Today there are 3,200 Diller Fellows alumni worldwide and this year’s cohort boasts the largest numbers — 640 teens from 32 global communities on six continents. “We’re still working on Antarctica,” joked Cohen-Raviv at the previous night’s banquet. […]
Those attending the early November annual conference for professionals and lay leaders are entrusted with molding the next generation. Coming from around the Jewish world and with disparate backgrounds, they are tasked with imbuing the teens with a commitment to their communities, the Jewish people, and Israel.
…The training for Diller staff is comprehensive and ongoing, with both remote and in-person seminars throughout the year.
However, especially in Israel where society is stratified from day care onwards, it can be difficult to find group leaders who are equally able to relate to, for example, religious or secular youth. Add in a second layer of diversity — Diaspora Jewry, which is mostly Reform or Conservative, movements not largely represented in Israel.
Said Massey, “Most Israelis have never heard of Reconstructionist Judaism,” although many in pulpits throughout the US were trained in its seminary.
On the flip side, many Diaspora Jews are unaware of the nuance found within different sectors of Israeli society. As such, group leaders must, essentially, have the broad-based background the fellows acquire in their 15 months.
Since most Israelis do not receive realistic diverse training, today, the vast majority of current staffing hires are from the ever-growing pool of alumni.
“Diversity, this is the reality,” said Cohen-Raviv. “What we’re doing is training teens to deal with reality.”