• Yael Angdiah (right).

  • Naryn.

  • Tal Baron

Israel In Your Community

A Hundred Young Israelis Embark on Service Year Volunteering Around the Globe

From various backgrounds and life experiences, 100 post-high school Israelis recently left the comfort of their home country to serve as emissaries to Jewish communities around the world.

Yael Angdiah and Naryn Najet are joining a special group of Israeli emissaries – Shinshinim – from the Jewish Agency for Israel who serve in Jewish Communities around the world after they finish high school, before they serve in the army. Yael is from Sederot, and has been assigned to a new community in Johannesburg, South Africa. Meanwhile, Naryn Najet, an immigrant from scotland is flying to a Jewish community in Amsterdam. The two of them, along with 100 fellow emissaries, are part of the largest group of Shinshinim yet to embark on a journey to serve Jewish communities around the world.

When they arrive in their communities, the shinshinim create programming tailored to the specific needs to the communities they join. They work to increase Jewish awareness, knowledge, and pride; to bridge the gap between Jews of different backgrounds and Israel; and to promote an understanding of Israel and its ideals.

Yael has dreamed about this moment: to be a service year volunteer for the Orthodox Jewish community in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"My English teacher at the Sha'ar Hanegev school, is an olah from Johannesburg and I'm glad I get to go there now, this is a new community that is entering into the expanded network of its surrounding permanent communities,” she says. “I am very, very excited to go out and know that it will be a very special experience."

Yael is a native-born Israeli whose parents immigrated from Ethiopia and settled in Sederot, a town that borders Gaza in southern Israel. Her father came from a village near the city of Gondar, and her mother is from the city Gondad. Yael has lived in Sederot her whole life. Her only other trip to the United States was several years ago, when she visited New Jersey as part of an educational program called Open Hearts and Homes.

"I'm very curious and always wanted to meet new people,” Yael explains. “When I learned about the ShinShinim program I said to myself: ‘go for it’. At first I was afraid because the program involves being away from home for whole year and that’s a bit too much for me. But I overcame my fears.”

"I’m of Ethiopian origin, and I understand Jews on the other side of the globe, so when I was offered a mission in Africa I immediately said ‘yes’. I want to get to know Africa and I know that the community in Johannesburg is a new community in the global network. This Orthodox community is fascinating and provides me with an opportunity to get to know the Jewish community in South Africa.”

Naryn’s story is a bit different than Yael’s. Her father immigrated from Iran to Israel, where he met Naryn’s mother, who is from Scotland. They decided to return to Scotland, where they established a successful chain of coffee shops. Most of her life Naryn lived in Glasgow, until her mother decided, about five years ago, that the family needed to return to Israel as new immigrants. The family settled in Moshav Udim, which is located near the Wingate Institute in the south of the city of Netanya and from there they continue to run a restaurant chain.

Naryn transitioned well to Israel and really likes her life there.

"I learned about the Shinshinim program during high school and I was interested in it mainly because I wanted to be on the other side of the scale, not on the community side but on the Israeli side. Being an Israeli emissary in a Jewish community allows me to see life from another viewpoint. I know it will be challenging because I am being sent to the Jewish community in Amsterdam along with some friends."

"I want to meet new people, have new experiences and help the people there, but also to cultivate new skills as a person. I really love to be involved in society and learn about life in different places. I learned about faith and society in high school and for me this is an interesting experience. I'm excited and want to see what comes out of it. I am very pleased that I've joined the program and didn’t shy away from the fear of being on my own. For anyone who thinks this type of work might be a fit for them should go for it,” says Naryn.

A Hundred Jewish Community Emissaries

"This is the first time such a large number of ShinShinim - one hundred - have left simultaneously to Jewish communities around the world. ShinShinim come from all over Israel," says Tal Baron, coordinator of extended mission service programs and The Jewish Agency for Israel Fellows.

The Jewish Agency’s Shinshinim program has existed since 1998, explains Baron. Each year, before their military service and after graduating from high school, Shinshinim head off to Jewish communities around the world. It is a year of voluntary communal work and in recent years the program has expanded from the state of Connecticut to North America as a whole and is now even serving communities around the world: in Amsterdam, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, all over Canada and South Africa.

Baron draws on her own experience as a former Shinshinit to help the current batch of Shinshinim.

"I was a Shinshinit between 2006-2007 in southern New England, a region that shares a partnership with the Afula-Gilboa region in northern Israel,” she asserts. “I grew up in Afula and it was everything we dreamed of doing when we were young, in fact it was my childhood dream.”

Discussing the perspective she gained during her initial service, Baron reflected on her experience as an emissary having just completed high school. “I left on my mission during the Second Lebanon War and my hometown, Afula, was very much affected by the war. The truth is that I wanted to stay home, but my parents persuaded me to leave. Last summer, when Operation Protective Edge was happening, those same feelings returned to me; I saw the incoming Shinshinim were so confused and it reminded me of myself, then in 2006. On the one hand, they said they want to contribute to the mission, but on the other hand they felt guilty to leave Israel during such a significant period. I identified very much with them. I remember my roommate on my mission in 2006 and I raised, together with the community, money to purchase a special fire truck is very special, and we made a very real contribution to the community in Afula during the war.

"I hope that today, after Operation Protective Edge, the young people were able to utilize that situation to inspire the communities to contribute. It really reminds me of me going out on a mission then."


19 Sep 2016 / 16 Elul 5776 0
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