Dana Shakarchy

"Experience is the best teacher. It gives you the test first, and then the lesson"

" To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Organization: JCC in Manhattan
Website of Organization: http://www.jccnyc.org/

Favorite Place in Israel: Natanya and Tel-Aviv

How has Israel played a part in your personal Jewish identity: I have started to identify myself as an Israeli Jewish girl rather than just one or the other. I feel completely tied to the culture and traditions in Israel, which could be largely due to the fact that the majority of my family lives there, and I spent every summer there since I was a baby. I have taken in Jewish identity through the lens of Israel and Israeli people, and love it. I feel Jewish identity and Israel really go hand in hand.

Who was the educator who most influenced your path to Jewish education? Describe the effect that they had on you: My mom. Looking back, after all the years I spent at Jewish day school, the person who has impacted me most has been my mom. She allowed me to become passionate about Israel and my Jewish identity in my own terms, and at my own pace. She always guided me, and was able to subtly instill a sense of Jewish pride in me without pushing too hard. She and my dad were the ones who chose to send me to Jewish day school, which definitely helped me grow as a Jew, but I can't say influenced me as much as my hands on experience has.

Lighting Shabbat candles with my mom on Friday evenings for example, has had way more impact on my Jewish identity and knowledge, then spending hours in "Chumash" class has. My mom taking me to Israel to see the country first hand, and to spend time with my family in Israel, while others were going to summer camp etc... has made an impact on me. It goes with the quote I say guides me most, "Experience is the best teacher" My mom gave me the chance to experience my country and my religion first hand, and because of that she has been the most influential.

If you had the ability to build the landscape of Jewish education, what would it look like? I would use as much of a hands-on approach as possible. Instead of just reading about Judaism, Israel, and our history, I would create an exchange program, have Friday night Shabbat dinners as part of the education, and also make sure I focus on culture. I would always find a way to tie history into the present. I think that engaging teens becomes a difficult task always, and finding creative ways and programs to get them interested is key. Perhaps starting each class with a team challenge of some sort that introduces the topic of the day. Connecting them to the education and topics are key. Creating meaningful homework assignments such as journal entries that ties how they lead their everyday lives, and how they feel on a daily basis to the education.

What are you looking forward to most in the InCITE Fellowship? I am looking forward to meeting and working with other youth professionals in the field. I really feel like learning from one another and sharing experiences and ideas is going to be an incredible start to innovation and program growth. I am also looking forward to individual growth- I think this is going to be an experience where I can grow as a youth professional, and as an adult. Lastly, I am looking forward to innovation within the teen department at the JCC in Manhattan. In the past year of me working there, I hope I began to change teen programming and how it is viewed at our organization, but this is only the beginning. I would love to be able to incorporate Israel and Judaism into my programming, and hope that through this fellowship will become successful in this.