Israeli Emissaries Serve Amidst Coronavirus | The Jewish AgencyYoung Israeli Emissaries Arrive in California Amidst Coronavirus
Young Israeli Shlichim arrive in California

Young Israeli Emissaries Arrive in California Amidst Coronavirus

Young Israeli Emissaries Arrive in California Amidst Coronavirus
Ofry and Segev look forward to getting to know their communities and celebrating the Jewish fall holidays but know the coronavirus will have them facing unique challenges.

The Jewish Agency ShinShinim (gap-year Israeli emissaries), both 18, only arrived in California at the beginning of September, and immediately had to quarantine for two weeks in Los Angeles.
The ShinShinim at the airport in Israel | Photo provided by Segev

While bonding with each other and the other teen emissaries, they were not able to really start connecting with their communities or host families. Ofry was not even in the community she would be working with as she was to be a ShinShin in San Diego; Segev is assigned to L.A.

After their time in quarantine, both Ofry and Segev were able to move in with their host families. Despite only being with them for a short time, they are excited to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, with their hosts.

“My host family isn’t religious but they do celebrate holidays. And whatever they do, I’ll do,” said Ofry. “I think for Rosh Hashanah we will get together with some of their other friends, hosting in our home safely. It will definitely be a unique experience to be here and not in Israel for the holidays.”

“I’m looking forward to reading the prayers with my host family and being part of a big group around the table. It will make me feel like this is a second home,” said Segev. “I’m very close with my family and not being with them will be hard but they know what I’m doing here is important.”

Ofry and Segev have both spent time in America before. Ofry fell in love with the idea of serving the U.S. Jewish community after coming to the U.S. as part of a teen delegation four years ago. Of course, she never thought her time of serving would be in the middle of a pandemic.

“It’s been a time of uncertainty and confusion but The Jewish Agency has been amazing through this whole experience. And I’m still, luckily, working with people in-person at the JCC but a lot of my fellow ShinShinim will be working only on Zoom. It’s made me think about how challenging it is to really make an impact on someone when you have never met them, only interacted on a computer,” reflected Ofry.

Meanwhile, Segev’s desire to be a ShinShin came from his amazing experience at a summer camp in Michigan. He felt very connected to those he met through the camp and knew he could make that much more of an impact over the course of a year, rather than just a summer.

“Being a ShinShin, it’s about showing Israel, an accurate representation of the country, through my eyes and I feel a great responsibility. I’m a living bridge to the Jewish homeland, and perhaps the only connection many people in my adopted community have to Israel now,” said Segev. Segev, who is working in a Hebrew school, will be operating only online for now, rather than in-person, due to the coronavirus.

Though they have only been on the ground a few weeks, Segev and Ofry know they have their work cut out for them, planning activities and striving to make connections with the limitations in place because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, they are glad to be in California as ShinShinim.

“I’m full of motivation and energy,” shared Segev. “I will do everything I can to bring the best version of myself to my community. I left my home and community in Israel to be here and especially because of the coronavirus, it was a lot of effort. I’m going to make it count.”

The ShinShinim enjoy dinner in quarantine | Photo provided by Segev
The ShinShinim enjoy dinner in quarantine | Photo provided by Segev