It never ceases to amaze me the transformative power of the teen Israel experience on Jewish identity. Within days of arriving in Israel, I see the transformation beginning with outward expressions of Jewish pride marked by teens proudly wearing Jewish stars, chai and hamsa necklaces, as well as wearing t-shirts proclaiming their love of Israel and support for the IDF. For David Kobrosky of Rockport, one of 73 teens on the Lappin Foundation’s 2015 Youth to Israel Adventure (Y2I), the 12-day Israel experience was life changing. “I developed my Jewish identity, made lifelong friends, and connected with my homeland,” wrote David in his post-trip reflective essay.
2015 Y2I was a blast, according to many of the teens who hailed from 18 cities and towns of the North Shore. Teens toured the country from early morning into the night, following a first-timer’s itinerary that included visits to the Wall in Jerusalem for a memorable Shabbat, Mt. Bental in the Golan Heights, Masada, the Dead Sea, and more. Our days were filled with fun and engaging activities, as were our bellies with scrumptious Israeli food. Every day, all day, new friends, new sites, and a newfound love for Israel and our People filled our hearts.
Thanks to the generous support of more than 800 donors to the Foundation’s Annual Campaign, including CJP, 2015 Y2I marked the 45th consecutive year of the program. Though the community teen trip to Israel was canceled once in the 90s due to the intifada, the program itself never ceased operation. Even the collapse of the Lappin Foundation due to the Madoff fraud in 2008, which wiped out the Foundation’s assets, did not permanently cancel the program or the trip. The community rallied, committed to continuing Y2I, which is a rite of passage for North Shore Jewish teens.
Y2I has always been a fantastic way for teens to experience Israel. The fully subsidized 12-day trip, pre and post trip programs for teens and parents, community service opportunities, Jewish leadership development track and more, make Y2I a one-stop, all-inclusive Jewish program for teens, complete with social, educational and Israel opportunities. Y2I is successfully connecting teens from cities and towns across the community to each other and engaging them in Jewish activities. The community can view pictures of the trip and read the blog at Y2I.org.
The four-day mifgash, encounter, with 21 Israeli teens from the Young Ambassadors School of Petah Tikvah, provided American and Israeli teens face-to-face opportunities to learn about each other. Israeli teens were fully integrated into the Y2I trip, and all of them embraced the time they were given to learn and to connect with each other. As one teen wrote, “I know that Israel has my back. Now I have to make sure that we have Israel’s back.”
Y2I serves as an important feeder to BBYO, North Shore Teen Initiative and to other Jewish teen youth groups. Since Y2I is the common denominator amongst the majority of North Shore Jewish teens, a strong Y2I program is an asset to all Jewish teen youth groups, since teens seek to continue the connections they made with each other on their trip to Israel. It is expected that membership in the North Shore BBYO will significantly increase by summer’s end, following our successful 2015 Y2I.
Y2I has assumed a new, critical role in the lives of our Jewish teens. In response to the dangerous rise in anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activities on college campuses around the country, Y2I’s program re-design includes effective Israel advocacy training during and after the trip. Our successful approach includes the 12-day Israel adventure, combined with Israel advocacy training, during the trip and for up to two years in our community, before teens go to college. “The only effective way to equip Jewish students to effectively deal with what’s happening on college campuses is to provide them with an Israel experience during the teen years paired with Israel advocacy training,” claimed Robert I. Lappin, president of the Lappin Foundation. “We accept our responsibility to do more than provide a great trip to Israel that builds Jewish pride, connects teens to Israel, and instills in them love and responsibility for our small and unique Family. Working with excellent Israel advocacy organizations, we provide our teens with the training to develop skills that enable them to stand up for Israel and for themselves as Jews,” added Lappin.
The community is invited to the 2015 Y2I Welcome Home Event on Sunday, August 30, at 2 p.m. at Temple Sinai in Marblehead. The event, which is free and open to all, will be a celebration of the successful 2015 Y2I trip and will honor the following individuals with special awards: Arthur J. Epstein, 2015 Youth to Israel Award; Dan Rea, Host of NightSide on WBZ NewsRadio 1030, 2015 Friend of Israel Award; Trevor Brown, 2015 Jewish Teen Leadership Award; and Andrew Jacobson, 2015 Exceptional Teen Israel Advocate Award. Reservations are requested to Susan Feinstein at 978-740-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.