My name is Daniela (Dasha) Gorenshteyn and I’m currently a senior at Pope High School in Marietta, Georgia. Growing up in a house that is primarily Russian speaking had definitely shaped me into who I am today. Being Russian and speaking Russian at home as well as at TY’s Havurah program has taught me more about myself than anything else ever has. In the summer of 2012, I attended Young Judaea’s junior camp in Wisconsin and the two following Summer’s were spent at in the Havurah program where I embraced being Russian and was surrounded with Jewish-Russian speaking teens who shared the same background and values as me. Just this past summer, I attended Young Judaea during first session and my eyes were opened even wider. I learned what it meant to be Jewish, what it meant to be a Zionist, and most importantly; I learned what it meant to be me.
Young Judaea has taught me many important things such as the importance of the state of Israel, the impact of social action and the meaning of true friendships. I would definitely not be who I am if it weren’t for YJ. Being elected as the Havurah programmer for the 2016-2017 year, I hope to open up the Havurah kids eyes to the core values that Young Judaea holds and has shown me and shaped me into being who I am today. As of right now, the two programs are very separated and I hope to change that. A big issue I see is that the parents of the Russian teens aren’t being informed as much on what YJ is really all about so as Havurah programmer, I take it upon myself to enlighten the parents and explain to them how beneficial and life changing Young Judaea is. I hope to change some of the programs that go on during second session for the Havurah campers and gear it more towards Israel-based discussions and not to only focus on being Russian. After this year, I hope more Russian speaking teens urge to be involved in all that Young Judaea has to offer year round and I hope they bring what they learn about social action and leadership to their hometowns and begin spreading their values to young teens around them.
Before I was ever involved in YJ, I can honestly say that I wasn’t exactly sure who I was nor did I know what my core values were. Throughout my five years of being involved with Young Judaea, I can say that I am now grounded with a better understanding of who I am and what I stand for. I give YJ almost all the credit for this because I wouldn’t be able to have certain experiences I’ve had including doing social action around the States and spending a month in Israel exploring and deepening my appreciation for my Jewish heritage. I’ll never forget the feeling I felt when our Machon group of 57 kids landed at Ben Gurion Airport. I felt at home.