01 Dec Utilizing Her American-Israeli Identity as an Emissary
Maya, 18, grew up in Chicago before her family moved to Shoham in central Israel. She always knew she wanted to be a ShinShin (gap year Israeli emissary) and do a year of service before drafting into the Israel Defense Forces. Specifically, she saw the opportunity to be a ShinShin as a way to bridge the gap between two parts of her identity.
“I grew up in a weird situation that in Israel I was always ‘the American’ and in America, I was ‘the Israeli,’” divulged Maya. “This year will allow me to really connect to my Israeli heritage while also utilizing the American aspects of my personality. I’m looking forward to making meaningful connections and learning from others while becoming a part of a community that’s completely new to me.”
Maya is serving in Orlando, Florida, a community that is enjoying hosting ShinShinim for the first time this year. While COVID-19 has presented new challenges for Maya and her fellow emissaries as certain programming cannot take place in person and engaging participants in activities is harder, her commitment to being a ShinShin has never wavered.
“Personally, my motivation to be an emissary only grew because of the coronavirus. Covid has compromised so many programs that connect Jewish people worldwide to our homeland which means more than ever there is a need for a way to feel a connection to Israel,” said Maya. “ShinShinim make Israel accessible. Having real Israelis on the ground makes it much easier for global Jewry to form a meaningful bond to Israel on a personal level. It’s a lot of pressure but a task we’re willing and excited to face.”
After a 10-day quarantine period upon arrival, the ShinShinim began working at the early childhood center at the local JCC. They also started to get to know the community by visiting different congregations, meeting people and families, and attending different events, while adhering to health and safety guidelines. Maya considered this local outreach and facetime crucial steps toward building a solid foundation for the upcoming year.
“The Orlando community is so amazing. We have been surrounded by love and support from the moment we arrived and it’s made the adjustment process much easier,” shared Maya. “We’re incredibly grateful to get to be here, strengthening the relationship between Israel and this American community.”