Michigan BBYO

Recently, a group of Ethiopian-Israeli teens from Migdal HaEmek got its first taste of online meetings with BBYOers in Detroit. The Ethiopian National Project (ENP) is an enrichment program that helps bridge educational and cultural gaps for Ethiopian-Israeli youth and is supported by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

Last fall, ENP piloted a partnership with BBYO, designed to strengthen the connection between Israeli and US Jewish youth. Teens from both sides of the Atlantic met online to learn about each other’s culture and lifestyle. Israeli-Ethiopian teens practiced and improved their spoken English, while US youth were exposed to Ethiopian Jewry and its rich culture.

 Detroit participants were also joined by Israeli Shinshinim, Yuval and Noa, currently on a gap year in Michigan, who added input and inspiration to Ethiopian-Israeli teens and served as role models to teens looking to have a meaningful experience with peers overseas.

Detroit ShinShin, Yuval Aviram, sat down to interview American participant Drew Cohen about his experience:

How was your experience with the ENP program?
It was a great opportunity to connect with other people, particularly during that time when the covid was terrible. It was a wonderful social opportunity to communicate with people all over the world. It was really unique, and everyone was so welcoming and it was fun to see the difference between cultures and learn about it. It was nice to see how both of us are Jewish, but we have different Jewish culture. As a whole, it was a great experience that showed us the benefits of using today’s technology, and I’m glad I was part of it.

How were your interactions with the group?
I had really nice conversations with everyone on the call, not only because I got to meet the Israelis, I also strengthened my relationship with my friends in BBYO…I feel like if I’m going to go to Israel sometime and meet the people on the call, I would have a really good conversation with them.

What made you stay on the call?
People. It’s all about the social element because in this era we don’t get a lot of social experiences, the program was an hour that I could communicate with a lot of people like I used to do before covid…the programming was fantastic, but it was mainly just conversations between us.

What did you learn about in the program?
I’d say the culture and particularly the way we celebrate Hanukkah where here it’s a very big holiday and you’ve got all the gifts and decorations, and that in Israel it’s a small family holiday… I learned that in Israel, soccer is the biggest game and in here it’s probably football.

What did you take from the ENP program?
The ability to make connections and socially interact even if it’s across the sea and another thing is the knowledge about the culture.

*Drew is a senior at Bloomfield Hills High school, a member of Fisher AZA, Michigan Regional Board and will attend Indiana University next fall.