regards to our relationship with our Israeli sister cohort and in Israel itself.  We ended the night with warm cookies and Krembo, Israeli candy that are like chocolate covered s’mores! Overall, it was an awesome and informative bonding experience.  

~Gabi Golin