Cohort Exchange Program between AJT and BBYO
Since 2017, AJT and BBYO has started an intensified process of creating the “twin cities”. Collaboration between communities takes place in the educational, cultural and social spheres and, of course, has a beneficial effect on the development of friendship and communication among teenagers from different countries. The head of the Kiev Youth Club “Lo Domim”, Ilya Buzunov, will share with us the success of interacting with their “twin brother”, New York, and will tell you why it is important for teenagers to communicate with each other.
In 2017, Kiev was twinned with New York: the region we cooperate with is called the Big Apple Region, that includes Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
Cooperation between cities has intensified since the launch of the AJT BBYO Cohort Exchange Program a year and a half ago. It was then that we had our first phone call with teenagers. At the same time, the directors of the twin clubs, me and Rob from New York, visited each other's communities and had a chance not only to communicate with local teenagers, but also better understand the work of our structures in order to exchange experience more effectively in the future.
Since then, we call the guys once or twice per month and conduct joint workshops or speaking clubs. So, during the first year of cooperation, 10 teenagers from New York and 10 teenagers from Kiev took part in the call.
During these workshops, the guys teach each other how to cook American and Ukrainian meals: for example, teenagers from New York show how to cook kosher hamburgers and hot dogs, and Kiev teens share their knowledge on how to cook pies and dumplings.
During the speaking sessions, teenagers usually discuss what it means to be Jewish in their city or how their families celebrate Jewish holidays. These topics are very important for discussion, because, for example, in the United States, when a Jew is born, he knows from an early age that he is a Jew, because this is not hidden in the family, and the child has an opportunity to grow up in a Jewish environment. But in the Jewish families from the FSU countries it often happens so that the older family members, such as grandparents, hide their origin due to the fact that during the Soviet times due to various persecutions and ethnicity-based discrimination, it was dangerous to be a Jew. So, some families kept their origins a secret, so that it would be easier to enter the university or to get promoted in the army. Others weresimply afraid of persecutions.
In fact, such communication is a unique opportunity for our teenagers to learn English and practice it with native speakers. For American children, such calls are also important: their ancestors are from the USSR and in some families they often speak Russian, so for them it is also a great opportunity to practice the language.
Both American and Ukrainian teenagers are often interested in the same things: they enjoy the same music or like to watch the same movies and TV shows. For example, we had a call about how the guys spend time with their family and what movies they watch, and the participants were so carried away by this topic that they started sharing links to their favorite Netflix shows and swapping playlists with each other.
As of today, communication between our teens is carried out only within the framework of our program, but it became clear that the second year program teens, having been charged with positive energy from the impressions of the first year graduates, have already made friends with the American participants and are now actively communicating on various social networks.
We hope that in 2022, when it becomes possible to travel freely between countries, we will be able to receive funding for a trip, during which teenagers will have a great opportunity to visit each other and get to know each other live. Unfortunately, not all participants will be able to go. Most likely there will be three people from each city, but, nevertheless, it will be an unforgettable and essential experience for them? and they will also become the first teenagers from the Cohort Exchange Program to visit each other's communities live.
We truly believe that the Cohort Exchange Program between AJT and BBYO creates new and strong ties between cities and organizations, thereby reminding all our participants of what a big and friendly Jewish family each of us has!