16 Dec Baltimore ShinShinim Making Connections, Boosting Morale
Since arriving in the Baltimore Jewish community, eighteen-year-old emissaries Ofir and Yam have embraced the challenges and opportunities that have stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic. Neither is letting COVID-19 put a damper on their excitement or commitment.
“I decided to be a Shinshin because I saw it as an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use my knowledge and experience to strengthen the bonds between Jewish people overseas and Israel,” said Ofir. “ShinShinim allow Jews to get to know Israel through a real person who has lived in Israel all their lives, making for a real and lasting connection.”
“The relationship between Jewish people globally and Jewish people in Israel needs to be stronger so we can all be united, with a deeply rooted connection,” explained Yam. “The ShinShinim help boost morale in the communities they serve, and especially now, that’s more important than ever.”
Because of the coronavirus, this year, the ShinShinim’s work and activities with Jewish kids of all ages are much more virtual-based. But the conversion to online programming has not prevented Yam and Ofir from having an impact, only forced them to adapt their energetic and high-spirit creativity to the new way of life.
“Our options may be a bit more limited and the virus has changed the ways we got to interact with people locally,” shared Ofir. “But the most important things to me, such as connections between people, dialogue and meaningful experiences, have all been possible and ongoing.”
“We work a lot through social media, bringing Israel and Jewish education to life, and it seems like the community really enjoys it,” said Yam. “And on the positive side of all this, being online has actually allowed us to expand our reach!”
Both teens are being hosted by local families. They love the local Jewish community and are grateful to The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and the Macks Center for Jewish Education for helping The Jewish Agency bring them to Baltimore for the year.
“Everyone here is so warm and welcoming and my host family is truly wonderful. They love asking me about Israel and my life,” said Yam. “Recently, I made my host family two Israeli dishes for dinner. It was amazing to connect them to the stories, food and smell of my home in Israel.”
“My host family immediately made me feel at home in their house. They’re all into sports, and so am I, so we really bonded over that,” Ofir shared. “I feel like the time spent with them — and in this community — is flying by. I’m having the time of my life.”