Perfect 10

Diller Teen Fellows Chicago celebrates its first decade of nurturing teen leaders

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Cohort 10 celebrating Shabbat during the annual Jewish Identity Shabbaton.

Abby Singer has gained so much since starting the 10 th cohort of the Chicago Diller Teen Fellows program back in the fall. "[I've learned] meaningful life lessons about vulnerability, honesty, leadership, tikkun olam , and what it means to be Jewish in America," said Singer, a junior at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School.

She is one of some 200 high school sophomores and juniors from across the Chicago area who have participated in the yearlong Diller fellowship since it launched at JUF 10 years ago.  The fellows explore topics in leadership, social justice, Jewish identity, and Israel, and each Diller cohort represents a mix of teens from across the spectrum of Jewish observance, geography, and socioeconomic background.

"The more diversity in thought and lived experience, the better the program is," said Joe Winner, Program Director of Diller Teen Fellows Chicago. He said he hopes the fellows become "more confident in who they are and [build on] their skills to make an impact in their community and the world through leadership."

Early in the year, the teens participate in a Shabbaton , a Shabbat retreat bonding experience. Later in the program, the teens themselves lead a second Shabbaton , implementing the leadership skills they have learned throughout the year.

During Diller, fellows also brainstorm and create community improvement projects. This winter, Singer and her friend Julia Benditzson, fellow Diller teen, led a winter clothing drive--in partnership with the SOLU volunteer program and Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob--which collected 150 coats and 50 trash bags of clothing for homeless shelters.

The fellowship year culminates with a double exchange with fellows from JUF's Partnership Together region in Israel. This month, for the first time since 2019, Chicago teens will welcome Israeli fellows to their homes for a mifgash­ , an encounter, between Chicago and Israeli teens. Then, in May, the Israeli teens will reciprocate, hosting the Chicago teens for 3-week visit, where Diller fellows from around the world will have a chance to meet.

Ilana and Orli Argentar participated in the 9 th and 10 th cohorts of Diller. "The experience has strengthened their Jewish identities and empowered them to speak up as leaders in the community," said Alexandra Argentar, Ilana and Orli's mother.

Rachel Bringas, a past Diller fellow and Diller counselor, is grateful to have participated in the fellowship. "Since completing the program three years ago, Diller has continued to shape and impact my life positively," said Bringas, who now attends Northeastern University in Boston. "I cannot thank Diller enough for what it has taught me, and I know I will continue to use these skills throughout my life."

Learn more at , or email Joe Winner at .

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