Monday, August 3, 2015

ISS 2015: International Diller Congress

By Gabby Polyakov

August 2, Sunday, the last day of congress and the beginning of the last leg of this trip. We all had to be ready at the main lawn with suitcases packed and energy to last through two programs, 45 min bus ride to Akko, program at Akko, 30 minute bus ride to Betzet Beach and finally the last bus ride to our hotel for the next couple of days. Yes, it was as tough as it seems. :)

The morning started very early and emotional because it was the last time we would see any of our Diller international friends. Saying goodbye to everyone after spending 5 days together was very sad. Of course everyone was saying that we would come and visit each other in our cities, but for most people it was the last time we would ever see each other. Tears were flowing. 

After that we had our last programs with our tribes.The program was about the "6th leg", using Avraham Infeld's 5 Legs of Jewish Peoplehood concept. We were split up into smaller groups within our tribe and discussed what the previous 5 legs (Israel, Brit, Hebrew language, Memory and Family) meant to us and how it affects the global community. After we had to come up with a sixth leg, one that we believe should also be included with the others in congress. In my tribe most of the groups came up with the same ideas. It is very cool to see how fellows from all over the world think very similarly. It was great.

Then we went to Akko where we had lunch and talked to Aylim. Then we went to the beach. The sand was nice and soft, but the wind was blowing hard! The waves were huge but it was great. After that we drive to our hotel. Overall the day was good and we can't wait to see what I'd left of this amazing trip.

ps. Shout out to Inna and Vladamir Polyakov because I miss you so much and I can't wait to see you soon! Xoxo from the holy land!! It's been great so far!!! I love you so much:)

meeting Global Jewish Leaders
Other congress highlights:

hearing from Avraham Infeld
Shabbat Shalom from Congress!

What can Diller Alumni Do?

the White Parade- also part of a Diller Video
welcoming Shabbat
TALA at opening ceremonies

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

ISS 2015: Community week in Tel Aviv highlights

By Olivia Feldman

My Shabbat experience was very different than at home. At home we never do anything special and often I'm apart from my family. But this Friday night I not only sat down with yam and her parents but all her grandparents and aunts, uncles, and cousins. There was a giant home cooked meal made by everyone in her family. They walked into the door with smiles and hugs excited to see the rest of the family. Her whole family welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home. After dinner we went to sleep so we could wake up early the next morning (which we did) and drove to Caesaria. We went to a museum and spent the day together, having a picnic and walking along the shore- it was awesome!

By Zoe Krut

After a lovely and relaxing Shabbat experience at the beach, we entered Tisha Baav . Tisha Baav is one of the saddest holidays in the Jewish calendar where we commemorate and mourn the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans. Given how close we were to Jerusalem, we had the experience of going to the Kotel and spending all night exploring our relationship with the holiday and the destruction of the temple. Each fellow was given the opportunity to sit at the wall and observe the reactions and emotions of everyone around them. There were people crying and laying on the floor, and others who showed little connection to the holiday. The same array of different emotions were seen in the fellows themselves. 

After the experience at the Kotel, we broke up into two groups where we were able to discuss how we felt and what we knew about the holiday and our connection, or lack thereof, to Tisha Baav. Everyone experienced Tisha Baav in their own way. Some felt more of a connection to the wall then ever before, while others related to the sense of community more then anything; these feelings however, all led to a deep and meaningful experience that allowed us to explore our Jewish identity and how we connect to the Jewish people of the past and their struggles.

Some other highlights from the week!

A panel with Israeli Soldiers

Olivia and Talia ready for 'Army training'

Grace and Zoe playing drums on Coexistence Day

fun in Jafa on History Day

Thursday, July 23, 2015


By Gabi Edelman

These past few days were spent at Kennes and we were able to meet the cohorts from north America and south Africa. On the first day at kennes we were split up into color groups and played ice breakers that helped us get to know the other fellows in our color teams. A speaker named Neil Lazarus spoke to us about the conflicts that Israel faces. 

The next day we learned about the history of Israel and the Israeli people and we started to brainstorm for our Diller impact projects. Us fellows began to make long lasting connections with the other fellows as we engaged in thought provoking programs. 

On our last day we woke up at 4am and went to climb Masada and we studied the story of Masada and what it means for the Israeli people. After M sada we had a concluding circle and set off for the dead sea. At the dead sea we floated in the water and covered ourselves in mud. We left the dead sea to finally join our Israelis and we are now enjoying our community week in Tel Aviv!

Monday, July 20, 2015

ISS 2015: Day 3 and 4- Our time in Jerusalem

By, Micah Sallus and Noah Mendelsohn

Day 3: we started the day at Yad V'shem which is the Holocaust remembrance memorial in Jerusalem. We got a guided tour through the memorial. The memorial had a very deep meaning and impact on the whole group because everything about the memorial represented something about the holocaust or had a meaning relating to the holocaust. Everything from the building to the way the floor was laid out to the way you walked through each exhibit held meaning; as we walked through the memorial we were overwhelmed with a lot of emotions and feelings. We also visited the children's memorial and came out with tears in eyes. 

After we had a quick break and discussion as a group, we walked over to Mt. Herzel, is the national cemetery for soldiers who have passed away. We visited graves of prime ministers and other significant Israeli political figures. We even went to the most recent graves that were added to the cemetery. We saw in particular Max Steinberg's grave who was a lone soldier who was killed in the war last summer who was from LA and raised in the valley in Woodland Hills. It was a very powerful sight to see and everybody was overwhelmed with emotion.. 

We then had a closing maagal (circle) where we discussed our feelings about these visits and It was very emotional and special to the group. We finished our day at the shuk (market) which was very exciting for everyone to see and we all enjoyed ourselves. Overall the day was a very powerful day And was filled with a lot a lot of meaning. Los Angeles Diller cohort 8 signing out. ©

By Justin Greenwald and Adam Benezra

Day 4: After a wonderful opportunity to sleep in late Shabbat morning, we joined many of the other peers at the Great Synagogue. Sadly we were unable to go into the main sanctuary but we had an amazing service downstairs that the rabbi let us in, including an intellectual sermon on geopolitical matters that was taking place in the world. After this we had a very cultural talk among the fellows leading us to become more worldly people and better equipped citizens of the United States of America.

We had a delicious lunch at the hotel and after lunch we enjoyed a beautiful walk around Jerusalem into the old city. Our tour guide Leor let us through a tour showing us all the amazing land sites that existed thousands of years ago. We went to the Wailing Wall (Kotel) and many of our fellows had very deep discussions with Jews that were praying as well as some Orthodox Jews regarding political matters and the ideological views on Jewish people in Israel. Later we walked back and had a beautiful dinner Shabbat dinner at the hotel and a nice maagal that bonded the group closer than ever. 

Then, we had a beautiful havdallah service concluding shabbat, but the night was just getting started. The fellows walked to Ben Yehuda street and had a delicious dinner, some ice cream, and even bought clothes for siblings back home. It was a great time for all.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

ISS 2015: Day Two

Our fellows landed in Israel Wednesday and have been on the move! Read about what they did their 2nd day in Israel

Day Two
From, Your Moshes of the day, Grace and Maddie
Today was a great day, waking up to the beautiful view of the Dead Sea from our hotel in Ein Gedi. After a our first very Israeli breakfast we headed to Ein Bokek which was the site for our nearby water hike. We were pleasantly surprised at the amount of water for us to enjoy even though we were in the dessert during summer. Climbing through rocks and waterfalls, it was both refreshing and slippery. We had some gracious falls, with special shoutout to Hanah for falling 5 times and Blake with her slow motion tumble. Micah spiritually embraced the hike when he fully immersed himself in both the water and experience. 

Next we drove into Jerusalem to spend the afternoon working in a community garden and nature reserve. We had a fantastic lunch of shawarma and learned about the history of the land. We then had a Torah study in the shade learning about shmita, and how every seventh year the land rests and is not harvested. To take our part in this we worked together to clear the land with shovels and picks. Shoutout to Eliana, Liv, and Talia who worked hard and sweat the day away. Overall we had a great day connecting to the Holy land and nature. Can't wait to see what is in store for tomorrow!

Monday, July 13, 2015

2015 Israel Summer Seminar- our Junior Counselors are READY AND WAITING!

We arrived in Israel last Tuesday to convene with the entire international staff ( minus coordinators) and hone our roles as JC's and as program facilitators for ISS. Working with the junior staff is an amazing experience, everyone is so passionate about Israel and the myriad of different perspectives on Judaism is astounding. We can't wait to work side by side with them leading programs for the fellows. As a member of the diller staff We are so proud and grateful to be part of this organization and can't wait to see you all (SO SOON) in Israel!

-Leora Tofler and Rachel Israilevich
LA Diller JCs

Leora Tofler on the right, and Rachel Israilevich, the Los Angeles Diller Teen Fellows Junior Counselors at the Kotel on this past Shabbat.

All of the Diller Teen Fellows Junior Counselors coming together before the teens for the Israel Summer Seminar begins!

Monday, May 4, 2015

The 2015 Jewish Community Mifgash!!

Our Cohort 8 fellows share some of their experiences and thoughts on an incredible 10-day seminar hosting 20 Tel Aviv teens in Los Angeles!

Monday, March 22
By Olivia Feldman

Monday was a really fun day!

Because we were still in school we didn’t do much with our Israelis but it was the first day that I felt we really started to get to know one another. With the introductions and ice breakers the first day, we were much more comfortable around each other. At night, we all met at Noah’s house and there was swimming and a bonfire available. As everyone came in, we got to talking with people we hadn’t necessarily talked to the day before. We swam, ate pizza, and sat around the fire talking and asking each other questions about life in Israel vs. LA. The unstructured casual evening was a really great introduction for the amazing week that was coming.

Thursday, March 26
By Justin Williamson

On Thursday the Americans and Israelis embarked on a journey to create stronger bonds and enhance the world around us. We all met at the Los Angeles Jewish home for the Aging. Here, Jewish elderly from all walks of life live together in a comfortable environment that has been aiding Jewish elderly for decades. The Americans and Israelis aimed to perform tzdaka by enhancing the days of the Jewish elderly. We learned about the history of the Jewish home for the aging, then split into groups of a few Americans and Israelis to talk to the elderly. We had incredible and inspiring experiences in both English and Hebrew. We learned about the life stories of the elderly and in return we brightened their days. 

Next we all boarded a bus to head to Camp Alonim; the start of our Shabbaton. The Shabbaton was the building block for the tight knit bonds that formed between TA-LA. We ate meals together and experienced various programming that helped to mold our close relationships. Thursday night, we all played fun games such as lap tag, that lasted far into the night.

Saturday, March 28
By Talia Wenger

   Our first Shabbat together as a Tel Aviv-Los Angeles cohort was extremely relaxing and fun. The morning began with a choice between a traditional Orthodox Shabbat service and a yoga and reflection service. I attended the yoga session, hoping to try something new and broaden my horizons. The yoga session was relaxing and interesting- a particularly nice way to start off the Shabbat morning. While it was something I was unaccustomed to, it was exciting to try to connect through something new and unique.

   After a quick breakfast, we were split into small groups and began a Window to a Prayer activity. My group was with Mika (the Israeli coordinator) and I found the program to be really insightful. We discussed the different kinds of prayer and the reason we pray in an attempt to better connect to prayer. We even had some time to take a personal moment to ourselves and just imagine a happy place, which some fellows in my group actually considered a type of prayer. It was interesting to hear the different perspectives and connections to prayer.

   We then had some activities led by our own fellows, including my own joint TA-LA group. We played Taboo based off of the people in the TA-LA Diller group and important sights and aspects of Israel and America.

   Perhaps the most moving program of the JCM Shabbaton was the Box in a Box activity. First, we were split into groups and then asked to arrange the aspects of Judaism in three categories: mandatory, important, and less important. This caused a great deal of controversy and argumentation as we discussed the different levels of Jewish observance and the importance of different aspects of Jewish life. We then had a chance to discuss the activity with a second group. I enjoyed the activity and found the participation of my group to be interesting, especially in the difference of opinion and practice that we all shared.

   After some breaks and closing programs, we shared a beautiful Havdallah together. This was one of the most special moments of the Shabbaton because we stood in a circle with only the light of a flame and sang songs together. We all felt like a big community and great friends in that moment. Then, we headed home and parted ways until our next meeting after the free Sunday.

Monday March 30th
By Maddie Page

Today some of the Americans and I were lucky enough to start our spring breaks so we were able to meet up with the Israeli group during the day. It was their pluralism day so we met them for lunch in the Pico Robertson area. They were all so excited to see us being that this was the first time we could actually join them for programming. We went to a great kosher place for lunch called Jeff’s Sausages.

 After lunch we had free time and had an “exciting” time in Walgreens. So many of the Israelis loved Walgreens and they stocked up on candy, makeup, and Chap Stick.  After our lunch break they went and toured an orthodox temple.

After touring the Pico Robertson area we then rode the bus to the Reconstruction temple KI in the Palisades. This temple was beautiful and we were able to go in the sanctuary and meet with their rabbi. Soon the other Americans came and we were all able to have dinner together.

After dinner we found out who was in each group for Community week in Israel. This was exciting too because it was the first time we found out who we were working with and planning for what day. We then had time to meet with our groups and start actually talking about our day.

After this we had our final maagal. This was a little sad because we all knew it was the last circle, even though we knew there was still one more full day together. We had to go around and share a personal moment that has stuck with us and made us think about. Some moments were nice, others funny, but all around great to listen to and share with the group. Overall it was a very fun day, learning all about the different sects of Judaism.

Tuesday March 31st 
By Zoe Krut

 The last day with our Israeli counterparts was a bitter-sweet one. For those who were on spring break, we all met up at the JCC with the Israelis and joined them in working and playing with the little kids in the preschool at the JCC. All of the kids were adorable and we got to make friendship bracelets with them.

We then all got on the bus and headed for Venice Beach. Once we got there we all ate pizza at Blake's grandfather's house but then we split up into small groups to explore all of the Venice boardwalk for a few hours. We got to go into cool shops and see the different cultures and everything that Venice had to offer.

We once again boarded the bus after a long day of exploring to go to the 3rd Street Promenade. Everyone ate their last dinner together in the old Wolf Gang Puck restaurant with a beautiful view and great company from our friends and families. The day was extremely fun and it will be one that we remember always.