The Global Teen Fellowship held its Summit on August 3-6 in New York

The Global Teen Fellowship held its Summit on August 3-6 in New York.  Thirty high school students from North America, Germany, Israel, and 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 spring 2016, fellows will reconvene in Israel and the U.S for the closing seminar and a festive graduation ceremony. 

Leora Eisenberg, GTF fellow ‘16, reflects on her experience at the summit:

On the first day, I looked around the room to see the rest of the group. Some were speaking to their friends in Hebrew, others were looking through their bags, and others still were waiting patiently for the next activity. We seemed to be a group of very normal teenagers doing very normal teenager things, but, in reality, we were a group of Russian-Jewish teenagers about to embark on a journey that went beyond anything we had done before.

Over the course of three days, we visited the Lower East Side (with a Russian-speaking guide!), played an interactive game about being Jewish in the Soviet Union, watched an incredible film that served as a “collage” of pictures, music and videos from the Soviet Union, and learned more about ourselves.

Boris, my best friend, and I would often poke each other during the movie, saying that we either knew that song or had seen that movie before. But, of course, Boris knew far more than I did, since he was actually from Russia! When we were walking around New York, he was constantly asking me questions about America, which made me really think about my home country. (That said, we both still looked like tourists since we were speaking in Russian the whole time.) When it was time for Boris to return to his home country, I broke down in tears after having forged such a close relationship with someone over the course of a month. But then he told me, “chin up! You have a project to do!” (Ulybka-- eto flag korablya!)

Some of us left the program, proud to be helping the Jewish community. Some of us left the program, ready to save the world. Some of us left the program, finally accepting our Russian-Jewish identity-- like me. The one thing this three-day summit gave me that I am endlessly thankful for is the opportunity to finally be proud of an integral part of my identity that I had never really known before.

Maybe that newfound pride came from speaking Russian all day long, but I doubt it. With my friends at Genesis, I always spoke Russian, as well as with my parents at home. Maybe that pride came from playing the interactive game, but I doubt that too. Interactive games are fun, but they aren’t necessarily conducive to feeling pride in one’s heritage. Maybe that pride came from interacting with other Russian-speaking Jewish teens who want to change the world.

Yeah, I’d say that my pride in being a Russian-speaking Jew came from that.