08 Nov Israeli Emissary Returns ‘Home’ to Serve Again
An Israeli Emissary Returns ‘Home’ to Connecticut to Serve Again
Ofek served as a Jewish Agency ShinShin (service year Israeli emissary) in Greater Fairfield, Connecticut, in 2017-18. Five years later, he’s back as a Shaliach (Israeli emissary) in the community he considers his ‘second home.’
When Ofek was 17, he wasn’t all that passionate or interested in the lives of Jews abroad as an Israeli born and raised in Modiin. Yet he still thought being a Jewish Agency ShinShin (service year Israeli emissary) in America would be a cool and challenging opportunity – so he applied and was accepted. But he had no idea how impactful that decision and year would be.
“My year as a ShinShin in Greater Fairfield, Connecticut, along with three other young Israelis, was so amazing and meaningful,” reflected Ofek. “We stayed with host families who are still like my second families and it was just a truly life-changing experience. The relationships we made were so critical and I really came to understand the connection between American Jews and Israelis.”
After his 2017-18 ShinShin year ended, before returning to Israel, Ofek served as a summer camp Shaliach (Israeli emissary) at Camp Joy in Rhode Island. He then traveled back to Israel and enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces, finishing his service in June 2021 as the commander of a sniper squad. He stayed in touch with his host families in Connecticut throughout his time in the IDF.
Three days after finishing his army service, Ofek was serving as a camp Shaliach again, this time at Camp Ramah in New England. He then did some traveling in South and Central America for seven months and also visited the US to see his host families. It was then he decided to apply and undergo training to be a Shaliach again, more deeply understanding the importance of building bonds between Jews globally.
“The community in the US gets so much from having a Shaliach, especially because for younger generations, it’s really hard to connect to somewhere that you’re not. With an emissary in their midst, every year, these Jews abroad get to experience the next best thing to Israel itself and build a real bond with Israel,” explained Ofek. “And when these kids go out into the world, to college, they will encounter people who are anti-Israel and because of their Shaliach, they know what Israel is really like and will be able to defend it.”
“Also for Israelis, many are unaware of how big Jewish communities in the US are and how crucial our connection with them is,” Ofek added. “Everyone who is Jewish is part of a big family and it’s important that we know about each other and support each other.”
Before he started his longer-term Shlichut (emissary service), Ofek again went back to Camp Ramah in the summer of 2022 to be in charge of Israel education as a Shaliach. And now, at age 23, Ofek has returned to the Upper Fairfield County community where he served as a ShinShin five years ago.
“After all this time, I realized I wanted to continue serving my country but also wanted to return to my ‘second home’ in Connecticut. As the Shaliach here, I work with kids of all ages doing Israel-related activities and also with seniors, youth movements, Jewish organizations and nearby college campuses too,” shared Ofek. “I’ve stopped my life and delayed university to do Shlichut… and I would only do that to be here again, in this special community.”