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Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards Recipients Shabbaton Experience [December 2019]

Each year in August the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards host a shabbaton, or retreat. The shabbaton brings Award recipients together to build a national network of young leaders and deepen their understanding of tikkun olam and tzedakah – giving Jewishly. 

Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards Recipients Update

Located on a farm, the shabbaton is about taking a step out of their routine, enjoying the outdoors, and making time for reflection. Past Awardees are invited back to provide their perspectives on life after receiving a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award. 

Two pasts Awardees shared their experiences and reflections on the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards Shabbaton:

Adam Hoffman: Discovering a Jewish Passion for Service

Several years ago, I learned of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards. Little did I know how much of an impact it would have on my activism and personal growth. Upon receiving the news that I had won, I was struck with disbelief and excitement. I anticipated the resources to help grow my organization; this, however, is only a small part of what I won.

The award began on a Thursday afternoon at SFO. There, I met my fellow Awardees and drove to a blissful farm in Sonoma. The Awardees and I met and mingled. Each of their projects inspired me as I hope my work inspired them. More than that though, their stories and passion energized me. We were able to learn from others’ successes and failures.

Friday evening, a batch of former Diller winners arrived. They, too, were an amazing bunch. As young people, they made a change in their community. Now, as young adults, they were making a change in the world. They enlightened me to a meaningful path ahead and will surely serve as a network base as I enter college and the workforce. 

On Friday and Saturday, we celebrated Shabbat. As a diverse group of Jews, we came together for song and a meal. In that moment, I realized an aspect of Diller’s significance: only there, at the Diller retreat, did I recognize my work for its Jewish nature. I was able to see my activism as an extension of the Jewish dictum “Tikkun Olam.” To fix the world, as my project related to, was deeply rooted in Jewish ideals. Diller opened my eyes to a Jewish lens of community service work. 

On Sunday, the Awardees departed to join our families. We then realized how close we had become in only three short days. I had not only joined a community of change-makers, but I had helped to build a community of friends. The weekend only began what I envision to be life-long relationships. 

Finally, on Monday, we attended the Awards ceremony. There, our work was highlighted for an audience of caring community members. The beautiful glass award I received at the ceremony, while of course a validation of my work, paled in comparison to the other gifts Diller gave me: a network of change-makers and friends, Jewish passion for service, and inspiration to go forward. 

Lena Goldstein: Pressing Pause with Shabbaton

I decided to come back for the shabbaton weekend on a whim. It’s only been a year since I became a Diller Awardee, but in that brief time, so many parts of my life have changed. Since receiving the Diller Award, I’ve started college, moved to a new city, made a new group of friends, have taken new classes, and developed new routines. Of course my Diller project is ongoing, I’ve kept in touch with several Awardees, and I’ve even managed to keep in touch with the Helen Diller Family Foundation, but still, life is different now.

Describing the Diller retreat to others is challenging because so rarely do we practice pressing pause on work, leaving home, silencing technology, and enjoying the outdoors. It sounds like vacation, but its not. A shabbaton is an exercise in intentional community, meaningful conversation, and listening. The farm is just big enough for individual reflection on a rope swing or beanbag, and just small enough for close-knit late night bonfires and bunk-bed chats. 

As adults, we think and reflect in the context of recently made decisions, upcoming choices, and pros and cons. But at Diller, we reflect independently of these things. For some of us, this is the first time we will think of our Tikkun Olam projects as they relate to Judaism. For others, who perhaps began their projects around the time of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah or work closely with synagogues, this is the first time we will think of our projects through an ethical or historical framework.

Most Diller Awardees will also experience a huge change in the year or years to come. I hope that they too will choose to return as alums, maybe on a whim or maybe with intention, to experience the sameness that the Diller community provides. As an alum I was certainly pleased to feel the same inspiration, fullness, and gratitude that I remember so distinctly as an Awardee. We first find Diller because of our projects, but we return to Diller because of our connection. Thank you for another wonderful Shabbaton!


Interested in the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards Awardees updates? To learn more about these inspiring teens check out the work of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards past recipients and keep visiting our blog. 

Find Out More About The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards

The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards are for Jewish teens age 13-19 who have a key leadership role at an organization or program centered around repairing the world. Every year since 2007, the Helen Diller Family Foundation has awarded $36,000 each to up to 15 Jewish teens who are making the world a better place. Check out our past recipients and their inspiring work here.