Shlichim | The Jewish Agency - U.S.

To bring Israel to life and help Jews around the world build personal and lasting relationships with Israelis and Israel,

The Jewish Agency sends Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) to serve in Jewish communities globally every year. In 2020, when the pandemic hit, these Shlichim had to come up with creative ways to keep connecting with local Jews once activities moved online. For safety reasons, some Shlichim returned home at the beginning of COVID, but others chose to stay in their host communities, following local health protocols and regulations.

“Being a ShinShin, it’s about showing Israel through my eyes. The best way to really learn about the country is by being truly connected to the real Israel through an Israeli,” said Segev, 18, a ShinShin (service year Israeli emissary) serving in Los Angeles in 2020-21.

“I’m a living bridge to the Jewish homeland for my adopted L.A. community, and perhaps the only connection they really have to Israel right now.”

Learn how California ShinShinim made connections with their communities despite COVID >

Photo provided by Segev
Photo provided by Segev

In 2020, when the pandemic hit,

202 ShinShinim were serving in 39 Jewish communities around the world, from Buenos Aires to Boston to Budapest and beyond.

To help our Shlichim shift from in-person activities to virtual, our emissaries were trained comprehensively and remotely by The Shlichut Institute (the premier center for training Jewish Agency Shlichim before, during and after their service). They proved to be up for the challenge, adjusting to this new reality with innovative ideas and enthusiasm.

Before COVID hit, Shachar, a Jewish Agency Campus Israel Fellow at the Towson University Hillel in Maryland, had been serving up the classic Israeli dish shakshuka at in-person Friday gatherings with his students. When he was in the midst of the first lockdown, he started creating cooking videos online from his kitchen.

“It wasn’t easy at first to recognize how I could still have an impact from home,” said Shachar.

“But I was lucky to have support from Towson University Hillel staff and the Shlichut Institute in order to continue pursuing meaningful engagement opportunities in this new reality.”

Read more about how Shachar and other Shlichim interacted with Jewish communities from quarantine >

Shachar at home in his kitchen | Photo courtesy of Shachar
Shachar at home in his kitchen | Photo courtesy of Shachar

In the fall of 2020, in the midst of the global health crisis, 316 Shlichim returned to or started their posts in Jewish communities globally, bringing Israel to life.

Other Shlichim across North America hosted virtual activities on Zoom, covering subjects like art, books, sports and Israel, and led fitness and baking classes; they quickly racked up millions of Zoom minutes logged and attracted hundreds of viewers weekly. Discussions on Zoom ranged from the Israeli election cycle to the Netflix series Unorthodox and more. These online events were open to everyone, so someone outside a Shaliach’s community could join in too, which was especially beneficial to smaller communities without Shlichim.

For example, Adi, the Jewish Agency Shlichah (female Israeli emissary) in Reading, Pennsylvania, conducted hundreds of Zooms in 2020. She attracted participants not only from her community and state, but from North Carolina, South Carolina, California, New Hampshire, Colorado, Florida, New York, Virginia, Louisiana, Maryland, Kansas, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and Israel. She collaborated with other Shlichim, each bringing their own unique skill set and expertise to come up with different experiences, exemplifying the power of Shlichim delegations.

Photo courtesy of Adi
Photo courtesy of Adi

To bring Jews worldwide together

in the very early days of COVID, The Jewish Agency organized a live broadcast with renowned Israeli singer-songwriter Idan Raichel. He was joined by Jewish Agency Shlichim, who engaged their communities to tune in as well, for a virtual mini-concert, singing with more than 400,000 people from around the world.