On April 19, 12 German teenagers left Heidelberg, flew west for about 6,000 miles, disembarked at LAX, and entered the lives and homes of 12 Jewish American teenagers. None of the 24 teens knew quite what to expect.
During their two-week stay in homes of Kol Tikvah congregants, the German students visited local high schools, attended Shabbat services, took part in a Yom HaShoah program, tried a range of new foods and looked everywhere for Tom Cruise.
There is unanimity on one point only: Two young Irvine women, who are midway through a 10-month subsidized stay in Israel, will return home next June speaking conversational Hebrew.
But little else is certain as both girls' parents predict their offspring will return changed by the immersion in voluntary social service, language training and civics lessons.