Exchange Program Brings Israeli Teens to Milwaukee and Ovation Communities

Kavod Connections

Initiative plants seeds of tolerance and understanding between people of all ages and cultures.

This past November, Ovation Communities had the honor of hosting an international exchange program that brought 14 Israeli teens to Milwaukee. This is the first time a senior living community has hosted a teen delegation from another country.

“We had the opportunity to see firsthand the benefits of intergenerational programming when we implemented our Teen Ovation Program,” said Tanya Mazor, Jewish Home and Care Center Foundation President. “When we decided to bring this Israeli teen delegation to Ovation, we thought it would be an amazing opportunity for our teens, residents, and the Israeli delegation to gain a deeper understanding of each other, and a chance to explore our commonalities and differences.”

The teens visited Milwaukee between November 7th and 11th, living with volunteer host families throughout their stay. Their days were packed with an array of activities, allowing the Israeli teens to experience the community while also giving the Ovation teens and residents a taste of Israel.

The week was filled with a combination of community volunteer experiences and classic tourist fun. The teens kicked off their trip with sight-seeing in Chicago and shopping. They also attended a Chicago Bulls game and enjoyed many meals alongside the Teen Ovation Board and residents.

The Israeli teens were immersed in American teen culture when they spent a day shadowing and attending classes with their American peers, including members of the Teen Ovation Board, at Nicolet High School. Later in the week, the teens helped escort a group of Ovation residents to Jewish Museum Milwaukee where they toured the latest Jews In Space exhibit, and later presented a 30-minute Kristallnacht program for residents.

The week included several volunteer experiences, featuring a visit to Bader Hillel Academy where the Israeli teens prepped 8th grade students for their upcoming trip to Israel. The group also volunteered at the Friedens Food Pantry and visited Friendship Circle Café to learn about their programs.

“Friendship Circle Café is an extraordinary organization with a unique concept the teens wouldn’t typically experience in Israel,” Mazor said. “Staffed with special needs employees, the Israeli teens and residents were able to visit the café and learn more about their work training program, and the importance of friendship and inclusion.”

Finally, back at Ovation, the Israeli teens had the special opportunity to meet and talk with World War II veteran and resident Julius Garber and hear his captivating story. The Israeli students and David Bitan, the Israeli Teen Delegation Leader and Division Head of Makif Tet High School, led the residents in a sing-along.

“We hope this exchange program planted seeds of tolerance and understanding between people from different backgrounds, ages and walks of life,” Bitan said. “We’re thrilled that the teens were able to create lifelong friendships through their visit to Milwaukee, and we hope they continue to nurture those relationships and do additional amazing things back in their communities.”