23 April 2019
A Reflection from Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath, Senior Program Officer, Federation’s Jewish Education Department
On Sunday, April 10, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) hosted the graduation ceremony for the 10th and 11th cohorts of the Margo & Yoram Cohen Family Israel Engagement Fellowship (IEF). IEF is one of The Jewish Federation’s flagship teen leadership programs, and provides high school students from across the Greater Washington Jewish community with the opportunity to explore their own relationships with Israel, building a baseline of knowledge, working on their skills as leaders and speakers, and empowering them to tell their own Israel stories. For the past five years, IEF has reached hundreds of teens from across the DMV, representing more than 50 synagogues, high schools, youth movements, and all streams of Jewish life. From the beginning, this unique program has been a partnership between Federation and JCRC, and this year we have been thrilled to expand our IEF leadership team to include Federation’s amazing congregational shlichim, who have brought the program to their own synagogues, and used our curriculum and resources to further connect with emerging leaders within our community.
At the IEF graduation, which took place at the Embassy of Israel, our teens and their families heard from Federation CEO Gil Preuss, JCRC’s Executive Director Ron Halber, and Tammy Ben-Haim, Israel’s Minister of Public Diplomacy. But the most exciting speakers were truly the teens themselves, and it was so inspiring to see them confidently and articulately share their perspectives on the Fellowship, on their role in the Israel conversation as young American Jews, and on their own Israel relationships and experiences. I know how proud we all are to have these young powerhouses as ambassadors for the work that we are so privileged to do every day.
We look forward to updating the community as IEF continues to expand, and we are confident that the program will go from strength to strength, giving us the critical opportunity to further connect teens with Israel during their formative years.