Israeli Magic

Reflections on the 2019 Diller Teen Fellows Jewish Community Mifgash

The Diller Teen Fellows Jewish Community Mifgash (or JCM) was a truly invaluable experience that I will never forget. Every year in Diller, each Israeli cohort of about 20 teens ventures to their partner cohort’s corner of the world for a riveting 10-day adventure. Our partners, the Upper Galilee cohort, stayed in our homes during the course of their trip. By day, the Fellows were able to see both the highlights of San Francisco – such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Mission – as well as explore the more authentic and troubling side of San Francisco. For example, before serving food at Glide Memorial Church, the cohort was led on an eye-opening walk of the Tenderloin where they saw first-hand the homelessness problem that San Francisco struggles with.

Charli, second from left, volunteering at Glide Memorial Church with SF and Upper Galilee Diller Teen Fellows

I was fortunate enough to have two amazing girls stay with me over the 10-day trip, and I can wholeheartedly say that from the minute I met them we clicked. Every night we went on a different adventure: I took them to my favorite beach, a stunning lookout spot over my city, a late-night trip to Target, milkshakes at In-N-Out, and so much more. When we got home, we would listen to music and chat with “Alexa,” whom my girls were infatuated with. My mum also absolutely fell in love with the girls, and they were quick additions to our family. On family day, we took the girls out for pizza and had a discussion that stood out to me as a highlight of their entire visit. We talked about daily life in the Upper Galilee, their experience living so close to neighboring countries, and how they view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (in comparison to the American perception of the conflict). I was shocked to discover that the issue doesn’t affect their daily lives, and they were shocked to hear about the various misguided representations of the conflict in American news. These types of discoveries about the differences in our lives were really valuable to me, and I know they were for them as well.

I think I can speak on behalf of everyone in the Diller San Francisco cohort when I say that the Upper Galilee Fellows introduced a buzz of energy to the room that none of us had ever quite experienced. Their constant playfulness and love for each other was inspiring and not only allowed us to connect with them quickly but also develop a stronger connection within our own cohort. Since I was on spring break during their visit, I was able to spend more time with them during the day, but I believe that a lot of people’s relationships started to bloom during the JCM Shabbaton (our joint weekend retreat). Throughout the Shabbaton, we were able to collectively welcome Shabbat and further explore our Jewish identities through a series of carefully crafted activities and exercises that took place in a relaxed but fun environment.

I can easily say that this Shabbaton was a highlight of the trip for everyone. It was a perfect balance between fun and educational, and our coordinators were really adaptive to our energy, especially when we needed some downtime. An activity that stood out was the “Box in a Box” program. In this activity, we were provided a series of practices and values related to Judaism, such as “living in Israel,” or “having Jewish friends,” and told to rate them as a group based on whether they were “important,” “very important,” or “extremely important.” However, there was a limitation as to how many topics we could place in each box. This activity tested our communication skills and provided a deeper insight into what we all prioritize.

Fellows at the Shabbaton

In addition to thought-provoking exercises, we had free time that allowed us to continue to get to know each other and grow as a unified cohort. I remember playing soccer and frisbee with friends on the beach, singing at the top of my lungs with all the girls while getting ready for Shabbat, listening to my friends play guitar at a campfire, and watching a friend’s face light up with delight as he had s’more after s’more. Later in the night, the SF and UG communities split into their own cohorts for Ma’agal Laila, or evening circle. One memorable Ma’agal Laila was led by our junior coordinators (JCs) – two students from the previous year’s Diller cohort who have dedicated their time to work with our coordinator, Samara, and help plan our monthly activities throughout our entire Diller year. Our JCs led us on a silent meditation exercise as we individually hiked up a short trail by the beach. Once we all arrived at the top, we watched the sun set and the waves crash against the shore. There, we were able to share things on our minds and grow closer as a cohort.

After the Shabbaton, we launched straight into planning Community Week, which we are all so excited for! Community Week is a one-week segment of our trip to Israel in which students from both the SF and UG cohorts work together to plan and organize activities for the entire week. It also provides us with the opportunity to be hosted by the Upper Galilee fellows. We have all been working diligently over the past couple of months to ensure this week is as meaningful and fun as possible!

Overall, JCM was a simply irreplaceable experience. My friends became like family and saying goodbye to them was really sad, but the SF cohort and I are so excited to see them soon in Israel!

San Francisco and Upper Galilee Diller cohorts

Established in San Francisco in 1998 by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, the Diller Teen Fellows program is San Francisco’s premier leadership development program for Jewish teens in 11th grade.

Now operating in 32 communities in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, South America, Europe, and Israel, the goal of the Diller Teen Fellows program is to develop future generations of active, effective leaders with a strong Jewish identity, commitment to the Jewish people, respect for pluralism and love of Israel.

Diller Teen Fellows gain the opportunity to develop their leadership skills, explore their Jewish identity, connect with Israel through a peer partnership and create a social action project of their choosing. Learn More

Categories: Teens, Leadership, Israel


June 18, 2019


Charli Weisler