You Should Know: Darren Rabinowitz

Darren Rabinowitz. Courtesy of Darren Rabinowitz

Darren Rabinowitz knows firsthand that the teen years are a crucial time for exploring identity.

Rabinowitz, 30, works with the Diller Teen Fellows program as the coordinator for Philadelphia, helping local Jewish teens find the same opportunity he did nearly 15 years ago when he was a participant.

“Teens are constantly searching for community and identity. Oftentimes, being Jewish is like, ‘Oh, my parents did it and my grandparents did it and I think it’s important to me, but I don’t really know what it means for me,’ and I think that for me part of the Jewish identity is the identity building as a teenager,” Rabinowitz said.

As coordinator, Rabinowitz recruits the teens into the program he helps manage. Diller Teen Fellows is a year-long experience-based learning and travel program for 10th and 11th graders. It includes workshops, retreats, seminars and a three-week trip to Israel.
According to Rabinowitz, one of the program’s most important features is the opportunity for teens to make Jewish friends.

“A lot of the teens don’t come from schools with a big Jewish population; they might be one of the few students who are Jewish,” he said.

Rabinowitz grew up in Morristown, New Jersey, becoming a bar mitzvah at Temple B’nai Or.
His role now, as an enthusiastic proponent of Jewish experience-based education, has its roots in his teen years at the program. He was a Diller participant in 2009 with the Greater MetroWest cohort in New Jersey. Later, in 2011, when Rabinowitz was 18, he served the program as a junior counselor. He recalled a particularly life-changing experience he had in the Negev desert.

“It was amazing to me, to see the amazing people that they (the teens) are and hearing them feeling like they’re not enough, and I remember telling them that they were and that they are enough and that they are capable of great things,” Rabinowitz said, recalling one of his trips to Israel.

The leadership aspect of the Diller program amazes him every year, Rabinowitz said. Part of the program involves the teens taking charge and planning a Shabbaton themselves.
“It’s amazing to see the teens step up and be able to come create a Jewish space that is considerate and caring for those with different religious observances,” Rabinowitz said.
Part of what he said makes the experience so special is seeing the teens blend practices and develop new language for the hybrid practices.

“It’s incredible to see teenagers from different Jewish backgrounds creating this Jewish future before my eyes. There are many adults who have taken steps at it from academic or intellectual perspectives or theological perspectives and have fallen somewhere in the middle, and I see teens actively doing it and making real space for the differences in Jewish practice, and that’s really powerful,” Rabinowitz said.

His passion for youth education guides him in other areas of life, too. Rabinowitz holds a master’s degree in educational development and a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and is pursuing a Ph.D. in education.

His interdisciplinary studies degree included international relations, dance and theater, which he indulges by performing with Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, a multidisciplinary dance circus ensemble based in Philadelphia. He’s even performed on the White House lawn.

“A lot of my time is spent upside down,” Rabinowitz said, explaining his acrobatics and hand balancing.

Rabinowitz’s other hobbies include reading, writing, hiking and gardening.
Writing to reflect is an important part of who Rabinowitz is, and it plays an important role in how he observes his favorite holiday — Yom Kippur.

“I take my journal and I reflect on the entire year; that’s my way of observing Yom Kippur. It’s a really special day,” Rabinowitz said. ”It’s really meaningful. I like focusing, just thinking about the year I’ve had and the year I want to have looking forward.”

Learn more about the Diller Teen Fellows program at


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