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Shayna’s Day In the Life at School

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The first thing I do is wake up at 7:00 am and go straight to the bathroom to wash my face, do my hair, and make my face presentable for the rest of the day. I then go downstairs and say good morning to my brothers, mom, dad, and dog. I then search in the fridge for a delicious breakfast, which usually consists of yogurt and granola. I then finish my breakfast and go back upstairs to get dressed for school. I pack up my backpack, fill up my water bottle, and head straight to school. I’m very lucky because I live 1 mile from my school, so I don’t have to rush in the morning. 

After I park my car at school I wait in the car for a bit with my friends and listen to music and just chill before it’s time to go to school. After my chill time in the morning, I go to my first block which is AP Biology. During this class, I listen to my teacher lecture us as I take notes and try to understand the material. After a very long 70-80 minutes of AP Bio, I check out of school and go home for study hall to get some homework done and just relax at home. I then come back to school for my third block of the day which is English where we typically have discussions and read. 

I then go to my last block of the day: weight training. Weight training is my favorite class because I get to do the things I love; for example, exercise, listening to music and having the best time. After this, I typically have basketball practice after school for two hours. After my super crazy full day, I go home and do homework. After several hours of work, I go downstairs again for dinner and have family dinner. I then help clean up the table have some team, shower, get my bag ready for the next day, and go to sleep.

My Day in the Life of An Israeli Teenager

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My name is Lidor I’m from Israel, I think my life is good and I want to tell you why:

I am able to learn something I like – to program. At my school I have been learning a software called C#. As far as I know, this software is the best if you are new to the world called programming. Don’t try to learn Python- this software will confused you. And sometimes at my school I am doing my assignments at lunches break or at breakfasts.

I live in Yokneam Illit, a city in the north of the country. Don’t worry about the rain because the amount of rain is equal to the amount of rain that falls in the desert. But from time to time the weather is insane. For example, one day the weather will be hot and on the following day, the weather will be cold with a rain. If we are lucky enough, we will get some hail and I have been loving it since I was born.

I have a brother, whose name is Shai. His school is very close to my school, so I accompany him to his school because there is a small construction site next to our house and he gets scared of things like that. On the other hand, he is quite successful at school (he has some difficulty in reading sentences in English, but he will understand the words and overcome that.)

When I’m free from school assignments or home assignments, I like to listen to any type of music (except rock), I like to play videos games, or reading books, especially Harry Potter or thrillers.

A Day in My Life as an Israeli Teenager

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Hi, my name is Noa Allouch and I live in Yokneam Illit in Israel. I’m in 11th grade. Today I’ll tell you about a typical day in my life. These days due to the Covid pandemic, we are learning on zoom, and not going to school. In regular times, when there is no virus out there, my day starts at school. It depends on the day, but usually I go to school at 08:30 am. One of my parents drives me to school, but if they can’t, I go by bus. I chose two majors in biology and physics and I volunteer in MDA (Magen David Adom), so it really helps me in biology. 

When I come back from school, usually at 15:35 pm, I take my dog for a walk. His name is Joy. During the walk with Joy, I listen to music. When we get back home, I have lunch, I watch some TV or just rest. Then I go upstairs to my room to do my homework or study for a test. Now that I’m in 11th grade, I have a lot of homework, tests, and projects for school. This Monday for example, I have a test in Biology.  

Ever since I was young, I have really liked to cook and bake. It really depends on the day, but if I don’t have any more tasks for school, I make cookies or cakes, or something tasty to eat. I also like to go to the gym with my friends. A few years ago, I used to dance twice a week. This year I don’t have a lot of time because of school, so it’s nice sometimes to go to the gym, but maybe I’ll go back to dancing 🙂 

Some days I hang out with friends. We really like to go to “Golda”. It’s an Ice cream store in my neighborhood and it’s really close to our homes, or I just go back to watch Netflix. 

No Age Requirement for Political Engagement

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In November, the Strong Women’s Fellowship had the opportunity to meet with the co-founders of the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon, Valerie Habif and Joanie Shubin. They started their organization amidst the controversy from the Affordable Care Act in 2012. Together, they shared how that one issue sparked the formation of their group and how they utilized Facebook to gain members and popularize their group. They sought to form a political group in which progressive thoughts and ideas could be exchanged and to create an encouraging and accepting environment in which to do so.

Valerie and Joanie presented their story of growth in a very engaging way. They discussed the issues their group initially focused on, mainly the ACA, and explained the other problems they began to take on, such as gun violence and education. They helped us explore the depths of these issues, the importance of advocacy, and the capacity of their Jewish values. They explained that their group uses these values, such as Tikkun Olam (repair the world) and Kehillah (community), to navigate various political issues. The JDWS is comprised of hundreds of like-minded people who are passionate about enacting change in these areas and more. 

Hearing about what the organization accomplishes and what its meetings involve have changed my essentially uninformed idea of what a political group entails. I now know that it is a very effective and mind-opening method of bringing about change on any scale. 

One of the activities we partook in was generating our responsibilities as citizens. Of course, the obvious answer and the first that came to my mind was to vote; however, we listed a couple of others, but the critical job that was the last to be named was the responsibility to follow up with the people we elected into office. I did not realize how essential it is to hold those who earned our votes accountable for what they do and/or fail to do. I learned our representatives need to be actively striving to meet the needs of those they have been elected to represent, and most importantly, if they fail to do that, it is our civic duty to inform them.

Another discussion Valerie and Joanie led was one regarding ways of getting in contact with legislators. Although email is most convenient, this conversation truly enlightened me that writing a letter to my local politician would be more effective. Simply because these legislators receive fewer letters, they are more likely to prioritize them and take the time to resolve the matter voiced in said letter. The way to bring about the most change in one’s community is by contacting one’s local legislator, so I am happy to have learned that a letter will ensure my concerns are voiced and responded to.

The main takeaway I got from this meeting was that there are more things that I, a 16-year-old, can be doing to be politically involved in my community. I can advocate for the issues I am passionate about. I have attended a few marches, and I can continue to do so or even organize my own. I can follow politicians who believe in some of these same issues on social media and spread awareness on platforms such as Instagram. I can write to local politicians to urge them to vote on changing a policy or possibly vote on adding one. I also learned that I could register to vote this upcoming year, which I am incredibly excited about. Ultimately, this meeting with Valerie and Joanie has made me feel much more capable of my abilities as a young Jewish woman. They have prepared me with a valuable skill set to enter the political realm of my community successfully, and for that, I am very grateful.

Exploring Gender and Judaism with SOJOURN

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Many teens who identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community struggle daily with accepting their own identities due to the hetero-normative society that we live in. Learning about the struggles that LGBTQ+ youth go through is an essential step in creating an accepting and supportive community in our schools, homes, and workplaces. SOJOURN is creating huge strides to educate and support the Southern, Jewish community on these issues, to ultimately better our community.

On October 3rd, the young leaders of the Strong Women Fellowship had the pleasure of learning from McKenzie Wren from SOJOURN. McKenzie is the program coordinator of the organization. SOJOURN’s goal is to empower communities to advance and celebrate gender and sexual diversity across the South through education, outreach, advocacy, and support. 

Our session was focused on the pillar of education, primarily focused on gender. We learned about the Gender Spectrum, the difference between gender identity and gender expression, the vocabulary used to describe different gender identities and sexual orientations, and tied gender back to Judaism. We were given the space to ask uncomfortable questions that people often fear to ask. Those who didn’t previously understand the gender spectrum were given the opportunity to learn in a non-judgmental space. The fellows had a very positive experience with SOJOURN and felt comfortable in the community that was created. 

I am interested in the idea of the gender spectrum and hope to study Gender and Women Studies in college, so this session drew me in. I learned interesting facts about how to further explore this topic and was able to engage in meaningful conversation with my peers. The conversation of gender is usually tip-toed around and it is important to discuss it in a productive and welcoming way. This is exactly what we experienced with SOJOURN.

My Gap Year in Israel

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My gap year has been absolutely incredible so far. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to live in Israel for the year, and I am truly seeing and doing everything I can.

My school is located in the Old City of Jerusalem just a three-minute walk from the Kotel. I can actually see the Kotel from the balcony of my school. It’s difficult to put into words just how special and spiritual it is to be that close. On Chanukah, our entire school lit menorahs at the school window overlooking the Kotel, and it was such an incredible and spectacular sight. We also have amazing restaurants close by with the best falafel and shawarma in Israel. I enjoy learning in my classes every day and connecting to my Rabbis and teachers.

While growing up in Atlanta, I learned so many amazing stories in the Torah. This year I have been able to see exactly where all these events happened. We went on a school trip to Chevron, the place where the matriarchs and patriarchs in the Bible are buried, and visited the graves of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as those of Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.

Another incredible experience was a three-day trip to the Negev in the desert. We spent our days exploring and learning about the land of Israel. Each day we had the opportunity to focus on making a closer connection with our own selves, our peers and with G-d.

Next week we are going to Poland where we will visit the concentration camps and see the atrocities of the Holocaust up close and personal. I cannot even imagine what that will be like.

There are not enough words to describe this incredible experience I’m having living for a year in the holiest city in the world. In the short four months I’ve been here, I’ve already made lifelong friends, grown, matured and learned so much. I am certainly looking forward to the rest of the year and more amazing adventures.

Celebrating Chanukah in Israel

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Chanukah was in the air everywhere for a couple of weeks before the holiday started. The stands in the shuk and different stores were filled with selections of different sufganiyot. Giant Chanukiahs were put up in most malls and on big streets. It was so fun to see all of the lights lit up at night from everyone’s individual chanukiahs. For the last night of Chanukah, me and a couple of my friends went to the old city for candle lighting. There was an enormous Chanukiah on top of a building overlooking the kotel. We met up with friends at the shuk and got sufganiyot. My favorite part of chanukah this year was lighting the menorah in one of my friends’ rooms and us all singing Chanukah songs together. 

$10K Scholarships Available For Gap Year In Israel. Apply Now!

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This article was originally published in Fed5, a publication of the Jewish Federaiton of Greater Atlanta. Read the original article here.

Did you know your high school student doesn’t have to start college right after completing high school? In fact, taking a year-long break between high school and college — known as a gap year — often contributes to a boost in performance when students enter college. Students who participate in gap year programs, whether academic, travel-focused, or service-focused, frequently become more mature, self-reliant, independent, and college-ready than students who go directly to college. (Read more about the benefits of a gap year here.)

Supported by scholarships of $10,000-$15,000 from the Zalik Foundation, 25 Atlanta area high school graduates are currently on gap year programs in Israel, connecting with Israeli culture and with Israeli peers. JumpSpark, which manages the Atlanta gap year initiative, is excited to announce the scholarship program will continue for a second year. Now is the time to learn more about gap year options and apply.

Jennifer Pollock Crim reports that her son Jordan has been thoroughly enjoying his gap year in Israel. “Jordan went there not knowing one person and now has many friends he can identify with and share new experiences together. He has never tried new food and says he loves trying new food and traveling to see and learn about new places in Israel. He also is enjoying his internship and learning independence and time management – two things that were reasons for him to go in the first place. I highly recommend it!”

Richard and Sheryl Arno said about their son Adam, “This experience on a gap year program has far exceeded our expectations. Adam has grown in so many ways and he has taken advantage of and experienced so many wonderful things that Israel has to offer.  He has made some lifelong friends, not only from the participants but also from the wonderful staff of Year Course.”

Bev Lewyn reports: “Rebecca is having the best time. She has made great friends from around the world, enjoys the Jerusalem academic classes, and had a profound trip to Poland.”

Read a current gap year student’s story about life in Israel here.

Making Jewish Memories

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What comes to mind when you think of your earliest Jewish memory? For me, I remember my dad teaching me the Shema when I was five years old. The last line instructs us to “inscribe them [mezuzot] on the doorposts of your house and your gates.” My dad explained that because of this instruction, there are mezuzot on the doorway entrances of buildings and rooms and we kiss it as a sign of respect. Naturally, I took that to the extreme and whenever we would sing the last line of the prayer, I would sprint to the mezuzah in my room to kiss it and run back before finishing the last few words of the prayer. This happened every night for years during my childhood. Nobody stopped me- it was my first Jewish memory that exemplified experiential Judaism as it related to my five-year-old life at the time.  

Fast forward twenty years later and I have continued to experience Jewish moments and create new Jewish memories that are instilled in the concept of experiential Judaism. As a kid into my teens, I attended Jewish summer camp and ultimately forged a Jewish identity that could be seen in my plethora of camp t-shirts, singing camp songs to my heart’s content, and experiencing the Hebrew language as part of daily camp life. My teenage years featured endless amounts of USY, undertaking the value of Tikkun Olam as a value in my life (that would remain for years to come), and my first critical thinking opportunities as it related to being Jewish. In college, I learned how to advocate as a Jewish woman, combat ignorance, and work as a Jewish leader as a camp counselor and unit head. Most recently, I traveled to Israel for the first time as an Atlanta Community Birthright participant, served as a JumpSpark Strong Women mentor, and continue to create new friendships in the Atlanta Jewish Yong Professionals community. So, in a true Talmudic analytical questioning, “what does it all mean?” 

Your memories stay with you as they each represent a small impactful experience in your life. Jewish experiences build upon one another to not only create a rolodex of memories to look back upon, but to also create a strong identity built upon years of experiences, albeit positive and negative. I’m grateful to my Jewish community for curating a Jewish experience that allowed me to grow, question, challenge, and thrive into a prideful Jewish young adult. 

As I look back on my own memories, I can see the challenges and many opportunities that teens and young adults face in their Jewish journeys today. My goal while working as a Jewish professional is to create Jewish experiences and build relationships to find your “running to the mezuzah” moments- what ultimately connects and excites you to being Jewish that will serve as a catalyst to eventually create your own collection of Jewish memories along the way.  

My Gap Year Experience

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My gap year experience in Israel so far has been nothing short of the best year of my life. I have explored so much of Israel and so much about myself in just the three short months that I have been here. Each day brings something new: a new food, experience, conversation, trip, or insight. As a part of the program I am on, Nativ College Leadership Program, I live in Jerusalem and spend most days at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus. There, I broaden my knowledge of many fields in which I have always been interested, and establish context for daily life here in Israel. I am taking four classes: Advanced Hebrew, Colloquial Arabic, The Battle over the three Bibles (Jewish Bible, Christain Old Testement, and Muslim Quran), and Technology and Entrepreneurship in Israel. These classes have given background and insight on ideas that I have always pondered, and I constantly look forward to applying all that I have learned into my own life. For example, after learning how to read, speak and write Arabic letters, I have been able to read every Arabic street sign. Also, after learning the basics of a conversation in colloquial Arabic, I have gone up and talked to Arabic speakers in their native tongue. I have learned more about Israel as the renowned start-up nation, and had the opportunity to learn from intriguing people who began successful international companies from scratch.

When I am not studying at Hebrew University, I explore Jerusalem and soak in all it has to offer. I get to experience the antiquity of the city, as well as the vibrant and diverse aspects of the bustling, modern city. I walk around the Old City, museums, synagogues, parks/nature trails, the Hebrew University campus, restaurants, Shuk Machne Yehudah, and cultural and religious landmarks for Jews, Christains, and Muslims. I have had the opportunity to try the most delicious food from around the world and breathtaking flavors that I had never before tasted. 

When I am not in Jerusalem, I travel around the country to other cities, kibbutzim, moshavs, villages, or landscapes. In these places, I experience first hand Israeli culture, explore diverse Judaism, and embrace the Hebrew language more than I have ever before. I’ve traveled to coastal cities like Tel Aviv, Netanya and Herzliya where I’ve had countless relaxing beach days looking out onto the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. As one of many Nativ tiyuls, we went to the Negev Desert where we hiked for three days in the vast, breathtaking wilderness and slept in tents under more stars than I had ever seen in my life. We also visited a pleasant Moshav in the north where we spent a peaceful Shabbat and interacted with the welcoming locals. Much of the time, I truly feel like an Israeli: I travel around on my own across the country and visit friends who take me to authentic Israeli places where no tourists go. These “off the beaten path” places are one of the best parts of traveling and immersing myself in another country, knowing that I am living something that is so unique and so few people have the opportunity to experience.

This year has opened up new doors to learning more about Jews around the world, as well as Muslims, Christains and countless other people that I have had the opportunity to talk to. Communicating with people from other religions and cultures heightens my interest in other people from around the world and encourages peaceful and productive discourse that only inspires more exploration. I’ve grown to be much more independent and ambitious through navigating myself around the country, spending my own money, planning weekend trips, figuring things out on my own, and by simply being in control of where I go and what I do each day. More than ever before, I have experienced considerable freedom and responsibility, an exhilarating feeling that is simply impossible to achieve if I had gone directly into college this year. I feel that I am doing a lot of “adulting,” which initially seemed terrifying, but turned out to be completely achievable and satisfying once I got the hang of it. This year has given me new insights on the world and how it works, and encourages me to achieve intermittent goals I’ve set for myself. I have been able to engage in productive communication just in Hebrew, in which I have become nearly fluent in just three months. I have acquired valuable skills of self confidence and initiative by being in a land with which I was initially unfamiliar, yet still so comfortable and motivated to explore. By living in a country that is so unique, incomparable to any country on earth, I have also learned the value of resilience and passion for making this world a better place for all people.