Shabbat brings reform, orthodox, secular, and conservative teens together

“For most of my life I was only exposed to one type of Judaism”. These are the words of a Diller Teen Fellow following the Jewish Identity Shabbaton. How great can it be to experience new facets of Judaism? What would it be like to meet other Jewish teens from different walks of life? Teens that experience Judaism differently? Imagine for a moment what you can feel, be, and think when you spend a year exploring what it means to be a Jewish teen in an ever changing world?  

One of core experiences of the Diller Teen Fellows program is pluralism. It aims to bring together teens from different walks of life and denominations. It does that through a variety of programs taking place both here in Toronto and in Israel, specifically in Eilat/Eilot (UJA Federation’s partner community in Israel). 

One such activity is the Shabbaton. During a typical Shabbaton Diller Teen Fellows spend a full 48 hours together. It is amazing to see how teens that never spent a Shabbat outside of their own circle and community are exposed to different Jewish practices and beliefs.

On  Sunday November 12th, following Shabbat, the Diller Teen Fellows participated in a historic Jewish tour of Toronto’s where they explored Kensington Market and its rich Jewish history. Through this program, local teens are exposed to their local Jewish heritage that opens their hearts and minds to the great history this city has to offer.

The teens met with Rabbi Spero of the Anshei Minsk Synagogue (a synagogue that was founded by poor Jewish immigrants from Misk in 1913). Rabbi Spero shared the history of the shul and of the community. Many of the teens noted that this experience was eye opening for them as they learnt new things about Toronto’s history. Upon reflection of the Shabbaton, fellows noted that not only did this experience expose them to different types of Judaism; they also gained respect towards other ways of practicing. Some even noted that this exposure even strengthened their own way of practicing.

This year marks the 6th year of the Diller Teen Fellows Program in Toronto. Each year 20 remarkable Jewish teen leaders in grades 10 and 11, from different schools and denominations are selected from a large pool of candidates to participate in a 12 month leadership development program.  The program focuses on six core experiences; Pluralism, Jewish Identity, Israel, Peoplehood, leadership, and Tikun Olam.

To find out more about the Diller Teen Fellows program or about how to apply visit our website ( or contact Hadas Hait-Barnea, Diller Teen Fellows Coordinator at


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