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