NOVEMBER 2, 2017 – On a recent Sunday evening when most teens were busy doing homework, an impressive group of more than 60 Teen Israel Advocacy Fellows participated in the Anti-Defamation League’s interactive workshop, Word to Action, as part of their advanced Israel advocacy training, a free program of Lappin Foundation.
Led by ADL facilitators Dan Levenson and Youth to Israel Adventure (Y2I) alumna Lori Ganz, teens learned ways to identify and effectively deal with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments and activities, which empowers them to stand up for Israel and for themselves at their schools, on social media, and especially during their college years.
When asked to stand if they had ever personally experienced anti-Semitism, I was astounded and alarmed by the number who stood, which was almost every teen in attendance. I thought those days had passed for Jewish kids.
It is understandable that the Lappin Foundation is focused on teaching Jewish students to deal with the rising tide of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses. Sadly, however, the reality is Jewish students of all ages need tools and techniques to deal with this long before their college years.
One of the benefits of Youth to Israel Adventure post-trip programming is the network of support and opportunity for training that is available to Jewish teens during their junior and senior years of high school.
Teen Israel Advocacy Fellows meet monthly from September through January. Meetings begin with dinner and time to socialize, which is very important to teens. Their hectic schedules limit their availability to see each other, especially teens who live in communities that are dozens of miles apart. Hugs and smiles fill the room each meeting, reflecting the meaningful relationships teens made during their trip to Israel.
Y2I is the silver bullet for Jewish teen engagement. Affiliated and unaffiliated Jewish teens, from Jewish and interfaith families of all denominations of Judaism, and from dozens of high schools on the North Shore and beyond, go to Israel with Y2I, and stay connected with each other. Y2I provides Jewish teens with ongoing social and educational opportunities before, during, and after the trip.
Though the topic was an emotional and difficult one for Jewish teens, class ended on a positive note. Teens said the class educated them on ways to respond to anti-Israel and anti-Semitic comments, but more importantly, many found strength in knowing they are not alone.
The community is invited to the next Teen Israel Advocacy class at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19 at Temple Sinai in Marblehead. Yahya Mahamid, an Israeli Arab Zionist, will speak about his indoctrination from childhood to hate Jews and to deny Israel’s statehood. However, Yahya began to have regular interactions with Israelis, which challenged the negative views he had been encouraged to develop. Today, Yahya is a brave young voice, speaking out for Israel and against hatred. The program is free and open to all.
Deborah Coltin is the Executive Director of Lappin Foundation.