SALEM — For more than 40 years, the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation’s Youth to Israel Adventure program has brought Cape Ann and North Shore teens to Israel to help them keep 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 this 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.