Teen Mission to Israel

With the goal to send more teens to Israel this coming summer, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, area congregations and Tamarack Camps are now partnering to launch the 11th Community-Wide Teen Mission, July 5  through August 5, 2016. Registration is now open online at www.teenmissiondetroit.org. 

Since its inception 20 years ago – as the brainchild of Rabbi Harold Loss of Temple Israel – the Teen Mission program has been a partnership of the Federation and congregations, providing outstanding opportunities for teens and youth groups to travel, learn, and connect with their rabbis and synagogues, while also seeing some of the work Federation does in Israel.

During that time, however, some Jewish teens in metro Detroit have been faced with a decision: Four weeks in Israel – a trip-of-a-lifetime – hiking, rafting, camping and traveling with friends from synagogue. Or a summer at Tamarack Camps in one of the outstanding teen programs there with best friends, many of whom have been together for eight or more summers.

Teen Mission 2014
Teen Mission 2014

“What if there were a way to do both?” asks Robb Lippitt, a community leader, Tamarack parent, and strong advocate for Teen Missions to Israel. “Why put our kids and their families in the position of having to choose one outstanding summer program over another? Rather than competing for turf, why not collaborate to build a bigger, better, more inclusive Teen Mission program by pooling the resources of our Federation, our synagogue leadership and Tamarack Camps together?”

“Let’s Send More Kids to Israel.”

With strong leadership from Federation, Temple Beth El, Temple Israel, Temple Shir Shalom, Congregation Shaarey Zedek, Adat Shalom Synagogue, Tamarack Camps and others, all of the obstacles to coming together for a common purpose – to bring more Jewish Detroit kids to Israel – have been cleared. As a result, Teen Mission 2016, reimagined as a community co-partnership, will run July 5 through August 5, 2016. The Teen Mission will continue to be open and welcoming to all teens in the community, regardless of synagogue or camp affiliation.

What could be better than finding a way to send more Detroit teens to Israel? Nothing, according to Sue and Alan J. Kaufman, avid community leaders and Teen Mission sponsors since 2012. “We love the idea of a Detroit community Teen Mission with Tamarack Camps on board,” says Sue Kaufman. “This can help build on what Federation and the synagogues have created and we hope that new partnership will double the number of Jewish teens we send to Israel.”

A win-win-win

Temple Israel, which has been instrumental in evolving the program to a full community partnership, thinks a lot of progress has occurred quickly. “We came to the table with very different viewpoints – and some concerns – on how the Teen Mission might work in separate, but equal, shares to the benefit of each of our organizations,” commented Rabbi Joshua Bennett of Temple Israel. “Setting our individual issues aside, we came away with far more than we expected in a beautifully integrated plan. We have hired a full-time employee designated to the program, supported by two outstanding lay Chairs, Phyllis Pilcowitz and Michael Berger, and a working committee that functions well and meets on a regular basis. All are in agreement on the bottom line, that the most important thing is for us to work together to give our teens more opportunities to travel and connect with our community here in Detroit and in Israel.”

Steve Engel, Chief Executive Officer of Tamarack Camps agreed with Rabbi Bennett’s assessment, “Certainly there are distinctions between the missions of each of our organizations, but when it comes to our children, we are not competitors,” says Engel. “We each share the mission of building community, strengthening Jewish identity, engaging our youth, mentoring future leaders and developing philanthropic support to the benefit of Jewish Detroit and Israel. In combining our resources and organizational expertise, we will engage Jewish teens at that moment when we can make a huge impact on their Jewish identities.”

Teen Mission 2012
Teen Mission 2012

How it all works

  • With the new co-partnership, Teen Mission 2016 will continue to be a powerful connecting point for participating congregations in the business of engaging teens in Jewish life and community building. Community synagogues will continue to bring the rabbinic leadership, the Jewish learning, thinking and strategies that always have been strong points of the program.
  • Tamarack will now join and bring with what they do best – the logistics of recruitment, travel, organizing activities on the go, supervising, and creating outstanding teen experiences on a minute-to-minute, day-to-day basis in the field. The Teen Mission experience now will be fully integrated into Tamarack summers as its pinnacle teen travel opportunity, ideally suited to teens returning to the camp before their junior or senior years of high school.
  • As an essential link, Federation will continue to do what it does best through its Israel and Overseas Department, Marketing and Annual Campaign, reaching out to the community, raising awareness and funding, providing ease of access and expertise in mission planning, and connecting Jewish Detroiters to partners and family in Israel.

Finances and Details

Through the Sue & Alan J. Kaufman Family Foundation, Teen Mission 2016 to Israel is generously subsidized reducing the cost to $5,949.13 for the 4½-week trip. The fee covers round-trip flights, land travel, room and board, as well as all programs and activities. Additionally, need-based scholarship funding is available through various organizations.

Registration for the Detroit Teen Mission to Israel is now open  For more information, visit online or please call Jackie Yashinsky, Teen Mission Coordinator, at 248-952-9030 or email jyashinsky@teenmissiondetroit.org.