Diller Teen Fellows work with Aboriginal community

September 4, 2017 by Hayley Hadassin
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A group of graduates from the Diller Teen Fellows program has presented their concept of working with an indigenous community to build capacity in informal education for youth.

CEO of Stand Up, Gary Samowitz supported the three students, Eddie Lichtig, Mayan Gafin, and Zara Feil, in their project. The group conducted research to understand the high school dropout rates in an Aboriginal community and the underlying lack of motivation to succeed academically.

Eddie, Mayan and Zara travelled along with Stand Up personnel to Cummerangunja, an area in the Yorta Yorta community, located 30 minutes from Shepparton. Zara Feil, commented: “The experience really gave us the opportunity to understand the community and its framework.”

They spent three days running holiday programs for children aged between 4-16 years of age. They learnt about their families, hobbies and lifestyle. Eddie Lichtig said: – “It was amazing to be welcomed with open arms and to connect with the community and elders in such a short period of time.”

Maya Gafin, Zara Feil and Eddie Lichtig

The experience culminated in a celebration of The NAIDOC week. Mayan Gafin, said: – “We initiated this project in order to gain an understanding of the commonalities between Jewish and Aboriginal teenagers, both raised with customs and cultures based on tradition.”

Samowitz was impressed with the project, the teens’ commitment and the outcomes: – “We should be proud of what these young people have achieved.”

The Diller Teen Fellows program was established in San Francisco in 1997 by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. Since then, the program has expanded to include 32 participating communities across the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Australia, South America, UK and Israel.

The Cohort 2 Fellows recently returned from their 3 week Israel Summer Seminar. They explored the south of Israel and met with people from different cultures. They spent a week in the Golan, the partnership region, where the entire week of volunteering, touring and learning was planned by the fellows themselves. During this time they were home hosted by the Golani Fellows, receiving a real Israeli experience.

The highlight of the trip for many was Congress, a Diller International Seminar in Tel Hai with 640 teens from the 32 Diller communities throughout the world. Here they made new friends, learnt about Jewish Communities in other countries, developing their connection to Israel and Zionism, to world Jewry and indeed their identity as Australian Jews. The whole seminar knew who the Australians were, with their trademark Aussie spirit and enthusiasm. The seminar prepared them for their upcoming Impact Projects and future leadership opportunities.

Victoria Bart from Lauriston Girls’ School said the highlight of the trip was: – “Forming meaningful connections with Jewish teens from all over the world. This broadened my perception of what Jewish Peoplehood really encompasses.”

The program aims to upskill Jewish leaders of the future and give them the tools and mentorship to truly make a difference

“The structure and progression of the Diller Teen Fellowship has been tried and tested over the past 20 years. It provides the fellows the framework to practice and develop their skills throughout the year, focussing on organisational leadership, preparing them properly for the challenge of planning and implementing a community impact project”  said Jacqui Cohen, Diller Teen Fellow Coordinator, ZFA

Diller Teen Fellows is a world-renowned leadership development program that creates an international network of Jewish teenagers to serve as effective leaders. It is an initiative that the Zionist Federation of Australia is proud to be managing in Australia. The Diller Teen Fellows program includes workshops, retreats and an international program in Israel for the 20 participants from Melbourne, who are partnered with contemporaries from our partner community in the Golan. The final element of the 12 month program involves the participants creating “impact projects”, where they initiate tikkun olam programs in areas of their choice. Projects developed by the teens have ranged from building relationships with the indigenous community to visiting sick children in hospitals, connecting with the elderly in the community to record their legacy and helping the homeless.

The ZFA is seeking applications from current year 9s and 10s to participate in the 2017 – 2018 program. One of the program’s key features is that it engages people from across the various streams of Judaism and we are therefore encouraging teens who attend either Jewish or non-Jewish schools to attend. Applications for cohort three are now open and close on 13th September 2017.

Please go to http://www.zfa.com.au/diller-teen-fellows/ to access the application form or Jacqui Cohen at dillertf@zfa.com.au for further information.

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