Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What will YOUR JITLI story be?

The Jacobs International
Teen Leadership Institute

What will YOUR JITLI story be?
JITLI is a summer program that gives you the opportunity to be selected for a truly unique journey to Israel.


  • 15 amazing days in Israel
  • Year-long study with 9 other San Diego Jewish teens
  • Traveling with 9 fellow San Diegans, as well as 10 Israeli Jews, and 20 Israeli Arabs and forming incredible friendships
  • Discovering and learning about other religions and cultures
  • Exploring the land and it’s fascinating history
  • Acquiring a renewed sense of identity
  • Building leadership skills
  • Investigating the roots of the Arab-Israeli challenge

How do I apply?
It’s simple, the application is online here. Just click the link at the top.
If you have any questions, please email Josh Shtein.

Remember, you have to be a junior in high school to apply.

Applications are due November 24th.

Read the article below for an inspiring account from a High School Senior who took part in the program in 2013. 

Article Submitted by Jessica Dorfan, JITLI 2013 Participant

Hijab skillfully wrapped, and body ritually washed, I looked up and did a 360 degree turn, examining the ceiling. The elaborate gold, red arabesques, and calligraphy stuck out from the walls, and the geometric patterning accentuated the carpet. Never before had I stepped away from my Shabbat dinners and shul services; never before had I had the courage and open-mindedness to take a look outside of my small bubble of Judaism, yet at that very moment I found myself in none other than the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites in the world. Overcome with emotions, I stood there shaking: excited to be one of the very few Jews that had had the opportunity to step foot in this famous holy site; overwhelmed by the daunting and intimidating process it had taken to get in; and fearful of the fact that I was in an environment that was so out of my comfort zone and my control.  I held a little tighter onto the hand of my Muslim friend, and partner for the day, confident that she would keep me safe. For further comfort I looked ahead at my Arab counselor, with a newfound sense of respect and admiration resulting from the dedication and effort she had gone to in order to get us in and to ensure that we were given the best Islamic experience that we could get. My look was returned by a reassuring smile and I knew I was going to be okay.

I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the San Diego participants for The Jacobs International Teen Leadership Institute (JITLI) this past summer of 2013. JITLI is a program that brings together 20 Jews (10 American Jews from San Diego and 10 Israeli Jews from ShaĆ”r Hanegev) and 20 Muslims (10 Bedouins from the village of Lakiya , and 10 Bedouins from the village of Segev Shalom) to travel around Israel and learn about one another and about our heritage in the Holy Land. The program isn’t about left wingers or right wingers and it’s not about exercising your socio-political opinion, or changing it. The program is about learning to see one another as human beings, not as Jews and Arabs, not as allies and enemies, but as normal teenage friends. No, a group of 40 teenagers isn’t going to create peace in the Middle East in two weeks, but we sure can take one very large and important step: learning to understand one another by breaking down the barriers, and walking a mile in one another’s shoes. 

I sat at the dinner table, feeding my Segev Shalom counselor until he could eat no more; voluntarily forgoing my own spacious hotel bed to “sleep” cozied up in a tiny room with the rest of my San Diego group; Having in-depth conversations on the bus about the Prawer Plan with those who it affects most directly; learning to dance Dabke, a traditional Arab dance, at a boat party on the Kinneret; sitting in the pool, learning first-hand about life on the Kibbutz; crying on the shoulder of a caring Arab companion as I saw the horrors of Yad Vashem; and being nearly deafened by my Lakiya friend’s screams of joy and terror as we rode together through the Negev on the back of a camel. These are experiences that will be remembered for the rest of my life. No, they are not representative of the heart-wrenching moments that one would imagine JITLI to create, but they were the simple acts of cultures being mixed, of bonds being built, of friendships being formed.              
I knew from the start how much I was learning, how much fun I was having, and how many memories I was making, but it was not until the final ceremony that I realized just how much JITLI meant to me. Standing on stage, coming together for one final round of our emotional JITLI cheer, I began to cry. Not out of pure sadness, and not out of pure joy, just out of a true mix of emotions, and a knowing that the next morning I would have to step away from the trip I had loved so much, leaving my place for the next lucky person to become part of the JITLI family.          
My most sincere advice for all those who have the opportunity to be a part of this beautiful family is to take it, wholeheartedly. JITLI is about the story, so ignore the expectations that come with joining such a controversial program, step out of your comfort zone, and create a story of your own. I didn’t walk away with any less love for Israel or any less fear for its safety, but I walked away with a view free of stereotypes and a love for my new friends- Jews and Arabs. Most importantly, I walked away ready and eager to tell my JITLI story, to tell the world to forget about their misconceptions and to see for themselves. Now is the time. So, to those that won’t get a chance to be embraced by this program, simply take the time to understand and to listen, and let go of your stereotypes. To those that are considering joining JITLI, apply today, make your mark, and I fully guarantee that you will not regret it. Achim Simcha JITLI Imperia. 40 teenagers, 1 community.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Four Things To Do About Pew Survey Findings on #JewishAmerica

By JFNA Chair, Michael Siegal, and President and CEO, Jerry Silverman
Responding to the Pew Research Center's "Portrait of Jewish Americans" in the Forward - October 24, 2013

The Pew Research Center’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans” has triggered much debate in the Jewish community. Its key findings — that younger Jews are not only less connected to, but are also less interested in, Jewish life — puts in sharp relief the challenge before us. If we go by numbers alone, the non-Orthodox American Jewish community is facing an existential crisis. The study clearly demonstrates that we stand at an urgent crossroads for American Jewry, and presents us with a major opportunity. Our communal leadership must seize upon it with renewed vigor and focus.

It is time to intensify — and make affordable — the most effective vehicles for engaging people in Jewish life. Our vast communal system has the capacity to address these issues by leveraging proven, effective programs that create Jewish community, and devising new models that sustain Jewish American life. We recognize the awesome task this presents, and we are ready to meet this challenge, but we must do this together. Inclusion of the broad diversity of Jews in America — Orthodox and non-Orthodox, Russians and Israelis, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, et cetera — is essential to our success.

With an abundance of expertise and resources in several areas, we could certainly continue to debate where to focus our energies and dollars in the short term. However, we must act now, and we need to start where we have already seen extraordinarily powerful results for the widest profile of Jews. Here are four examples of where we can begin:

Free Early Childhood Programs
Many communities have demonstrated the power of engaging families through superb Jewish preschool and day care programs and the innovative PJ Library program, which delivers 100,000 Jewish children’s books to families across the country. We must go farther. We must commit to offering free Jewish preschool to every Jewish family, a “Jewish Head Start.” This will dramatically widen the pipeline of families entering Jewish life through this critical early gateway. And it will place many more people on a path to further Jewish connection and Jewish education — day school, religious school and informal and alternative Jewish education.

Jewish Camping
Do we really need another study saying overnight camp is one of the most successful ways to connect young Jews? Camp not only engages the child; it engages the entire family. Research shows that most non-Orthodox, engaged participants in Jewish community were inspired by one of three things: Jewish camp, day school or youth trips to Israel. Let’s address one of them right away.
We need to quickly and decisively increase the percentage of children attending Jewish camps from 10% to 30%. We need more camps of excellence with greater capacity. The best Jewish camps today are turning away Jewish families.

Birthright Alumni
There are over 350,000 alumni of the Birthright Israel experience. We haven’t effectively followed up with most of them. We haven’t sufficiently welcomed them back from their transformative experience in Israel and connected them to further transformative experiences in our community, nor have we given them meaningful opportunities for leadership. It has happened successfully in a few places, but we have barely scratched the surface.
We need to function as a true continental community, because these young people are continental and mobile. We need employ technologies for interaction and connection to keep pace with this mobility. Particularly, we are imploring the gatekeepers to share this vast database of alumni contacts with us so that we have a mechanism to engage them in Jewish life.

Jewish Development Zones
We also have to strategically address those places where we are strong in numbers but weak in connection. Ironically, some of the areas of highest Jewish density in the country also have the lowest proportion of Jewish engagement. We need to think of these areas as “Jewish Development Zones” — areas in which we should invest in programs and experiences that will connect Jews in a communal structure at vital stages of life.

This will mean mobilizing our strongest and most effective funding institutions and philanthropists in order to target five of these areas immediately. In each of these zones, develop the “Jewish Head Start” model, build at least one new Jewish summer camp of excellence, inject support into the existing Jewish youth programs and develop magnetic Jewish engagement programs for unmarried young adults and Birthright alumni.

Clearly, these are not the only pathways to the Jewish future, but they are data-driven, measurable and immediate steps that we as a community can and should take. At the upcoming 2013 Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in Jerusalem, in the forums, programs and hallways, we will begin unpacking the Pew study, tackling the difficult issues and processing new solutions. We propose these steps for action.

Furthermore, we must rise above institutional parochial agendas and interests. We do not work together as well as we should. The waste of time and resources that results from repetition in programs and services is overwhelmingly frustrating.

All of these initiatives will also require dedicated and long-term resources. Our collective history has proven that when faced with pivotal challenges, we rallied with bold solutions and we prevailed.
We will be steadfast in driving this agenda, changing the direction in which we are heading, and ensuring that we not merely survive, but also thrive and grow as a vibrant and meaningful American Jewish community.

Gerrald (Jerry) Silverman is president and CEO and Michael Siegal is chair of the board of trustees, respectively, of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Read more:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Why Federation?

Your Federation mobilizes the community's resources, leaders, and organizations to address our community's most critical needs, creating profound impact locally, in Israel, and around the world.  Learn more about why Federation is vital to our community:

Raising a Child With Soul - A Free Parenting Lecture

You Are Invited to an Exclusive Jewish Parenting Lecture 
"Raising a Child With Soul"
 With Acclaimed Author Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

Monday, October 14, 2013

Birthright Registration Opens - Limited Spots Available!


Winter 2013/2014 Dates

This winter we have two trips for young professionals to choose from:
December 10-22, 2013
February 16- 27, 2014

Each year, young professionals (ages 22-26) with ties to the San Diego community have the opportunity to participate on an Israel Outdoors Birthright trip. Going on a community trip ensures that even after the party ends, you will have the opportunity to stay connected with friends from your trip and others who have also recently experienced the journey.

Want More Info?
Contact: Carly  

Hillel of San Diego is offering a trip for college-aged participants in San Diego county. 
Trip date:  December 19-29

To find out more click the logo above. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Federation's Next Gen Team Kicks Off The Network

The Network

On Thursday, October 10, nearly 20 Jewish community professionals in San Diego came together at the Federation for the kick off meeting of The Network. The Network is for professionals who manage programming and outreach for Jewish young adults. It serves as a platform to mobilize the San Diego Jewish community around serving the Next Gen (Gen X and Y) population. Through networking, professional development and collaboration, it is the goal to build capacity to better serve more Next Geners and their interests. 

 Heather Wolfson, Next Gen
Strategic Partnerships and Leadership Manager

Thursdays meeting included representatives from the Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Family Service (Emerging Leaders, Jewish BIGPals, North Coastal Jewish), JDC (Entwine), Congregation Beth El (Chai Group), San Diego Center for Jewish Culture (CJC in the Mix), Tarbuton, Hillel of San Diego (North County, Alumni Engagement), Moishe House/Moishe House Without Walls, the JCC (Shalom Baby, PJ Library), Beth Israel (San Diego Jewish Experience), ADL (GLASS Leadership Program) and the Jewish Federation. Heather Wolfson, Next Gen, Strategic Partnerships and Leadership Manager at the Jewish Federation facilitated the meeting. This was the first opportunity for professionals to gather together and learn about young adult programs in the community.

“Yesterday’s inaugural Network meeting was a great first step in cultivating the collaborative community partnerships San Diego is ripe to build,” said Michael Gropper, Moishe House Western Regional Director. “Through Heather’s leadership in networking and developing relationships among young adult Jewish professionals, we will all grow our capacity, engagement resources and tools for success.”

The professionals are committed to developing a collaborative environment to work most efficiently and effectively together, and are eager to convene at a retreat in the coming weeks. If you would like more information about The Network, please be in touch with Heather (

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Got MASA? Federation Launches Israel Travel Scholarships!

Got MASA? The wait is over! The Jewish Federation of San Diego County is proud to announce the availability of Israel Travel Scholarships for students between the ages of 18-26 years old traveling on a MASA-sponsored program between June 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015. “MASA Israel Journey offers over 200 study, internship, and volunteer opportunities all over Israel lasting between five and twelve months. Live like a local in Israel, which offers unparalleled history as well as cutting edge start-up-nation opportunities.” Click here to apply!

To find the perfect MASA program for you click here!

Once you’ve chosen a program, join the MASA Israel Community! Click here to connect to fellow participants and then stay connected as a MASA Israel Alum. “The Masa Israel Community offers additional seminars, concerts, lectures, and other extracurricular activities throughout the year. Add another dimension to your program, build new networks, and reconnect with old friends.”

Federation Women Talk Tinsel Town with Danielle Gelber

Nearly 100 women gathered for Federation’s first Women’s Philanthropy event of the New Year.  “On Air” featured Wolf Films Executive Vice President Danielle Gelber, one of the top women executives in television.

Gelber recounted her remarkable career rise, from answering phones as a “temp” for Aaron Spelling, to her current position with legendary TV mogul Dick Wolf, which includes serving as Executive Producer of Chicago Fire.  In the years since her less than auspicious start, she has been involved with the development or production of numerous iconic series, ranging from Dynasty to Beverly Hills 90210 to Weeds.

The audience sat in rapt attention as Gelber shared tales of how she achieved such tremendous success in a system that was traditionally male-dominated – particularly in her early years.  She shared inspiring professional insights as well as fascinating inside stories, and dazzled the entire audience.

The program was rounded out by a presentation by Kasey MacNair, coordinator of Jewish Family Service’s Employment & Career Services program.  MacNair explained the program’s efforts on behalf of those who receive assistance with finding employment and developing their careers.  Her presentation, which highlighted the important efforts of one of Federation’s historic partners, complemented Danielle Gelber’s story of building her career with a moving example of Federation’s commitment to a caring community.

Mandy Danzan, Federation Campaign Director said - “We are happy to be able to provide programming for women of all ages in the Jewish Community to engage in the work of Federation.  In working with our partners locally, in Israel and overseas we are able to help those most in need and engage our community in this effort.”

See more pictures from this great event, here

Friday, October 4, 2013

Federation's JCRC Hosts Israeli LGBT Leadership

JCRC hosts dinner with Israeli LGBT organization President Shai Doitsch at home of San Diego School Board VP Kevin Beiser

Shai Doitsch is the Chairperson Aguda, Israeli's national LGBT organization.  He works as an expert adviser on gay tourism and gay market outreach, and is the publisher of the Israeli's Gay Magazine.  We met him while in Israel this past July for the seminar with elected officials and Jewish community leaders.

Shai  visited San Diego for the purpose of becoming familiar with the local community, both Jewish and LGBT, and met with local leaders in the LGBT and Jewish communities to explore collaborations. 

Federation's JCRC hosted a dinner at the home of Kevin Beiser, San Diego School Board Vice-President to introduce Shai to the San Diego community.  We enjoyed lively conversation about the challenges of marriage, surrogacy, religion and connections between our two countries.

"Be the Match" Training at Temple Emanu-El

"Be the Match" Training at Temple Emanu-El
Tuesday, October 22  7:00 pm

Susanne Geshekter Smith, Executive Director of our congregation, has unselfishly given her heart and soul to Temple Emanu-El. Now she is in need of our help and it is time to give back. Susanne was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and may, at some point, be in need of a bone marrow transplant.   

Be the Match Foundation, operated by the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry, has agreed to partner with us to train volunteers to conduct bone marrow drives.  We are asking for volunteers to attend the training session so that they can conduct bone marrow drives at Emanu-El and potentially other congregations and Jewish agencies.  Patients are more likely to find a donor match within their own race and ethnicity.  The targeted age group for donors is 18-44 which is the ideal age for the best outcome.  There is, however, no age limit for volunteers willing to conduct bone marrow drives.

The training will be held in the Temple Emanu-El Social Hall, 6299 Capri Drive, San Diego, on Tuesday evening, October 22nd at 7:00 pm. Your participation could be life saving.

There is nothing in Judaism that takes precedence over the saving of a life. We all have the power to help, the power to hope, the power to heal. Please answer our call by responding to by October 16th.

Thank you for your support!
Arlene Bresnick and Byrne Eger