Rabbi Ron Koas
In the past month I was asked by my colleagues about our Shinshinim, and the secret of their success in our (Congregation Beth El) school, congregation, and community.
I realize that not everyone is aware of this program, so please allow me to share a little bit about it. Shinshinim is a play on the Hebrew words, Shnat Sheirut, meaning “year of service.” Shinshinim are talented Israeli high school graduates who are placed in Jewish communities abroad. This program, brought to our community and largely supported by United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, exists to build bridges between Israeli youth and Jewish communities to strengthen our ties and build the foundation for a secure Jewish future. In short, the program makes Israel more than just our far-flung homeland – the program makes Israel personal.
Alma Ben Chorin and Aya Sever last year, and Naomi Friedland and Maya Ostrov this year, have created meaningful connections with students, bringing their Israeli culture, traditions, and Hebrew to Tidewater. They have developed personal relationships with students and families alike, and especially with their amazing host families. They are always eager to assist and participate in all our events and help some students who are reluctant to go to Junior Congregation on Shabbat. Their passion is contagious, and we are so fortunate to have them with us.
Their influence goes well beyond the day-to-day help they provide.
A recent study from the Jewish Agency finds that “Interactions with emissaries from Israel are associated with higher levels of engagement with Israel because Jews who spent years in Jewish schools might have knowledge about Israel, but not necessarily a connection to it. The Shinshinim program can help make that connection.” This study also finds that while relationships with Shinshinim may not be ‘transformative’ in the way that trips to Israel are experienced, they constitute a more intimate and a more continuous part of people’s lives.
I completely agree! As someone who has served as an emissary in the past, and who works with one now, I can attest to the power that these personal relationships can have. I have been doing my very best to help the Shinshinim succeed and flourish, giving them the tools and knowledge they need. I encourage you all to do the same – If you haven’t yet met our Shinshinim, find some time to meet and thank them for their service.
Yasher Koach to Alma, Aya, Naomi, and Maya!
In these difficult times for Israel and the Jewish people, we must open our hearts and homes to the Shinshiniot and support them with lots of love.
Am Israel Chai!
Rabbi Ron Koas, Congregation Beth El.