As we celebrate the launch of the Teen Travel Pillar, we also welcome aboard Alana Ebin, the new Teen Travel Pillar Director.
Alana is joining the Mosaic United team to lead this new initiative. Let’s take a moment to get to know her.
- Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
I’m originally from Riverdale, New York. Since then, I’ve lived in Manhattan, Jerusalem, Kathmandu, and – most recently – Boston.
- What were you doing before working at Mosaic United?
I was working as Director of Enrichment for BBYO International. In that role, I was responsible for designing and creating core experiential Jewish education experiences for professionals and teens across the globe. Before that I served as Program Director for Diller Teen Fellows.
- How did you first get involved in working with Jewish teens?
I’ve been in this world since I was a teen myself. I started off as a junior counselor in summer camp and pretty much never left. Although I initially started working with American teens, I spent four summers at Szarvas (an international Jewish summer camp in Hungary) and that really cemented my passion for global Jewry. Since then, I’ve had a specific interest in working with Jewish teens worldwide.
- What do you like most about working with Jewish teens?
I think this age in general is remarkable. Teens are just emerging from childhood, and are starting to explore their own identities and assert their own independence. That means it’s a time of remarkable opportunity, as the learning and development that happens now deeply impacts the rest of their lives.
Jewish teens are exploring what it means to be Jewish today and are pushing themselves to learn and grow. I think Judaism and Jewish values are uniquely poised to challenge and develop teens, and I really enjoy being a part of that.
- What will your job entail?
My job will entail leading and growing the Teen Travel pillar. I will work to ensure that the population of teens visiting Israel continues to grow, and that trips themselves are meaningful, smoothly operated, and appropriately staffed. I will ensure that proper training and evaluation is done for these trips, and that Israel teen travel exists as part of a larger continuum strategy which helps young Jews have a number of Jewish experiences over the courses of their young lives.
I’ll also work to expand the pillar to teens beyond North America. I’m particularly excited about this element and am looking forward to building stronger partnerships with Jewish communities worldwide.
- How will you define success?
I think basic success is often linked to metrics: how many teens have visited Israel, how many countries are represented, and so on. Beyond the quantitative metrics, we also need to assess the qualitative impact. How deep an impact is being made on the teens? Were we innovative in our execution? Is there an impact here that extends beyond just teens? If we can answer ‘yes’ to one (or all!) of those questions, we’ve been successful.
- What is something people in teen travel have to deal with that you want to fix?
On a simple level, I would change how inaccessible Israel travel is to many teens worldwide, either because it is too expensive or because they’re not connected to a community and simply aren’t aware of any options.
On a larger scale, I would change how transactional travel to Israel often is: just a group of young travelers observing, and occasionally participating in a foreign environment. I think that we need to ensure that trips are relational, that our teen travelers don’t just observe but rather engage and connect. This means ensuring that mifgashim with Israeli teens are a core part of their experience, and that their experiences feel relevant and connected to their own lives.
- What are the values that drive you?
I’m not sure I would be able to name specific values, there are so many worthwhile ones. I do frequently think about Hillel’s famous אם אין אני לי מי לי quote in Pirkei Avot. I like how it acknowledges all the tensions one has in life: the need to be true to one’s self, the need to work for the sake of others, and the need to take action.
- What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I love to read, and I pretty much enjoy anything that has to do with nature. If I could, I would probably also spend as much time as possible traveling the world.
- What might someone be surprised to know about you?
That I’ve traveled to 29 countries, that I have 8 siblings, or that I speak Nepali.
- If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I have about twenty people that come to mind but in another lifetime, I would be a lawyer and I’ve always admired Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She was a private person and I’d like to hear more about her life’s journey. More specifically, she was known for getting along with people she deeply disagreed with, and I want to talk to her about that.