Israeli, American Teens Cut Through Misconceptions

The teenagers from Westchester and Shoham, a small town outside Tel Aviv, saw each other only through a haze of misconceptions until they got the chance to meet. For the past three years, the Rosenthal JCC of Northern Westchester has taken part in UJA-Federation’s Global Connections program, which aims to build bridges between Jewish communities in cities around the world.

As part of last year's Global Connections program, American and Israeli teens participated in a workshop exploring personal interpretations of the She As part of last year's Global Connections program, American and Israeli teens participated in a workshop exploring personal interpretations of the Shema prayer. Courtesy of the Rosenthal JCC of Northern Westchester.

The teens meet monthly, on separate sides of the Atlantic, to learn about each other’s culture in preparation for two weeklong encounters, one in the States and one in Israel. This year, in late March, the Israeli teens will stay with the teens in Westchester on the heels of the mayor of Shoham, who recently visited to further cement the connection between the two communities.

That relationship has been “a great privilege, an opportunity to give and to receive, and a possibility for forging close ties with our friends and brothers around the world,” says Gil Livne, Shoham’s mayor.

Westchester parents whose teenagers have been in the program feel that it has not only helped the teens connect with their Israeli peers, but with their own sense of Jewish identity. “My kids did not go to Jewish camp,” says Jessica Morgenthal, the president of the JCC’s Board of Directors. This program helped them “really connect with their Judaism and [develop an] interest in their heritage and their future.”

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