By Deb Silverthorn
To hike in the wee hours to Masada, pray at the Kotel, float in the Dead Sea and create lifetime friendships and memories are the gifts of the Dallas Israel Teen Tour experience.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas is excited to consider bringing back this special opportunity and has created a survey to determine the interest of prospective participants. Responses are requested by July 1.
“We are thrilled to [consider bringing] back the Teen Tour, which allows our children, likely the future Jewish leaders of our community, to have their first trip to Israel be one of bonding through our community,” said Sherry Goldberg, who chairs the JFGD’s Teen Tour committee that includes Michele Aronson, Janet Beck, Dawn Strauss and Robin Stone. “It’s important to go, it’s important to share the experiences with your contemporaries and the teenage years are a critical time to take it all in.”
Goldberg’s children Lindsay and Richard went on Teen Tour trips in 1995 and 1999. “Bringing back the Dallas Israel Teen Tour will engage our teens and our families. We’ll go as Dallas, and we’ll return as Dallas, our heritage and community engagement a connection like none other,” Goldberg added.
Many hope to bring Dallas Israel Teen Tour back after a more than 15-year hiatus with an expanded curriculum to include a yearlong pre-trip study series and a year of Federation and community engagement once the teens return.
Open to all Jewish rising junior and senior high school students, synagogue-affiliated or not, the program is planned as a three-week trip with pre-trip gatherings for orientation and relationship building and post-trip reunions and events.
“Israel sells itself in a way books and lectures never could. We are excited to provide this truly profound opportunity,” said JFGD Board Chair A.J. Rosmarin, whose daughter, Marci Gilbert, was a participant in 2000. “I was 48 the first time I went to Israel, and it was on a Federation mission, and to help bring Israel to our kids while they’re kids — this is a gift from and for us all.”
When it resumes, the Dallas Israel Teen Tour will also include education about the Partnership 2Gether Program in the Western Galilee. Organizers expect the itinerary to include a visit to northern Israel and introductions to students in the area.
Robin Stone is excited to help today’s teens share the opportunity she was afforded on her trip in 1991. “Teen Tour is definitely a part of the fabric of my Jewish identity and that summer opened my eyes to what Israel, the place and its people, would mean to me,” said Stone. “I made lifelong friends and a lifelong connection to this amazing place I’d been reading about and praying for. There’s nothing like being there and being there with your peers.”
From Ben-Yehuda Street to the Kotel, from the deserts to Golan, Israel in person permeates its people with a strength, spirit, ruach and culture that can’t be found anywhere else. For the young adults of our community, Dallas Israel Teen Tour is the introduction of a lifetime.
“The program’s hopeful return presents a definitive ‘moment’ for our community, a generationally nostalgic experience that is always ever-present and meaningful for those lucky enough to participate,” said Rabbi Mordechai Harris, executive director and rabbi in residence of the Federation’s Center for Jewish Education. “The return of the Dallas Israel Teen Tour feels like it should garner a Shehecheyanu, for we as a community are blessed to reach this season.”
To complete the survey, visit jfgd.regfox.com/teen-trip-interest.