The Jewish Federation’s Global Teen Twinning Program is the largest student delegation program in the Jewish world. Every year, hundreds of students in 8th-11th grades from 21 schools in Los Angeles; Tel Aviv; and Vilnius, Lithuania participate in this transformative program. One of our participants, Julia Kahen, shares her experience.
By Guest Blogger Julia Kahen
What year were you involved in the Global Teen Twinning program, and what school and grade were you in?
I participated in the program in 2017 and was part of a Ner Tamid Congregation delegation to Israel. At that time, I was also a freshman at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School.
What was the most memorable experience of your Twinning journey?
Going to the Kotel on a Friday night. My best friends and I went up to the Wall together and said a prayer while touching it. I had never felt that feeling before that I did that Friday night. It was the first time I felt truly connected to G-d and certain that G-d is real. After saying some prayers, we started dancing with other Jewish girls our age from all over the world, singing Jewish songs and laughing together. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know each other. We were all connected as a community immediately. It was a perfect moment. From then on, I have always found comfort in that moment and the feelings and memories that come with it.
What led you to participate in Twinning, and how did your time in the program impact your elementary and high school experience?
I decided to enroll in the Global Teen Twinning Program because it seemed like a great opportunity to become immersed in my Jewish culture and to see Israel with some of my best friends. This trip impacted my life because it made me realize that Israel will always be my home, no matter how lost I feel through life.
How did the experience of living with your host family and hosting your buddy impact your views of the global Jewish community?
Living with my host Adi was very unique. Even though we were from opposite sides of the world, I still found many similarities between us. I also got to see how it was to be Jewish in Israel as compared to in America. Adi also got to see how not everywhere is like Israel, and sometimes it’s a bit challenging to be Jewish in a country with a primarily Christian population. Living in Israel made me feel less alone in my beliefs and customs. It made me realize that there is a whole country behind me with people who live the same way that I do.
What words of wisdom or advice would you share with teens who are slated to participate in The Jewish Federation’s Global Teen Twinning program?
Take advantage of all of the opportunities you get in Israel. Try new foods, experience new things, and appreciate that there is a Jewish State. Try to connect with as many people around you as possible.
What are you currently up to?
I am on my chapter’s University Synagogue Youth board and just attended my first regional convention with USY where I got to meet many other Jewish people. I still keep in touch with the friends I made in Israel. I try to educate my peers around me about Israel, because I think it’s important that they know the history of such an important country.