most of my life, I felt disconnected from my Jewish identity. Everything changed when I visited Israel with my summer camp in 2018. From experiencing a thriving country that welcomed me from the second I landed, to embracing a rich culture thousands of years
old, I knew I was home. My newfound connection to my homeland empowered me to want to do more, so I applied for the
StandWithUs Kenneth Leventhal High School Internship on the recommendation of a former Intern and was over the moon thrilled when I was accepted!
As the Intern at my school, I learned how to channel my passion
into developing engaging programming that educated my community about Israel. The program connected me to like-minded teens from places around the United States and Canada and I met incredible students who were actually changing how their communities thought
about and interacted with Israel. But most importantly, I was actually making a difference in my community.
With the help of the StandWithUs Senior Midwest High School Coordinator
Adam Blue, I created and implemented many programs with the goal to reframe the conversations about Israel as only a place of conflict, to Israel as a place of impact and with the goal of connecting US and Israeli students.
One program that I am particularly proud of was for my school's
Key Club which encourages acts of kindness in community service. Since Columbus is a sister city with Kfar Saba, I had hundreds of my peers fashion beaded bracelets for kindergartners in Kfar Saba. My public school community is not the most informed about Israel,
and this program was an excellent way to remind students in my own school that when we learn about countries across the world and the different issues or conflicts they may face, we should still also remember that there are individuals on the ground. People
who we can make a connection with and can empathize with and support.
Later, I led an initiative involving the middle and high school
students in my school to create a mural modeled after the “Path to Peace” (you can learn more here)
in Israel's Gaza-bordered community of Moshav Netiv HaAsara.
Every participant decorated their own square as they learned about peaceful co-existence. I then assembled it into a mosaic. It was so meaningful to see different students with their own designs and inspiration work together towards this mural, just as the
peacework often requires a multitude of individual voices working towards a common goal, but perhaps doing their own work with unique variations.
I am excited to continue my work professionally at StandWithUs as
the StandWithUs Midwest High School Assistant, working with teens in the region and mentoring them in impactful Israel education.
I highly recommend getting involved in StandWithUs to everyone, Jewish and non-Jewish. And if you give it your all, it truly changes your life.
If you have not yet been nominated for the StandWithUs Kenneth Leventhal
High School Internship, you can be nominated by a teacher or youth group advisor using this link: www.standwithus.com/nomination.
I am available anytime to chat, whether about the internship experience or how to help you get nominated: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leah Ryzenman is a Freshman at Northwestern University.
She was the 2019-20 StandWithUs Kenneth Leventhal High School Intern at New Albany High School.