Thursday, April 9, 2015

Day 5 of JCM - Partnership Shabbaton

It was finally time to go to EKC and make even closer connections with our partnership cohort and Diller family. It was 3 o’clock and the excitement in the air was real. When we arrived, we quickly changed into our white attire and did our white parade. It was freezing but being together made everyone so much warmer. One of the many fun activities we did was about stereotypes between Americans and Israelis. They were all super enjoyable to watch and so funny.

Even though that was fun, we still learned a lot from it. It showed that even though there are stereotypes, looking around the room showed that not all of them are true. Later that night for the first half, Eyal and Diana ran a program about Shabbat. We did a text study and it started to get pretty heated between some of the Americans and Israelis. We also went around the room in a circle and wished on what we wanted for this Shabbat. Stomachs were growling by this point, so we headed down to the dinning hall and had a wonderful Shabbat dinner. We all got to catch up and make some even closer connections. We all sat scattered with both Israeli’s and Americans to get the full experience.

After dinner, we went back into our cabin and Eyal and Diana finished their program. We then went into our Maagal. It was super emotional but it felt amazing when everyone opened up. It was amazing feeling knowing how safe everyone felt with each other and that we will always be there for each other. When that was done, we finally had free time to relax, recollect ourselves, and get ready for Saturday. Some went to shower and lay in bed and some went to the common room to be with everyone. Oh yes, so we didn’t have our phones, (Shabbaton rules and Shabbat) so none of us were distracted with the outside world and could focus on what matters, being together. It was an amazing first day at EKC and a Shabbat I’ll never forget. 

~ Abby Savitz

Day Four of JCM

An early morning began when the Israelis arrived at the JCC. The anticipated shopping day had finally arrived. Everybody eagerly set out for the Waterfront knowing exactly where they wanted to go. The next two hours flew by in stores like Marshalls and Target. 

After the shopping, the teens from Karmiel-Misgav headed to the North Side to the Andy Warhol Museum. The intriguing and unique art exhibits captured the attention of all the beholders. 

At 4:15 the American and Israeli teens met at Rodef Shalom in dressy casual attire, ready to work. We split in to our own cohorts and brainstormed ideas for the mission statement of community week. Then we all came back together and fused the two  statements into a strong mission statement. Then we were split in to 10 groups to brainstorm ideas for the vision of community week. Similar to the mission statement, we discussed our ideas collectively and came up with one vision statement. 

After dinner, we began our walk to Campus Superstar. Luckily the rain stopped so we walked briskly and arrived with time to spare. Students affiliated with Hillel, Point Park University, University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University came to the show to support their friends. The amazing performances claimed every audience member's undivided attention. Though all of the contestants were fantastic, a Freshman from CMU claimed the winning prize and title. Everyone began to depart for their homes and prepare and pack for the shabbaton. 

~Jackie Dervin

Day Three of JCM

On the fourth day of JCM, the Pittsburgh Teen Fellows and the Karmiel-Misgav teen fellows engaged in various activities, including an interfaith dialogue with Muslim teens in the Pittsburgh area, as well as saw the Hazamir concert. Once everybody arrived at Rodef Shalom, we did a quick icebreaker to meet all the Muslim teens, and further connect with the Israeli fellows.

Following the icebreaker, we split into groups according to tables and read two different texts. One of the texts was the story of Joseph and the technicolor dreamcoat from the Jewish perspective, and one from the Muslim perspective. When reading the texts, we noticed that some of the plot was similar, but some of the plot was also different in each text. We got to compare and contrast the two, and receive insight from all three groups of teens.

After the dialogue texts, we did a hands on activity where we were asked to build bridges using only marshmallows and pasta. Some bridges were more elaborate than others, but the overall idea was consistent. We had to discuss and brainstorm different ways to get from point A to point B, and work with one another to achieve the common goal. To conclude the day, we watched the Hazamir concert featuring our very own Ariana Finkelstein. The concert included teens from Pittsburgh, as well as from Karmiel-Misgav.

All in all, the day was so much fun and ran very smoothly. We got to get to know the Israelis a lot better, and get different perspectives on different topics. I had an amazing time and got to reflect on how different religions such as Judaism and Islam are very different, but also very similar. I think that instead of letting differences and diversity be barriers, we should celebrate and appreciate our differences, and use them to connect and learn about one another. Overall, it was a very successful day.

Ilana Udler

Second Day of JCM

Today with the Israelis, we read and analyzed text about the 2 and ½ tribes that did not want to settle in the land of Israel, the ones that wanted to settle east of the Jordan. We were split up into groups of 4, each having two Americans and two Israelis. We then read the text in our groups. 

In the text, it discussed Moses’ reaction to the tribes not wanting to go into the land of Israel. At first Moses was furious, for they just spent 40 years in the desert trying to reach the promise land. But after the tribes talked with Moses about why they would prefer to stay east of the Jordan, Moses was more willing to let them live there. In return for living east of the Jordan, the tribes offered to be the first ones to go into the land of Israel to fight the enemies that lived in Canaan, and clear the path for the Israelites. They came to Moses with their proposal and said “We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we ourselves will be armed, ready to go before the children of Israel until we have brought them to their place; and our little ones will dwell in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our homes until every one of the children of Israel has received his inheritance. For we will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has fallen to us on this eastern side of the Jordan.”(Numbers 23:16-19).  

Moses Responds to this by saying “If you do this thing [go into Canaan first], if you arm yourselves before the ADONAI for the war, and all your armed men cross over the Jordan before the ADONAI until He has driven out His enemies from before Him, and the land is subdued before the ADONAI, then afterward you may return and be blameless before the ADONAI and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the ADONAI. But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the ADONAI; and be sure your sin will find you out. Build cities for your little ones and folds for your sheep, and do what has proceeded out of your mouth.”(Numbers 23:20-24) Moses’ response to them was clear, he essentially said that if you do what you said, then you may live across the Jordan, but if not, then you have sinned against Adonai. 

After reading this text, we came back together as a group and discussed whether or not WE would allow the tribes to live across the Jordan. We found that 30% of the fellows would allow the tribes to settle across the Jordan, while the other 70% said that they would not. We then brought this story to a greater context. We compared this story to the Diaspora. We considered the fact that we, the Americans, were the 2.5 tribes, because we did not live in the Promise Land. It was a very interesting experience to see how biblical text is still relevant today, even though 4000 years have passed.

~ Jesse Plung

Monday, April 6, 2015

JCM Orientation

JCM Orientation Blog Post

JCM orientation was hosted at the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh from 4:30 to 6:30 on March 8, 2015.  The parents of the Diller teen fellows attended this event in addition to the fellows.  At the beginning of orientation the fellows gave presentations in groups of 5 to the parents.  Essentially, the presentation was based upon how the fellows decided on distributing funds to the various Jewish organizations across Pittsburgh.  The fellows were given 5 million dollars to distribute across the different organizations; however, collectively the organizations were requesting 8 million dollars.  The fellows explained the process by which they allocated the money to the various institutions.  Most of the reasoning was based upon the idea of what was “needed” within the Pittsburgh Jewish community and what was not necessary (“wanted”) by the Pittsburgh Jewish community.  The organizations that were based upon the needs of the community generally received top priority above the rest.  The presentations led into a short discussion involving the parents based on fundraising and being a donor.  Three speakers that worked for Jewish organizations of Pittsburgh talked about the process of fundraising and the importance of being a donor.  The main message the fellows received from these speakers is that the Jewish community has invested a lot of fundraised money in each of us fellows and that we should appreciate the opportunity that we have been given as much as possible.  Next the Diller staff talked about all the “do’s” and “don’ts” of hosting an Israeli.  At this point all of the Fellows were exhausted from the previous workshop and were extremely anxious to know who they were hosting.  After the Diller staff explained to the parents all of the hosting information, the hosting pairs were finally revealed.  All of the Diller fellows left the Jewish Federation with a greater understanding of the Jewish Pittsburgh community and excitement for JCM.

~Nathan Wecht

Second Shabbaton

Being on the Logistics committee, I had to arrive at the Cranberry Family retreat center about an hour before everyone else. This allowed me to see everyone when they first arrived, and I can honestly say that every single person walked in with a smile, and couldn't wait for this second Shabbaton to begin.
The schedule was jam packed, so we had to start immediately. The first activity was creating a Newspaper, led by the Education Committee. This involved us creating we thought news would look like in an ideal world. Since we only had 45 minutes before shabbat, we made the newspapers now, but wouldn't discuss them until Saturday.
The white parade and candlelighting came next. This being our second white parade, everyone began to feel very united, and like one big family, as we recalled the first time we had done it, just a few months ago.

After candlelighting, the logistics committee had a welcoming program. Everyone took a balloon, and inside was a quote, and a Hershey Kiss. Each person went around in the circle, popped their balloon, and read their quote, and stated if they agreed or disagreed. Then, they ate their Hershey Kiss. It turned out that all the quotes came from different religions and opinions, so it was really cool to see the positives of other ideas, not just Judaism

A shabbat service was next which included a few prayers, and then everyone had to make skits about the torah portion, the Israelites running away from Egypt. The skits were all hilarious, and included a musical number. Dinner was next, which was a hot meal for Friday night, including chicken, mashed potatoes, and matzah ball soup.

After dinner, we had our first activity with Greg. Before the shabbaton, everyone in the Cohort read Greg's book, The First Thirty. This first activity was basically just a question and answer session about the book. Everyone asked insightful questions, and everything Greg said really met perfectly with the theme, acts of love and kindness. If anyone hasn't read his book , I would definitely recommend checking it out, it really helped shape the shabbaton experience.

Next, the education committee assigned everyone one in the cohort another member of the cohort. The idea was to watch this person the whole weekend, and then before we left, everyone would reveal who they had, and say nice things that they did of the weekend. It was anonymous, so none of us had any ideas who was watching us until we left. This added a cool new aspect to the weekend.

The first Ma'agal of the weekend came next. It touched on everyone really thinking about who they were, and what they were about. It was a great way for everyone to feel connected to one another, and went to bed really appreciating the family we were now a part of. 

~Adam Morris

On Sunday February 1st,  the Diller 6C Cohort came to the end of their second shabbaton. Throughout this entire shabbaton, almost all activities were organized and run by the 19 teens present. The first couple of activities that the teens completed were waking up, eating breakfast, and then bagging lunches for an event outside of the retreat center. During breakfast, the teens wrote their names and one fact about them on a piece of paper. This would be used in a later activity.

 After these were finished, the enhancement comm. led one activity, were all teens decorated little pots for the holiday "Tu B'Shevat" which is the birthday for trees. Following this, the Tikun O'lam had an activity where teens watched a video on derogatory terms, had discussions about these words, and performed skits on derogatory terms and how they are used in today's society. Next, all teens signed a poster saying "I pledge to not use derogatory terms." 

After this, the teens skyped with their partner cohort in Israel for about 30 min. where they did certain icebreakers, such as "true or false" about their home cities. They also presented the piece of paper with a fact and name on it to the Israelis, and vise versa. Following this, everyone cleaned up and got ready to go to the JRA where the Tikun O'lam comm would lead an activity. Everyone got on the bus, where all had time to eat lunch, relax, and talk. 

On the bus, the Education comm presented the certificates for the activity where each teen would watch another teen and observe good things about him/her for the entire weekend. Lastly, 6C arrived at the JRA where all helped make almost 500 hamentaschens! All teens helped cleanup after and then Chris led a closing discussion. (I don't really know what we talked about because I was cleaning up.) 

~Julia Freeman

Jewish Community Mifgash Day 1

When meeting new people, most people suggest avoiding controversial and socially sensitive subjects such as money, religion, and politics. Obviously Diller has not heard of this rule, or maybe knows that we have already made strong bonds with our sister cohort, because one day in and we had an entire evening devoted to discussions of religion. A rabbi from each of the major Jewish denominations came to speak with us, explain to us exactly what their sect entails, and answer any of the many questions we asked them. We divided into groups and had ten minutes with each rabbi. 

Though in itself this experience was extremely unique and memorable, it was even more exciting seeing that three out of the five rabbis present were female, and accepted! The denominations present included Orthodox, represented by Rabbi Wasserman, conservative, represented by Rabbi Amy Greenbaum and Rabbi Alex Greenbaum, reform, represented by Rabbi Aaron, and Reconstructionist, represented by Rabbi Dyen. Each rabbi addressed what was most important in their branch of Judaism as well as what they do or do not deem acceptable. 

After we had been given all of this information, we had the opportunity to have a Q&A session with all of the rabbis together! We listened to all of the main branches of Judaism side by side answering the same questions allowing us to truly see what separates and brings them together. Though there were some mild disagreements between the rabbis at this point it was all informative and respectful, making it an overall pleasant and enlightening experience. It supplied us with definitions that I personally had not been aware of, and even made me realize that most of my religious beliefs identify with a different faction than I belong to. This type of Jewish awareness and learning with Israelis is truly what Diller is about!

(And after that some of us got some frozen yogurt. Not the best idea since it was snowing...)

~ Noa Wollstein

Today we began the day by all standing in a circle. In the circle, one person had a playground ball and had to throw it to someone else in the circle from the opposite city and say their names. Though this seems simple and pointless, it really helped to refresh us all on each other's names.
Next, we ate a spaghetti dinner. For some of the Israelis, it was their first time having spaghetti which seemed to be exciting for them as food is a big part of going to a foreign country. During dinner we all got to talk to each other and learn more about one another. 

After dinner, we split into 4 groups and got to talk to 6 rabbis. One was orthodox, one reform, one reconstructionist, and 2 conservative. We had the privilege of learning about all of the major sects of Judaism and how they were different. This was interesting for all of us as none of us are orthodox or reconstructionist. The Israelis also found it very interesting to meet 3 women rabbis as there are only 9 in Israel. After we all met with each rabbi for 15 minutes, we all got together and had a Q and A session. This was interesting because we got to find out things like each of the sect's views on gay marriage. 

This was the end of the day and it went by very fast even though it was 3 hours. This week is flying by very fast. I can't wait until our trip until Washington DC and eventually our trip to Israel.  

~ Noll Joseph

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cohort 6, Workshop 4

On December seventh, the Diller Teen Fellows of 6C had a workshop at the Squirrel Hill JCC. We started out with defining our personalities using the Jung and Meyers personality test. This helped us to understand each other better to make it easier to work with one another. Next, we were divided into four or so groups and given tennis balls and told not to cross a certain line. Then Chris laid out hula-hoops across the floor and told us to play the game. What the game was specified as was not given. It ended up being most groups tried to throw the balls at a specific point, usually on the far wall or the interior of one of the hula-hoops. After the activity was finished, we were asked to explain the purpose of the activity. The answers varied but the one that personally stood out the most was that we won't be able to play the same game and work together if we don't all have the same goal in mind. This was a segway to the Journey of Bread & Water, a process used to achieve these goals. The Journey of Break & Water outlined the steps in the process to planning our next shabbaton which will be done mostly by us, the teens of 6C. We were then divided into different groups; each group was designated a certain aspect of the shabbton to plan. The workshop ended with us beginning to plan the shabbaton in our small groups.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Day 11 came to an end with a beginning.  During our Ma’agal Lyla at our final night of Kennes, our cohort spent some time in reflection.  After a long day and a long week or more, it was nice to take it all in.  We all thought about our New Year’s Resolutions, which was fitting considering our cohort was about to go to the best Diller New Year’s party in the Negev (desert that is).  We also made wishes for the New Year for others in our cohort.  It’s weird to see how far we’ve come and how easily we can connect to one another.  It was a nice way to end our year together.  Afterwards, we headed to “white tent”, to see the other cohorts and to get down on the dance floor.  We had Marissa with her classic rap song dances, and Riberi and Mark singing the Taylor Swift songs loud and proud.  There was Meital keeping us pumped up and making sure Gabe, Jamie, Becca, Allie, the guys, and me were all on our feet.  When white tent ended, all of the cohort gathered all the Bamba, Goldfish, pizza, ice cream, and Coca-Cola -written in Hebrew might I add-and met at the top of the cliff right on the desert sand.  We were lucky that Papa Chris bought us pizza, because I wouldn’t say the dinner was the most edible of foods.  By Chris’ mistake, we all were give our noise makers fifteen minutes early, so not only did we blow them as loud as we could, disrupting the entire desert, at midnight, but we blew them every single moment leading up to midnight as well.  We all stood facing the vast desert lying before us and counted down.]

              “Ten!”  Someone almost fell of the side of the cliff.
               Nine!” Everyone got their noisemakers out, and got ready to blow them again as if their                      affect would be different this time.
              “Eight!” Should we do a count off?  Do we have everyone? C5 Count off!  Micah!
              “Seven!” Is that a goat animal thing staring at us?
              “Six!”  Wow, this would be an artsy picture!
              “Five!” C5, that’s us.
              “Four!”  I hope the Ben & Jerry’s hasn’t melted all the way yet…
              “Three!” Someone blows their noisemaker pre-maturely.
              “Two!” It’s almost 2k15, the graduating year for some of us.
              “One!” All of our noisemakers break and instead make noises ten times louder than before.
              “Happy New Year!”

It didn't feel so happy at 4:30 am this morning when our alarms went off though.  All of us groggily climb out of bed, throw on our Diller t-shirts we’ve been instructed to wear, and drag our now overly full suitcases to the buses.  Grabbing a pastry on the way out, we all take a seat on the bus.  Actually, we take two seats each, because most of us plan on sleeping on our way to Masada.  That’s right; we were on our way to climb Masada.  After a windy and seemingly dangerous cliff drive, we arrived at Masada.  We were all given a bag of assorted breakfast items first, because it’s important we have the energy we need to trek up the mountain.  Among the many strange things that have been given to us to eat in the past few hours, this might have been some of the weirdest.  Unsure of what to make of that which came out of our blue bags, we found ourselves each with a can of tuna, a tomato, some mayonnaise and ketchup, a whole cucumber, peach nectar, an apple, a candy bar like snack, some chocolate paste, and Halva.  With our stomachs either full with the most random assortment of breakfast foods, or empty because of the lack of compatibility between our provided foods, we began our ascent on the Roman path up Masada.  The hike up wasn’t so bad.  There were some big steps and maybe a few instances where going uphill tired the legs out beyond return, but there were no injuries or major difficulties.  When we got to the top, the view was breathtaking.  You could look out and see the sea at one end, and miles of vast sand and dried up river banks the other sides.  It was so beautiful being so high, until you realize, you’re only barely above sea level.

At the top, our tour guide first told us about the importance of Masada.  It was a fort for the Jews that lived there, especially when it came to protecting from the Romans.  The King Herod who built his palace on the north end at the top of Masada was a genius.  He had the right thinking by building his home at the side of the sea, with a view so magnificent.  We looked out to see the beauty of the sea, he may have seen one day, only to find that the sea had dried up and was now much farther away.  Next, we were guided down into one of the cistern.  After climbing down a set of steep and big steps, down underground we were told the story of the Jews that lived there on Masada.  When the Romans came, they were outnumbered, and had the choice to either fight or die fighting, or to commit suicide and save their children and wives from terrible abuse.  After, learning that they chose the latter, we were able to think about what we think about the whole story.  Being that all of the Jews died, and the only account of the story came from someone who became a traitor and joined the Romans, it is unclear whether the story is true or not.  With some deep thoughts in our mind, we made our way back to the surface and were lead to the other side of the mountain to take a Diller North American teen’s group picture and to catch the cable car down.  Before a lunch much like that of what we’ve been eating at Sde Boker, we talked about what was good and what was bad about our time here, and were able to provide positive feedback to Diller international.  We then boarded the bus for a whole new load of excitement.

Arriving at the Dead Sea was a cool and weird experience.  First of all, many of us learned the lesson that you should always wear shoes while at the sea.  However, more than that it was amazing to finally be at the Dead Sea after seeing it from so far away on Masada.  We were also officially at the lowest point on earth.  We had a lot of fun as a cohort figuring out the proper way to float and swim in the sea, and surprisingly, to some of us, we didn’t need to tread water.  After our bodies were heavily salted, and feeling pretty slimy, we parted our sea, and made our way to the mud instead.  Thinking we were slimy before, seeing us now was a whole different experience.  Head to toe, we were a complete composite of sulfur smelling, thick, grimy, but relaxing mud.  As we walked, the sand stuck to the mud under our feet, making it feel like each step had a five pound weight attached to it.  Now, adding to the list of things I don’t understand about Israel, we were meant to wash off the mud in salt water showered.  Not only did I struggle getting all of the mud off with my eyes closed, but I also temporarily blinded myself.  I had to be guided to the freshwater showers, which were farther away and of such a lesser quality.  In the end, we ran back to the locker rooms to shower and change in what felt like the speed of light, to board the bus again for our return to Jerusalem one last time.

We got one last chance to visit the Kotel.  It was nice to end the trip the same way we started, with Jerusalem and the Kotel.  It was a lot less crowded so we got to touch the wall and stand right up against it, without much difficulty.  It was a really great ending to a fast paced but meaningful trip.  Next, we went to the light show in the museum at King David’s tower.  Walking in, there were projectors showing short animated clips of stories that seemed to be the placing of Moses in the river and other moments in history.  Then, we took our seats and got to see a very impressive show about the history of Jerusalem.  We started with the story of Adam and Eve and ended with the message that we must do whatever we can to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  We saw all of the different people to inhabit Jerusalem, and all of the strife, and we were all very impressed.  The only thing that could’ve made it better would be if we all had the common sense to use the timeline of events they gave to us before the show to help us understand what was going on during the show.  Lastly, we had free time on Ben Yehuda Street to buy our last souvenirs and gifts, eat our last bits of Israeli food, and spend time on our own in Jerusalem for the last time.

 We ended with our final Ma’agal of our entire experience.  We talked about the ways we can sum up the most important connections, principles, and teachings of Diller in one word.  It was weird to see how much we all have grown and changed, and how well we really got to know each other.  Now, I sit on the bus, writing the last blog for Diller Cohort 5.  It’s been a good one, I’d have to say, and it’s weird to be saying the last remarks, because I know that there’s so much more to look forward to.  Even though most of us are asleep right now, as final preparation for our 5 am flight, I think our eyes have been opened in ways none of us could imagine, and I’d say we’re all better and stronger people because of it.

-Jess Hertzberg