A Pluralistic Prayer Book, Created By Diller Teens


It was a scene familiar to anyone who has attended a Jewish youth group: A group of teens sat in a semicircle one Saturday morning as three of their peers led them in prayer.

But this wasn’t just any Saturday morning service. The teens were praying from a prayer book that they themselves had compiled in a pluralistic service that combined Jewish ritual from across the spectrum of observance.

The teenagers in question were part of the Diller Teen Fellows, a Jewish Federation-sponsored, year-long fellowship for 10th and 11th graders with an emphasis on experiential learning and leadership. They had gathered for their annual Shabbaton (weekend retreat), and three of them had taken upon themselves to create a Shabbat service that would reflect the traditions of all those present, ranging from Modern Orthodox to Reconstructionist to Reform. Working together, the Diller teens created a space where anyone, despite their Jewish background or level of observance, would feel welcomed and accepted.

“What I witnessed this past Saturday was truly inspirational. In a time when we often choose division, three Diller Fellows chose the more difficult and far more rewarding route,” said Darren Rabinowitz, Diller Program coordinator.

The three teens spent hours on the phone having vulnerable and honest conversations to discuss how they could be best support one another, celebrate their differences and how to incorporate moments from their respective traditions that were most meaningful to them.

Rabinowitz admitted he was hesitant at first when the teens raised the idea of creating a joint service, worried they might create feelings of discomfort and exclusion.

“Instead, they challenged me and said, ‘Darren, we can do this.’”
“The Diller program prides itself on being a pluralistic program, and I was amazed at how much our fellows took that to heart,” Rabinowitz said. “I know Jewish professionals spend their entire lives trying to curate spaces where this kind of pluralistic intention exists, and witnessing three Dillers commit to making this a reality was amazing.”

The Diller Teen Fellowship has 32 chapters in the United States, Israel and around the world. With focuses on deepening Jewish identity and pursuing social justice, the program is a great way to build connections with vibrant, young Jewish leaders, both from the Philadelphia community and from Israel. The programming consists of fun, thoughtful and educational events, trips and discussions that foster personal growth and allow teens to expand their horizons.

For more information or to apply for the Diller Teen Fellowship 2020-2021 cohort, contact Rabinowitz at drabinowitz@jewishphilly.org or 215-832-0823.

Our Guide to Virtual and Socially Distanced Summer Activities for Kids

Summer plans may have changed, but there are plenty of safe, fun ways for kids and teens to explore their Jewish identity and connect with others. Check out our roundup below.

Camp Fox @ Kaiserman JCC
Weekdays, 9:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m. through Aug. 14
Free virtual Jewish camping experience for K-5th graders. Includes break dancing, songwriting, sports trivia, quarantine cooking, live animal visits with the Elmwood Park Zoo, Broadway class with Wolf Performing Arts, improv and comedy with The Bible Players, yoga, weekly Creature Features with the Philadelphia Insectarium, Museum Mondays with the National Museum of American Jewish History and much more.

Makom Community Camp Days
Mondays-Thursdays 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. in August
In person with masks and social distancing protocol
School’s Out Camps provide high-quality, fun camp programming and Jewish education when schools are closed and parents need to be at work. Open to the community. Enrollment subject to close. Contact amanda@makomcommunity.org.

Bible Players Improv Camp
Thursday afternoons from 1:00-2:00 p.m.
Via Zoom
Educational and character-building improv and theater games for children ages 7-12. Consists of four sessions from July 30 to Aug. 20. Feel free to sign up even if you can’t attend all of the sessions.

jkidphilly at Pajamarama
Wednesday, Aug. 12 6:30-7:00 p.m.
Via Zoom
Jkidphilly is joining Kehillah of Lower Merion for this week’s Pajamarama. Put on your pajamas, grab your teddy bear and join us for story time.

Just for Fun – Magic with Gary Saunders
Wednesday, Aug. 19 10:00-10:30 a.m.
Via Zoom
Build a better world with laughter and magic. Prepare to be spellbound.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here