Naomi is an alumna of our Diller Teen Fellowship, an experiential learning and international exchange that aims to build the next generation of Jewish leaders. Here, she shares the story of her upbringing, her time with Diller, and how the program inspired her to become an advocate for social change.

* * *

My mom is from St. Lucia and my dad was born and raised here in the U.S. so I identify as a Jew of Color. I live in West Philadelphia and go to a primarily white, Christian private school where I’m one of three Jewish students. Luckily I’m able to interact with other Jewish kids through my synagogue, but it wasn’t until I joined Diller Teen Fellows that my circle of Jewish friends really expanded, and it’s been truly amazing.

Thanks to the Diller Teen Fellowship, a program supported by the Jewish Federation,  I’ve made new friends, learned more about my faith and explored Judaism from all different perspectives. And in spite of COVID, I’m more involved in Jewish groups and initiatives than ever before. My relationship with my roots runs deeper than ever. 

I joined the Diller Teen Fellowship program last fall, with a cohort consisting of fifteen other high school students. I was nervous at first, but everyone was so accepting, and I was surprised by how diverse we were when it came to our sects of Judaism. For me, Diller Teen Fellows was this place where I learned about how everyone else practices their Judaism and celebrates their traditions, culture and faith. 

Even though I’ve graduated from the program, I’m actively involved in the Philadelphia’s Diller Alumni Committee, and I’ve become involved with a group called Jews Against Marginalization or JAM for short. It’s the first time in my life that I’m interacting with other Jews of Color, and if I hadn’t been a part of Diller Teen Fellows, I don’t know that I would have been confident enough to join. 

It is because of the support of the Jewish Federation that I am able to participate in a program that embraces my unique identity, supports my exploration as a Jew of Color and enables me and my peers to collectively make a difference in the world around us. Being a part of this program has given me opportunities I wouldn't have had access to otherwise and for that I am deeply grateful.