Meet Sarah, an Israel Engagement Fellow

The Margo & Yoram Cohen Family Israel Engagement Fellowship teaches teen leaders to explore their relationships with Israel in a meaningful way. Fellows learn about the importance of the State of Israel within Jewish history, and graduate with the knowledge, experience and confidence to advocate for Israel in their communities and future college campuses. Sarah S. is in the 6th cohort of Fellows, and is a junior at West Springfield High School in Springfield, Virginia.

Read to learn what inspired Sarah to participate in IEF.  Interview conducted by Federation’s Teen Engagement Fellow Katie Schrek.

sarahiefinterviewWhat made you want to join IEF?
I wanted to join because I felt like I had a strong connection with Israel. I liked the idea of strengthening my educational understanding of Israel at home, and I was excited by the opportunity to enhance my connection with both Israel and America. I heard about IEF through Federation and I thought it would be interesting to participate…and I was right.

How did you develop your strong relationship with Israel?|
I visited Israel two summers ago. I have family over there and my parents are pro-Israel. It has always been an important part of my life. For the past 20 years, my grandmother on my dad’s side has lived in Netivot, which is very close to the Gaza strip. Israel is not perfect, but it is the closest thing we, as Jews, have to perfect. I believe that Jewish person should support Israel in some way.

What are your favorite things about IEF?
I think IEF is an insightful and enlightening program. I love hearing other teens’ perspectives of Israel. Peoples’ opinions say a lot about who they are and I find it interesting to hear varying opinions, from people who differ or agree with my outlook. It is such a cool experience that I can barely put into words to.

What other activities are you involved in?
I attended Hebrew School up until my Bat-Mitzvah four years ago and still volunteer at my synagogue. Additionally, I have been a member of BBYO for three years, holding multiple executive board positions, including VP of Fundraising, VP of Membership and VP of programming. I have also been attending Capital Camps for the last seven summers and I plan to go back next summer.

What is the impact Judaism has had on your life?
I think for Jewish teens, Judaism is one of those things that define who you are, especially growing up in the Greater Washington area. Living in Northern Virginia, there are not a lot of Jews around. Being the only Jew in my high school class plays a role in forming my Jewish identity and how I perceive myself. Judaism has shaped me to be the person I am today.

What is something you want other Jewish teens to know?
I want other Jewish teens to know that it is our responsibility to support Israel and to keep it alive. We are the future and we need to be responsible and take advantage of it.