Steve Blen: My Teen Israel Experience

Steve Blen, son of Alison and Scott Blen is a junior at Memphis University School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided him with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the cost of NFTY Jacobs Camp Israel trip last summer. All rising high school juniors and seniors in the Memphis Jewish community are eligible for grants up to $3,000 to attend a recognized teen summer or semester program in Israel. Applications for Summer 2023 are now available online. To learn more and apply, please go to:

I have gone to camp every summer since I was 8 years old, and I have been with the same people for all of these years.  I will never forget this past summer learning and having fun in Israel with my lifelong friends from Jacobs Camp.  Rabbi Jeff Dreifus flew to Israel with my group and was with us for the first Shabbat at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.  We took a picture with him and the Memphis kids on my trip.

My favorite part of the trip was the “Sea to Sea” excursion. We slept under the stars for four nights and met people from many other Jewish summer camps. We hiked in the desert, sat around campfires at night and saw beautiful scenery every day. I still keep in touch with some of the people I met.  I especially enjoyed the visits with Arab families and hearing about what their life was like.  These meetings gave me the opportunity to see things from their perspective and the chance to expand my world view. We also met people in the IDF and heard about their experiences.  I was surprised to learn that they were not much older than me and impressed by their bravery. 

I also enjoyed normal days where we just hung out in Israel playing volleyball with kids on the beach and visiting families in their homes. 

 I saw my first cousin, Sydney Ellen, who was interning in Tel Aviv, and I ran into my sister, Stella, in a flea market, while she was traveling on a BBYO trip. My twin sister, Sarah was on the same trip as me. It was very special to be so far away, and be with Rabbi Dreifus from Memphis, members of my family and my camp friends.

Thank you to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund for helping to make my NFTY Jacobs Camp Israel trip possible.

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