Israel In Your Community

Diller Teen Fellows Program

From The Graduating Speech Of Pavel Natchienko, A Teen In The Fifth Cohort Of The Diller Teen Fellows Program

Good evening – dear parents, counselors, Diller teens, and Roger…in short, the people who have become a second family to me during this Diller year.  I’d like to try and communicate my Diller experience to all of you.

For me, Diller is the greatest and most empowering journey I’ve had in my brief life up to now.  It would be hard to sum up an entire year in one speech, but I’ll try.  Through Diller, I acquired numerous tools for the future, including openness, pluralism, fellowship and Peoplehood.  I met people with so much soul and wisdom, with a desire for ‘giving’ and with genuine love in their hearts.


It all began with a ‘getaway’ to Metula, 267 days ago, with a group of people who weren’t necessarily pluralistic or tight-knit.  All were very different, but at the same time people of high quality.  The seminar in Metula was short, but the experience left an intense and positive impression in our minds.  You could definitely say that the seminar gave each of us something new.  And we all started to feel like a group.


About a month later, we found ourselves in our first weekend retreat, dedicated to the theme of Jewish identity.  The retreat was very significant for all of us teens, as we were exposed to the Diller pluralistic and religious way of thinking—we observed the Sabbath, we didn’t turn on the lights or air conditioner, or even our cell phones.  We spoke a lot about the meaning of “My Shabbat” and “My family”.  Most importantly, the teens who led the prayers allowed all of us to contribute and take part in it, creating something fascinating and unifying as a group!  When the Sabbath was over, we finally received our Partnership and Diller bracelets in a moving ceremony with the Diller alumni.


Many of us already started to understand what this Diller ‘business’ was all about, and began participating in the activities and expressing our opinions.  We engaged in wonderful activities focused on leadership, identity, guidance, pluralism and more. 


Then the moment came for us to plan and conduct the second weekend retreat—the ‘self-management’ retreat—which we chose to hold in Sansana!!  I won’t get into the details of how we built the weekend retreat, but I can say that the event itself was extremely constructive and empowering.  Almost all of us received feedback, whether it was positive or negative, from the counselor staff and the external observers who arrived specially to scrutinize how we were functioning.  And once again, it was a truly unique experience for each one of us.  With that, we were exposed to many different aspects of Diller, be it Judaism, logistics, content, or simply enjoying common experiences with our Diller Fellows.  When the retreat was over, we felt fabulous—we had become a tight-knit group and we learned valuable lessons for the future…in constructing a day’s agenda, helping each other out, and fellowship.


Then it was time for the North American seminar, by which time we had already become brothers and sisters.  We began tackling the new challenge of forming a Partnership group composed of Israelis and Canadians, from Beer-Sheva, Bnei Shimon and Montreal.


Each of us derived different experiences from the seminar, but we all agreed on two things: the most empowering highlight—the letters from our parents that we read while sitting in a circle…something that filled us with emotion and even tears, something that made us miss home and look forward to returning.  And the ‘fun’ highlight—snow-boarding down hills on inner tubes.


Upon returning home, time sped by until we couldn’t believe it was already June.  That meant it was time to gather and meet all of the Diller Israel groups at the “SemYuni” (“June seminar”).  The people there were amazing; the activity content-rich’; the breaks that we were given, short; and the joy we felt….simply over the top!  We met a lot, but I’m saying a lot of friends.  Naturally we compared them to our group in order to learn some lessons.  But Beer-Sheva, Bnei Shimon and Montreal…they’re the best.


Then came the most difficult and challenging stage in the Diller year.  Planning our Community Week – with the entire week managed by us, accompanied by our counselors.  We chose a project leader for the week as well as those responsible for content and logistics.  Aside from that, we appointed a different individual for each day who would be responsible for that particular day; and we began approving plans and our general work plan.  We devoted a lot of thought to arriving at the most correct connection with the Canadians and their best way of being involved in the preparations and work.  In the end we succeeded in producing a week that was rich and interesting in content while meeting all of the goals we set ourselves!  Each day was special, interesting and highly instructive!


We were very tired yet extremely satisfied as we arrived at the highlight of the entire year (at least that’s what the counselors say), the Diller Teen Fellows International Conference!  Close to 400 Diller participants were there and each one of them was amazing.  The activities at the Congress were filled with instructive content.  And the panel discussions with Diller alumni and senior leaders in the Jewish world gave us the feeling that we were being addressed as adults, and that everyone is truly are counting on us.


To cap off this amazing annual experience, we embarked as Partnership groups for a last journey, for joint day trips.  There were bicycles, kayaks, a tour of the border with Lebanon, including Lebanese apples!  And then came the special moment, the closing of the circle in Metula.  It was in the same community center and in the same room, only with more people and a feeling of maturity that we hadn’t felt at the beginning of the year.  Already, we began to feel a sense of sadness, and we felt apprehensive over the “White Night” ahead of us, which would be our last night together. 


And then it came…the final circle, the final shared experience, the final questions.  We talked about how to improve, how to preserve.  We expressed out thanks to the counselors.  There were a lot of bittersweet tears in saying goodbye, especially at the airport.  Thus a Diller year concluded.  But as far as I’m concerned, nothing is finished yet.  Every end is a new beginning and we are continuing to lead, change, volunteer and assist.


Diller has given us an assortment of strengths that will help us integrate into our society.  Perhaps we’ll continue as Junior Counselors, serve on the Israeli Task Force or in the ACHIM leadership program.  Maybe we’ll enroll as Year of Service volunteers; maybe we can assist in building and promoting Jewish identity in the world; perhaps even run for Prime Minister one day.  Perhaps some of us will enroll in a combined IDF/academic studies program.  What’s sure is that I’m certain that in this past year, all of us have changed, become empowered, and discovered a lot about our internal worlds.


Ultimately, we’ve experience so much: tears and laughter, disappointment and supreme bliss, loyalty and dedication.


I just want to say that now we are one big family.  And if in 20 years I meet any of you Diller Fellows, I’m sure that we’ll be able to reminisce for hours about our memories and experiences.  Immediately we’ll feel close, because each of us is a Fellow in this fantastic Diller program.


So to all of your Diller Fellows of the 5th cohort, from Beer-Sheva, Bnei Shimon and Montreal, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful year.  My wish is that you will succeed in everything you do; that each of your life choices will be the correct one; that you’ll never forget this family that you’ve gained within this short year.  And most importantly, remember: “A smile is a curved line that straightens out everything!”


18 Aug 2013 / 12 Elul 5773 0
  •   Print