Friday, January 27, 2017

Diller Values in Action

Hi, I’m Allie, and I was a fellow way back in Cohort 5 and a JC for Cohort 6! I’ve said this before and it sounds cheesy and a bit crazy, but I really truly believe that Diller made me the person I am today. It taught me not only about leadership and Judaism and Israel and Tikkun Olam, but also about connecting to others and pursuing my passions. In Diller I formed relationships with so many incredible people, people that have inspired me and continue to inspire me with their intelligence, passion, creativity, and genuinity. Something I value so highly about Diller is that it brings together such a diverse group of people, which I think is so important in building communities based upon empathy, compassion, and respect. With these values so ingrained in my core beliefs, the past few months have been truly upsetting and terrifying. But even when I’ve felt the most hopeless, I’ve always believed there are people out there who too are caring and determined to make a change. I heard about the Women’s March on Washington shortly after the election, and immediately knew this was something I had to do. Since being fellows together in Cohort 5, Elly has been one of my best friends and someone who shares my passion and commitment for following our dreams and standing up for what we believe in. When I mentioned the march to Elly she immediately started planning all the details of how we’d get there and make it a reality, and so finally on January 21st we found ourselves in DC surrounded by the most incredible, proactive, and dedicated people I’ve ever seen.

The Women’s March on Washington last Saturday was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. Even now, a few days later, there aren’t quite words to describe how incredibly powerful it was for over half a million women, men, and children to come together and march for what we truly believe in. One of the most striking things was that while each person was there for their own unique reason, all were there to stand up for one another and support one another in this march for equal rights, women’s rights, and human rights. Much like the Diller family, this march in Washington and all over the world was and will continue to be one of support and one of change. As Allie Papernick, a fellow in Cohort 6, beautifully reminded me, we are here to “make the world a better place”. Tikkun Olam. As women, as Jews, as former Dillers, and as future leaders we feel a responsibility and an obligation to stand up for what is right. We are not complacent and we refuse to sit back and let our rights and the rights of minorities be disrespected and trampled upon. In Diller we learned to take action, and in this new community of activists that we’ve joined we are putting these leadership skills into action to stand up for what we believe in.

Out of all the frustration and negative rhetoric of the past few months, the Women’s March on Washington stands as a beacon of hope and action for the future. But most importantly, this march was not an isolated event, it was the start and the end. As one of the most memorable signs we saw at the march put it: “This is not a moment. It’s the movement.” This is a call to action, and as we’ve been inspired we hope the rest of the community and the rest of the world are inspired to take a stand and stand up for those that need our voices, our abilities, and our leadership.

-Allie Shepard and Elly Silberstein
Pittsburgh Diller 2015 Cohort 5

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Workshop 4 - Kehillah (Community)

Today was the fourth workshop for Cohort 8 and the first one of 2017! To start out, the Added Value team, which I am a part of, gave out candy as a little gift and did a coloring activity. The activity was to choice 1 of 4 characters from the movie Moana, and each one of the characters represented a different type of Jewish expression. We also celebrated Asher and Jonathan's birthdays with pizza!

There were two activities during the workshop that we did that I feel most of us will remember. The first was to create a mask that had things that represented us and our community. I had things like school, camp, BBYO, Pittsburgh, friends and family. A lot of the other fellows had similar things to me. The other activity was to create a being out of play dough. It didn't have to be a real thing it could be made up and then we had to fill out an identification card. We had to decide its names, age, ethnic origin, spoken language, worldviews, and other things as well. Once we were done we were put into groups and had to make a constitution and community for our things to exist within. For my group this was very challenging because our things were all very different. Like Maya K had to live in a warm environment and Gabe's had to live in a cold environment while Rebecca had to live in the water and I had to live in the forest in a tree and Asher's and Jordanas could live anywhere. It was also a challenge to figure out how to communicate since was all didn't speak the same language. After a while we finally came up with a constitution for our town.

At the end of the workshop we got to see the video that the Israelis made and sent to us. It was so cool to see all of the, and we were all so happy to finally get to see them and find out who they were. I think we are all very very excited to get to start working with them.

- Eden Weiner

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cohort 8 December Workshop

At the December workshop, I had the privilege of exploring the basis of communication with Cohort 8. We began with a variety of activities that addressed the theme, from improv games to pantomiming. At the conclusion of each game, we would come together as a cohort and discuss the events that had just taken place. It was incredible to see how a group of games could translate into real life communication skills. In one of the activities, we were expected to build a structure from a handful of tinker toys based solely on blind instructions from a group. While it may have been a seemingly silly game, it stemmed from relevant life concepts. We discussed the probability of a situation in life that each of us will be expected to complete a task with limited instruction, bad information, or a group that struggles to work together. The activities were relatively similar in this regard, and they all explored this central theme of how we communicate to get tasks done. Chris expressed to each of us that over the course of this program, we will be expected to lead and work together in dozens of dissimilar scenarios, and how none of it will be successful without the key ability to communicate with one another.

Every time I enter a workshop, the atmosphere changes for the better. I’ve noticed our progression as individuals and as a group. We’ve become such a tight-knit cohort in merely a matter of months, and I’ve already begun to see our growth in terms of the meaningful content of this program. Our discussions, like the one from this workshop, have morphed into mature, enlightened conversations that leave us with a new perspective on life or attitude about ourselves.

What I found truly remarkable was the warm-up discussion we had about the election. We were instructed to walk around the room and choose a photo from the floor that corresponded to our feelings about the events. The cards had words and images of all sorts. I chose a card with a photograph of a one-way arrow, and expressed that I had two reactions to the card. There was my initial shock, as if my country could only go in one direction - and then there was the feeling that the only direction we could go was up. I was delighted to see that many of my “fellow fellows” were experiencing similar feelings, but each of us had such a positive attitude about our next steps. I feel incredibly blessed to be in surrounded by a group of people with similar values as my own, as well as the ability to differentiate right from wrong - and speak out when we recognize that distinction. I find it so important that teenagers are able to express their beliefs in a positive atmosphere with like-minded kids and adults.

For a brief period during the workshop, we got together to film a mannequin challenge as a cohort to introduce ourselves to our Israeli friends. I saw the crazy, silly, ridiculous sides of my incredible friends as we put together this video. I realized that we work so well together in both the structured environment as well as our down time.

I am so elated to see how we grow these next months along the course of this once in a lifetime journey.

-Natalie Daninhirsch

Workshop 3 took place at the South Hills JCC. We finally all got to see each other again, but we were unable to see Danny and Meital. We all hope to see you guys soon. The Workshop was about communication which was played through many activities during the workshop. The first thing we did for the workshop was have our Added Value team give us candy to express how to stay cool under pressure. After that, I shared an article on Jewish Conversion Discrepancies. It sparked a good conversation about the rules of becoming a jew in the Israeli state as well as everywhere else in the world. Next, Paulina gave us the Hebrew word לְעוֹרֵר which mean't spark in English. This connected to communication by showing how communication is sparked by people wanting to make a change in the world.

Then, Annabelle asked the cohort to share our thoughts on the presidential election by letting us pick Points of You cards to express our feelings. Many of us said how shocked we were, but others said that this would bring the nation closer together. I thought this was a great conversation because it gave everyone a different view of how many of us thought the presidential election went.

We then started activities that showed us the aspects of verbal and non-verbal communication. These activities were great because they showed us how we can communicate with body language and other non-verbal ways. My favorite game that we played was a game called "Murderer". The rules of the game were that one person was selected as the murderer, which was Harry, and they had to kill everyone else in the game by blinking at them. However, everyone had to walk with their head down. When we got blinked at, we had to die on the floor. I had a really fun time with especially since everyone died so dramatically. After, we discussed the communication that was made in the game. Harry said how it was very hard for him to 'kill' people because no one was looking up. He said he had to nudge people to get them to look up. Everyone else said that it was hard knowing who the murderer was and if they were signaled for death yet since their heads were down too.

Towards the end of the Workshop, we all went outside and created a mannequin challenge video in the snow. It was really funny to see some of the creative positions some of us were in. We also filmed everyone of us walking into a room to introduce us to the Israelis. Finally, we decided our roles for the 2nd Shabbaton. The Sababa team, which was the decided by the cohort, was the team that worked on the whole Shabbaton. It is the team that has the biggest role for the next Shabbaton. The cohort selected Natalie, Jordana, Evan, and Derek to all be a part of this team. Chris also explained to us the responsibilities of each team which was kind of overwhelming, but I believe that this Cohort will do a great job preparing for the next Shabbaton, Overall, this workshop taught everyone a lot on communication, Diller, and it also allowed us to bond even more with each other.

- Gabe Riberi

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cohort 8's First Shabbaton

Friday was the first day of our first shabbaton so we were still a little quiet when we got on the bus, we got to Emma Kaufmann Camp a little later so we had to run in and get right into our Shabbat  white clothing, we all went up to light our candles, then we sat in services with Rabbi Symons who had us all do a different prayer. It was really interesting to see how everyone perceived the different prayers. 

After services, we went outside took a picture and went to dinner. We had chicken, matzo ball soup, potatoes, and veggies; it was really good. Later after dinner where we got to know each other better after throwing pieces of paper at each other in a "snowball" fight. We then split up into groups and took random lines from songs and performed them. It was really cool to see how talented people are!! 

After we did a program where we took the first step in removing our masks and becoming more comfortable with everyone while getting to try on cool masks. It was the first time we really opened up to each other and it was amazing to see how comfortable we were with each other after one night. After this programming was done for the night but people still hung out and played jungle speed which got really intense. Overall it was a really good first day. 

-Abby Adelman

On Saturday, we continued to bond throughout the day. We started the day with a very Jewish breakfast- bagels. We then had a fantastic service led by Rabbi Symons, where we played with pray dough to allow us to express our beliefs through creativity. Before lunch, we had a discussion group with m&ms to share our thoughts on Israel and Judaism in an accepting way. 

For lunch we had a delicious meal of chicken nuggets and fries. Before our break, our JCs led some programs to help with teamwork. They also made a scavenger hunt where we were tied together and one team member was in a potato sack. This made us work together to overcome obstacles. 

Finally, our awesome Added Value Team made another fabulous scavenger hunt to help us get to know the camp. After this, we were given a break where we played football and cards. 

Before dinner, we had a Jewish Identity Buffet to help us figure out who we are as a Jew. For dinner, we had spaghetti and meatballs. Then, we had a beautiful havdalah service. After, we made T-Shirts where we wrote characteristics about ourselves to make us think about how we want others to view us. We also had a fishbowl circle where we helped others solve problems. Our last program was a sacred trust hike where we grew closer as a cohort. Finally, we ended the evening with an amazing round of lap tag!

- Jordana Avigad

On the last day of our first Shabbaton as a cohort, we woke up at an early 7:30 in the morning to go on an amazing caving experience at Laurel Caverns, a three-mile long cave, making it the largest in Pennsylvania.  We packed our bags and loaded them onto the bus waiting for us outside the lodge and Emma Kaufmann Camp (EKC).  After we had our breakfast in the dining hall, we packed our lunches for later after caving.  We then hopped on the bus and left EKC.  

On our arrival at Laurel Caverns, we all received our helmets for caving and put on our flashlights.  As we made our way into the cave, it began to get darker and darker until, if the flashlights were not on, it was pitch black.  The caves were amazing, and our guide, Ken, gave us very interesting information about the cave along the way.  He also told us that the cave was about 45 stories deep, making us realize how cool and almost scary it was to be down there.  In the cave, there were many difficult obstacles to overcome, like climbing up rocks, stepping over slippery rocks, and even crawling through shallow water in very tight spaces.  At one point in the caves, we had to turn off all of our lights and climb in complete darkness.  This experience, while also scary, was awesome and fun.

After we circled back to the beginning after a three-hour trip, we got changed out of our wet, muddy clothes and ate lunch outside of the caverns.  When we finished eating, we got back on the bus and were driven back to the JCC, where we said our goodbyes and left with the realization that we had bonded so much as a cohort and had had an amazing weekend.

- Derek Bashe