Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

In Their Shoes: Students meet IDF soldiers at JTEN Teen Education Day

 

Eight IDF solidiers visited with students at the Teen Education Day.

Nearly 50 area teenagers converged on the Maitland Jewish Community Campus the morning of Nov. 1 for the second annual Jewish Teen Education Network Community-wide Teen Education Day.

JTEN is a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando.

Titled "In Their Shoes," this year's Teen Education Day was designed for students to develop a more personal connection to Israel by hearing firsthand about the unique challenges and responsibilities of Israeli teens who enter the Israel Defense Forces at age 18. Eight IDF soldiers took part in the event.

"We collaborated our programming with Friends of Israel Defense Forces in Miami, and we wrote a curriculum to include our special guests, the eight IDF soldiers, as co-facilitators of the program along with community educators," said JTEN Coordinator Jennifer Cohen, JFGO's Director of Outreach and Engagement.

The IDF soldiers co-led breakout sessions covering topics such as the culture of Israeli teens, life as a soldier, and the realities of living in a country that is surrounded by enemies. Each of the breakout sessions was preceded by a specially selected clip from the movie "Beneath the Helmet," a coming-of-age story produced by Jerusalem U that follows five teenagers as they transition from high school students to IDF soldiers. 

U.S. Army Capt. Isaac Greenberg also led a session, discussing his experience as a Jewish American soldier serving in Afghanistan. Greenberg suggested meaningful ways for the teens to participate in acts of kindness for IDF and U.S. soldiers.

Following Greenberg's presentation, the students created two message banners, one for Lone Soldiers living at HaBayit Shel Benji (Benji Hillman's House) in Israel and another for U.S. soldiers stationed at the National Guard Unit-Air Medical Evacuation Team in Iraq. The banners included personal, handwritten messages of support and gratitude. The teens were also encouraged to send personal letters and care packages to U.S. and IDF soldiers.

Students taking part in Community-wide Teen Education Day write personal messages on banners that will be sent to IDF solders in Israel and U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq.

Six of the IDF soldiers who participated were part of the IDF Musical Ensemble that performed a concert later in the day at Congregation Ohev Shalom in Maitland. They helped kick off the morning by leading the teens in songs and dance.

JTEN's Cohen said Teen Education Day was a positive, engaging learning experience for everyone involved.

"This program extended beyond our community," Cohen said. "By design, we wanted Teen Education Day to give Orlando students a chance to interact one-on-one, in a meaningful way, with IDF soldiers. That was a very special experience for our teens, but it meant a lot to the soldiers as well."

Jaime Sagona, Projects & Missions Coordinator for Friends of Israel Defense Forces in Miami, concurred.

"The event was an amazing experience for both the soldiers and the students," Sagona said. "The soldiers felt the love and support from the students and the entire community."

 

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