Teens work together to figure out what parts of Israel are represented in a series of photos during one of the educational games at the Israel leadership weekend in Atlanta.

Teens work together to figure out what parts of Israel are represented in a series of photos during one of the educational games at the Israel leadership weekend in Atlanta.


The Center for Israel Education  and the Emory Institute for the Study of Modern Israel invite Jewish 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders to apply to attend the next Teen Israel Leadership Institute in Atlanta during the weekend of Dec. 6 to 8.

The institute features a series of engaging learning activities to expand students’ knowledge and understanding of Israel and Zionism while they sample Jewish life on the Emory University campus and forge friendships with peers from across the country.

“I have a lot of Jewish friends. Every one of them supports Israel, but I don’t think a lot of them know about Israel too much,” said past institute attendee Eli Roberts of Marietta, Georgia. “I feel like I’m going to be able to teach them and also talk to my friends in Israel.”

CIE and ISMI launched the teen institute with spring and fall sessions in Atlanta in 2018, then took the weekend experience on the road to Newark, New Jersey, in January 2019 and to Seattle in May 2019.

The roughly two dozen participants in each Atlanta institute learned about Israeli history, politics, innovation and culture, the Israeli-Arab conflict, and Zionism. They participated in Shabbat services and had Friday dinner at Emory Hillel, a partner in the program along with the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Network (JTEEN) and JumpSpark. They simulated a Knesset debate, competed at making “Chopped”-style hummus and discussed what Israel means to them.

Noa Libchaber of New York, who attended in October 2018, said she was amazed when the high schoolers joined more than 100 Emory students at Hillel for Friday dinner and services. “It just made me feel really lucky to be a part of a religion that comes together with so much strength and power.”

The institute shows students how to apply their knowledge to the benefit of their communities. Each participant creates an Israel learning program to present back home — anything from an event on Israel’s Independence Day to an Israeli film series to a website helping teens engage with Israel.

The institute is part of a CIE initiative to provide Jewish teens more impactful education on Israel. Leading the program are CIE Vice President Rich Walter, a former director of Hebrew high schools in New Haven, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island, who was the New England regional director of March of the Living for a decade, and Steve Kerbel, an educational consultant in the Washington area who spent 14 years as a synagogue education director. 

“The really big thing that Jews have always done is make choices, and I never realized that,” Libchaber said about what she learned. “I have a choice of what to do, what I believe in, what I want to do, and this choice will impact generations to come.”

There is a cost to attend. Space is limited, so students are encouraged apply as soon as possible. The application requires a description of a proposed Israel learning project and a letter of support from a rabbi, a cantor, an educator or someone else who can explain why the student would be good for the program.

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