Fun afternoon for youth—and Youth Ambassadors—at JCC

by | Nov 8, 2013 | Other News

Israeli exchange student Dina Eisenstadt and Tallwood High student Kaitlyn Gallagher.

Israeli exchange student Dina Eisenstadt and Tallwood High student Kaitlyn Gallagher.

English conversations, Hebrew singing and the universal sound of children’s laughter spilled from the Simon Family JCC cafeteria on the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 30.

Inside the room, local teens from Tallwood High School’s Global Studies & World Languages Academy in Virginia Beach and their visiting peers from Modiin, Israel were meeting and playing with community members, Hebrew Academy of Tidewater and Strelitz Early Childhood students, and children from Kids Connection, the JCC’s afterschool program, as well as some BBYO members.

The hour-long meet and greet ended a weeklong stay in Virginia Beach for 10 Israeli teens who, with 10 Tallwood students, are part of the prestigious Youth Ambassador Student Exchange program sponsored by the America Israel Friendship League.

Established in 1971, the AIFL’s mission is to facilitate support for people-to-people exchanges between Americans and Israelis of all ages and faiths, ethnic backgrounds, and political persuasion. The AIFL Youth Ambassador program began in 1977 and remains the only formal bilateral public secondary school exchange between the United States and Israel.

The visit to the JCC allowed the Virginia Beach and Israeli Youth Ambassadors to meet area Jews of all ages, and experience the vibrant community center.

“This is a very nice JCC, and I am glad we are here,” said Dina Eisenstadt, an Israeli 11th grader. “Soon, Kaitlyn will come and stay with me to see what our life is like in Israel,” Dina added, as she walked alongside Kaitlyn Gallagher, a Tallwood 10th grader.

The day following their visit to the JCC, the 20 Youth Ambassadors and their chaperones left for Washington, D.C. and New York. A week later, Tallwood students flew to Israel for 14 days of travel and the experience of living with a high school student’s family in Modiin.

“This afternoon is a wonderful opportunity for our community to extend our hospitality and welcome our friends from Israel—and to continue to build the positive and strong relationship we have with the great students and teachers from Tallwood,” says Robin Mancoll, director of the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

Mancoll says the CRC and JCC Children & Family department sponsored-event also helps bring awareness of the AIFL program and Tallwood’s involvement in it to the Tidewater community.

Virginia Beach Public Schools is one of only five school systems in the country to be part of the AIFL’s Youth Ambassadors program. This is the fifth year Tallwood students have traveled to Israel. The trip is partially subsidized by VBPS, Tallwood, student fundraisers and, this year, with donations from Jewish community members.

“The group of 10 students chosen to be Youth Ambassadors go through an intensive application and interview process—and their work begins the spring before they leave for Israel,” says Tallwood teacher Kelly Walker. “They spend months learning about history, culture, and politics and have many other requirements. They are all highly motivated and interested—they have to be because they miss about a month of school—and when they get back, they continue to be Ambassadors. It’s an ongoing process.”

For more information contact Robin Mancoll at

by Laine Mednick Rutherford