Iael Kuperstein is on a mission to share her Israeli culture with people across the Midwest.
“You can bring a country, bring a culture without talking about politics,” said Iael, 17. “This is an amazing experience — to be able to meet so many people and make connections that leave them knowing a little bit more about Israel.”
Iael is one of 10 teens from Israel who performed a musical program, as part of The Israeli Scouts: Caravan Ariel, on Wednesday at the Shaw Jewish Community Center on White Pond Drive in Akron.
The troupe of 17-year-old teens (five girls and five boys) is traveling across the Midwest (with two adult leaders) this summer to share Israeli culture, music and dance. Since arriving in the United States on May 26, the group has also performed in New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Tennessee, Arkansas and Indiana.
Caravan Ariel is one of four groups of scouts (made up of 16- and 17-year-old teens) that are traveling across North America to represent Israel in a show of goodwill and friendship between the countries via performances at churches, schools, camps, community centers, synagogues, senior centers and hospitals.
All of the teens are part of Friends of Israel Scouts Inc.’s Tzofim Friendship Caravan. The scout program is akin to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America and is part of the World Organization for the Scout Movement. The Friendship Caravan, which performs songs in both Hebrew and English, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Asaf Peled, one of the leaders of the troupe that performed locally, said the scouts go through a highly competitive selection process and are chosen based on their maturity, fluency in English, and performance skills. Hundreds of young people compete annually for one of the spots. The teens who are selected train with professionals for a year. The scouts stay with host families while traveling.
“This program is really important to help connect us with Jews in America and with people in America, in general,” said Peled, 24. “We are able to share our experiences of living in Israel with people who know nothing about Israel, people who know little about Israel and even people who know a lot about Israel. It gives people a chance to connect with someone who is Israeli and helps them see that Israel is more than what they might see on the news.”
In addition to Wednesday’s community performance, the scouts will spend time today with summer campers at the local JCC. During their time with the campers, the Israeli delegates will play games, make crafts and share their experiences and backgrounds in Israel.
“We invite them back annually because it is such an enriching experience for our community. For us, it is a dual benefit — the community gets a wonderful, high-energy, feel-good performance and our campers get a unique educational opportunity,” said Todd Rockoff, executive director at the JCC. “It’s a wonderful way to introduce people to Israel, by giving them an opportunity to interact with Israeli youth.”
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or email@example.com. She can be followed at https://twitter.com/ColetteMJenkins.