SALEM — For more than 40 years, the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation’s Youth to Israel Adventure program has brought North Shore teens to Israel to help keep them Jewish.
For the first time in its history, the program is hosting a group of Israeli teens on the North Shore, many of whom made friends this past summer with local Youth to Israel kids as they traveled around Israel in July.
The Israeli teens, who are part of a Young Ambassadors Program, plan to arrive at Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody on Wednesday evening. A Hanukkah party this Thursday at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead will welcome the visitors, said Deborah Coltin, executive director of the Lappin Foundation. About 200 people have already responded and plan to attend this event.
About 25 Israeli teens and nine teachers and staff are coming to the North Shore, having arrived in New York on Thursday, Coltin said. Among the group is the deputy mayor of Petah Tikva, the city where the Young Ambassadors Program and school is based.
The Israeli delegation is being hosted by families on the North Shore.
“We had more kids who wanted to host than kids coming,” Coltin said.
“They are very excited,” said Stephen Aiello, who is traveling with the Israeli group, about the Israeli students’ eagerness to come to the North Shore.
The aim of the Youth to Israel Adventure program, also known as Y2I, is to enhance Jewish teens’ identities and keep them Jewish. It was started in 1971 by Robert Lappin, a well-known Swampscott philanthropist and owner of Shetland Park in Salem. Coltin said she went on the Y2I trip in 1973.
The program is one of the most successful programs of its kind in the nation, Coltin said, drawing 60 percent of the Jewish teens on the North Shore who are eligible to travel, compared with 10 percent nationally who go on some sort of community-based teen Israel experience.
This past summer, approximately 100 Jewish teens entering their junior year from across 23 North Shore towns in the Lappin Foundation’s service area traveled to Israel.
Since 1996, the trip has been fully subsidized, though there are $350 program and insurance fees and a refundable $500 deposit, which can be turned into a tax-deductible donation to the Lappin Foundation.
Y2I nearly came to an end on Dec. 12, 2008, when the Bernie Madoff scandal forced Coltin to cancel it, as the foundation lost its $8 million endowment. The money had been invested with Madoff.
The community rallied around the program, and enough money was raised to save Y2I for a trip in 2009 and in the years since.
This summer was the third year that Y2I met up with Israeli Young Ambassadors in what Coltin called a “mifgash.” For Israeli teens, attending the Y2I program is part of their leadership training, Coltin said, and they have to apply and interview to get into the program.
This summer, they all attended a dinner at city hall in Petah Tikva, which included some top Israeli dignitaries. North Shore teens spent four days with their Israeli counterparts, and in that short time, some strong friendships were made, Coltin said.
On Friday, the delegation will tour Salem and visit the Peabody Essex Museum, which will be a source of pride for the group since the most recent addition to the museum was designed by an Israeli-born architect, Moshe Safdie, Coltin said. Coltin said it will be an eye-opening experience for Israeli kids to experience life in a Jewish home on the North Shore.
“I think what they will walk away with is the feeling of community,” she said.
To attend the Hanukkah party, RSVP to the foundation by calling 978-740-4431.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.