GTF Global Summit in New York

Global Teen Fellowship held its first ever Global Summit on August 4-7 in New York.  Forty high school students from North America, Germany, Israel, U.K and the Former Soviet Union gathered for a unique experience featuring meaningful, intellectual and fun activities.

The fellowship is uniquely designed to connect and inspire talented Russian-speaking high school students from around the world who wish to be of service to the Jewish community. The seminar was dedicated to the exploration of Jewish identity, Russian Jewish heritage and ways of engaging in Jewish communal life. During the next few months participants will take part in a series of online seminars and implement individual projects in their respective communities. In March 2015, fellows will reconvene in Israel and North America for the closing seminar and a festive graduation ceremony.

Sasha Kononenko, BGI Fellow ‘15, reflects on her experience at the summit:

Backed by our life-changing experiences in BIMA and Genesis we were excited for what awaited us at the summit.  We all arrived with varying expectations but came to realize that our Russian/Jewish heritage worked to merge our interests. It was amazing to see so many people from different countries come together and learn about their histories and it made me more motivated in my own field of writing.                        

The very first evening was Erev Tisha B’Av. The session we’ve had taught me that Judaism goes through a continuing cycle of exile and rebirth and that we are now living through the reconstruction of Judaism in the shadow of the latest exile: the Holocaust.  It made me feel powerful to think that a group of teenagers could take an active role in the rebirth of the Jewish nation.  

In the following day we participated in a series of workshops in which we tied together our Russian/Jewish heritage and connected those dots to making decisions in our present day lives.  A visual and auditory presentation of two artists that consisted of photographs and images gathered from Russian speaking families living in Soviet Russia, served to create a nostalgic atmosphere in which we all felt connected to our roots. Sitting in a conference room with my peers who have similar stories made it all the more interesting as we drew information from each other and got closer through doing so. We then applied our heritage to the immediate decisions we make in our modern day world and that was something I had never thought about but affects our lives almost every day.

The third day started with a scavenger hunt on the streets of the Lower East side of Manhattan.  We walked this area laden with historical Jewish artifacts and discovered details that even the native New-Yorkers had never noticed. Back at the conference center we were welcomed by alumni from last year’s fellowship who provided guiding insight on our community projects. It was very helpful to speak to them as many of us were nervous about the project of the year to come.

 The final night of our summit was spent around the campfire chatting with the friends we had made and gotten closer with. I have never made so many friends from all around the globe and I truly feel connected to something larger than my immediate world. It was a great experience and I am ready to have many more with the people I have met!