The Macks Center for Jewish Education is proud to oversee Baltimore’s shinshinim hub. The shinshinim are talented high school graduates who come here for a year of service. They volunteer in the community and serve as informal educators at: schools, synagogues, camps, youth movements and Associated funded programs and events. With every interaction and relationship, the shinshinim share their knowledge about Israel, its people and culture. When they return to Israel, they informally become Baltimore’s ambassadors and share their experience of the American Jewish community.

Our six shinshinim are hosted by community members. To learn more about becoming a host family, click here.


Meet our Shinshinim

Gali Lazar lives in Kiryat Ono, a small town near Tel Aviv, with her brother and sister, parents, a dog, and a cat. Her majors in high school are Computer Science and Biology. Gali is a…

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Gilad Winestate was born in Rehovot, Israel, and lived there his entire life. He has a twin brother and a sister, and they are all close. They like to travel together in Israel and around…

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Guy Groisman lives in a small town on the Carmel Mountain, Nesher, with his parents and older brother. His majors in high school are Cinematography and Physics. Guy has been a member of the Israeli…

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Hadar Mimram was born and raised in a small town in Israel, Bat Hefer, located in the center of Israel in Hefer Valley. When she was in 3rd Grade, she relocated with her family to…

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Liron Vazina was born in Rockville, Maryland, and lives in a small town in Israel named Pardes Hanna-Karkur, located in Haifa District. Liron has a close-knit family. One special thing they do together is to…

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Tamar Rodal comes to us from Modiin. She is the oldest of 6 siblings, for whom she babysits. . . a lot. Her majors at school are Chemistry, Biology, Talmud, and Theater. For two years,…

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Read about the experiences of previous shinishinim below.

Arbel Sharvit

Arbel Sharvit

I don’t think I will ever forget the day of the flight to our Shlichut – it was on August 15, 2019, after a lot of thoughts, preparations, and wonderings if I got the right decision, It happened; saying goodbye to my friends and family in the airport and my journey began, and I don’t know how it’s going to be, and what to expect.

From the first second I realized that I arrived to the most amazing community in the world, everyone was so warm, welcoming, and it felt like home!

I was exposed to so many different cultures, and traditions in Judaism. I learned so much about the Jewish communities in the Diaspora, and I was amazed every time to see the big support and love for Israel.

I want to thank all the people that support the program and to all the unforgettable connections that I have and to the Jewish community of Baltimore.

I want to thank all the amazing host families who opened their house in the best way!

Now I know it was the best decision I could have ever made, the best experience I ever had, it was so significant and special for me and I will never forget it.

I miss you all already, I am sure that all of you are going to stay in my heart for a lot of time, like this wonderful experience.

Avia Eliyahu

Avia Eliyahu

In August 2017 my life changed.  I flew to Baltimore, MD and started my gap year as part of the Jewish Agency’s young emissaries program, which most people known as the “Shinshinim” program. It is an amazing program.

A Shinshin is an 18 year-old Israeli emissary that chose to defer the IDF for one year, and volunteer in a Jewish community abroad before drafting into the army.

I was born in Ashkelon and I grew up in the city, and it was obvious for me that I wanted to do my gap year in Baltimore (the partnership between the communities is very strong and meaningful)!

I came to Baltimore with so many expectations to teach about Israel and connect the Jewish community to Israel, but I ended up learning so much more about the life of the Jewish community in the Diaspora and in Baltimore specifically. There are not enough words to describe my year, but I can say for sure that it changed my life forever. I’ve created so many meaningful connections with my co- workers, students, teachers, and many  people from the community.

The best part of my year was staying with host families from the community.I had the privilege to stay with 3 different families who became the closest people to me even today while I’m miles away (back in Israel).

The “Shinshinim” program gives a lot to both sides, while we might have started our way as young emissaries of Israel, after the year in Baltimore is over we
becomes Baltimore’s emissaries for the rest of our lives.

The feeling to share with people our memories and the meaningful experience we had is always there and I can tell you that it’s already  been a year since I came back to Israel and I have mentioned the Jewish community of Baltimore every single one of those days.

There are not enough words to say how much I appreciate the opportunity I was given. I am very lucky to have been one of Baltimore Shinshinim, and I will never forget it. Thank you.

Dor Trainic

Dor Trainic

My name is Dor Trainic, and I had the honor of being a shinshin during the 2010-2011 school year.
When I came back to Israel, I had to stand with every Israeli teen to make the decision of “where do I see myself doing my army service?” I knew that the place I would feel most effective would be in a combat unit.

Besides that I also wanted to keep doing what I loved the most during my time in Baltimore which was teaching. Luckily, I found that exact combination in the Counter Terror Unit which is both a combat unit and combat school for all special units. After a year and a few months, I finished my training, got into the snipers’ team and was sent straight to officer school. Afterwards I commanded the team.

Working with the Jewish community in Baltimore gave me many tools that helped me during my service as a commander and as an instructor. It taught me responsibility, time planning, working with people, standing in front of an audience and many informal education methods which I used many times.

Today I am fresh out of the army after a long meaningful service, getting my SATs done and hoping to get into the Hebrew University where I want to learn International Relations mainly because of the time I spent and the work I did in Baltimore. My year in Baltimore was one of the hardest and most satisfying things I have done in my life and because of that, I want to keep contributing my part of Israel’s relationship with countries around the world.

Efrat Menasheof

Efrat Menasheof

August 2018, I went on a ‘Shlichut’, and was pretty sure it was a good decision. Before coming I heard a lot of things from past years’ Shinshinim about it. The Jewish Agency prepared me and told me what to expect. I thought I’ll get connected to people, and make friends. I also figured the community will be pretty warm and welcoming and that I’m going to have great families.

When I arrived in Baltimore – I was AMAZED. Everyone here was so welcoming and made sure I felt at home. The families are now definitely families for life.

More than just having a great time and finding friends, I found a community. I have no words to describe how I love being part of this community, and how I hope to stay a part of it. I learned so much this year: First of all, I learned about Judaism. Sometimes in Israel it feels like there’s only one kind of Judaism, but here I got the opportunity to not only learn about it, but live it. I learned that there are so many other ways to be a Jew, ways that I didn’t know of before, which I’m going to take to my personal life.

In addition, I learned how important the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora Jews is, and how people in Israel sometimes don’t acknowledge it. Another important part of the year is the host families. I learned a lot and loved it! I am thankful for each of my families, and I am certain that we’ll stay in touch, and they’re like my own family.

To conclude – August 2018, I am coming back from the Shlichut, and I have no doubt that it was not only a good decision, but the best decision I’ve ever made.

To the Jewish community of Baltimore, I have nothing else to say but thank you. I am so thankful for the past year and cherishing each and every moment of it deeply in my heart. Miss you already.

Esti Beradze

Esti Beradze

It is so strange to imagine who we were before and what we’ve become in the process. My name is Esti Beradze and I was a Shinshinit in 2019-2020 in Baltimore and I was asked to talk about this incredible experience. But how? How can I process an experience that is not over?

In the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure what I signed up for. Everybody just told me that this year will improve me, that I will learn things about myself and the world and more big sentences that mean a lot, but you are skeptical about. So, I started, and during the year I really wondered how I saw certain things but never really looked into them. How can it be that my entire life I lived in a Jewish country, but never had a dinner with a Haredi family? How all “the believers” looked the same to me, and I couldn’t tell the difference between Reform and Conservative? How did I assume that Israel is doing everything on its own when there are hundreds of people abroad that are helping? How did I barely think about how teens my age are different than me? Now I know that most of my life I lived with my eyes closed, and now I’m wide awake.

During my year I worked at the JCC, which I LOVED. I loved the little curious kids that will unconditionally love you and every- thing you stand for. I enjoyed doing classes for kids that included what I like to do on my free time (dance, art, cooking….). For a few months I worked at Beth Tfiloh. These kids were different because they were almost my age, so I had to find creative ways to inspire them.

It’s not just the daily work that changes you. It’s the circumstances that you are in. Being independent, probably for the first time in your life, knowing that every decision, defines what kind of shinshin you are. I had my struggles, and the way that I dealt with them taught me a lot about the person that I’m becoming.

The thing that stunned me the most was the revelation of the Diaspora Jews and their contribution. It’s unbelievable how much Israel means to them and how much effort they put in in trying to be who they are. For me it is so obvious to wear white on Yom Kippur or walk down the street to the beach- but for them it’s not. I learned not to take anything for granted and be even more excited from the little things.

So, thank you Baltimore- for everything you were for me. Thank you for being my home.

Eyal Twito

Eyal Twito

I’ve been postponing the writing of this reflection until the last minute. I guess because I’m just not ready to deal with the fact that this year is probably over, and not at

the time that it was supposed to end. Summing up something that shouldn’t be summed up yet is very hard.

My name is Eyal Twito, I was a Shinshin in Baltimore in 2019- 2020.

Before going to be a Shinshin in Baltimore, many things worried me. I really didn’t know if I was fit for it. As someone that is very attached to his family and close environment, I couldn’t imagine living a full year without everyone I care for. Not going for Shabbat meals with all my family at my grandparents’ house, walking in all the beautiful places in the Moshav and just seeing nature, I got to appreciate these things only when I really started thinking about the Shinshin option.

But even with all these doubts and worries that I had, something pushed me into this journey. I decided to do it because of the will to do something meaningful, for myself and the community, and in this case the Jewish community. I wanted to do good in the world, and through that, do good to myself.

Throughout the 7 months of Shlichut, the question that was always in my head was “did I make the right decision coming here?”. Even though I’ll never know what would’ve happened if I hadn’t gone to this program, I know that I made the right decision.

Every time I look at myself before and after this journey, I understand why. From being a mature teenager, I became a young and responsible adult. I think that this came with being out of my comfort zone. I know that this will help me a lot in the future.

I don’t know how much I was meaningful for the Baltimore and Ohr Chadash communities, but I do know that they were very meaningful for me. When we heard that we need to leave Baltimore I got to understand that. It was so hard to say goodbye to all the community. The students, teachers, parents, and last but not least, the amazing host families, that did everything so that we will feel like home away from home here. I’m sure that all these connections will last for a very long time.

If I have to give the future Shinshinim a tip for their year, I would just say this: The upcoming year is going to be a roller-coaster. You will have endless moments of ups and downs. Just try to learn from every up or down that you’ll face, there is a lot to learn. After you look back at the year, try to make sure that you will be proud of yourself, and I’m sure you will be.

Thank you, Baltimore, thank you OCA. See you soon!

Hadar Madnick

Hadar Madnick

My name is Hadar and I was a Baltimore shinshin in 2009-2010.  The year I was a shinshin made such a huge change in me.  When I walk into classes to explain and advocate for the program, I end with saying that after all the places I’ve been and all I‘ve experienced so far, the year I was a shinshin was the most meaningful.

After the year in Baltimore, I joined the army for two years and served close to home.  Afterwards I moved to Mitzpe Ramon to work as a receptionist in Beresheet Hotel.  After a year working at the hotel, I needed a change of pace and started working at the Alpaca Farm.  I left Mitzpe Ramon to travel to India and Nepal for a month.

The year I was in Baltimore opened my eyes to new skills and possibilities in me.  I had to face new and interesting subjects that I wasn’t familiar with before, like the significance of Jews in the Diaspora for Israel, and the importance of owning my Jewishness.

After traveling, I came back to Ashkelon and in an unexpected turn, I found a job at the best place ever, which was the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership (BAP).  I was so grateful when the opportunity to work in the BAP came along, that I felt as though I was coming home again.  I love working for Baltimore Jewish community once again, but from a different angle this time.  I am building and nurturing the connection through facilitating different delegations and coordinating the shinshinim program.

I plan to start studying law at the university next year, and I wish to pursue a career in human rights.  I carry my year as a shinshin in Baltimore close to my heart.  The friends I made and the lessons I learned are unforgettable.  They are a part of me in whatever I do.

Ido Tsimchi

Ido Tsimchi

Sooner than expected, I need to summarize my time in Baltimore. So, where do I even start?

Although I arrived in Baltimore in August, my journey started the moment I got an email telling me that I’massigned to be a Shinshin in Baltimore. I had many expectations about this moment, but I never imagined that my reaction would be: “Baltimore? Where is it?”

More than a year has passed, and I could never imagine that this place, that a year ago I couldn’t even locate on the globe, will become my second home. When I decided to go on this journey, I was asked many times why do I want to do this. I had a many answers and reasons, but the real one was a gut feeling, a strong feeling that I couldn’t turn into words. After 7 months here in Baltimore, I can tell that I finally found the real answer, and the answer is you.

During the last year I got to be a part of a community that let me in with so much warmth and care. I got to meet so many people and to build connections with kids and adults at any age. I got to discover a different and special Jewish world that I’ve never been exposed to and to understand the meaning of a Jewish community in the Diaspora.

As a Shinshin, I lived and breathed Israel. I taught and spoke about Israel and brought it with me everywhere – the class, the dinner table and the supermarket aisles. I planned activities about Israel (gosh, so many activities), answered about Israel and asked about it myself, defended and criticized it, and even though I wasn’t there for so long, I feel Israeli more than ever.

This amazing journey couldn’t have happened without the help of so many good people. Thank you, my host families, for letting me into your homes with so much love and care.

Thank you “Chizuk Amuno” congregation, for being a home for me and for letting me execute any crazy and special idea I had.

Thank you to anyone who stopped me in the hallway to ask about the current events in Israel and to any child or adult who let me bring my Israel all the way to you, I promise I did my best.

I chose to end with quote of A. A. Milne: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”.

Thank you Baltimore for memories and connections that will forever stay in my heart, it was my pleasure.

Itay Rekler

Itay Rekler

People say that things like a gap year can change someone’s life from edge to edge. At first, I didn’t know if I should believe them, but now, I can surely say that the year of 2016-17 was the most meaningful, shaping experience I have ever had.

I was privileged enough to serve as the 2016-17 Baltimore Shinshin and make meaningful experiences about Israel with more than 2,000 people in more than 20 schools and organizations. It was the most fun thing to expose the community to my point of view about Israeli life and culture, to share stories and show pictures, play games and listen to songs about the place I love the most. Through the course of the year, I realized that the more I talked about Israel and shared my story; my personal connection to Israel deepened. My year in Baltimore was definitely one of the reasons I wanted to do more in the army and I now serve as a commander-instructor.

None of this could have happened without the support of the host families. I was blessed with two host families that inspired me, gave me a directing hand about the needs of the community and of course gave me a safe place to go at the end of the day. I was able to make personal connections with them that last till this very day.

It is quite funny to say, but I feel that the real job started when I came back to Israel: to serve as an ambassador of the Jewish community of Baltimore in Israel. I think it is critical to know and understand how Jewish life, that seems so obvious to us in Israel, are not obvious for someone who needs to work really hard to practice it in the Diaspora.

This year made me realize that I want to study International Relations and work closely with Jewish communities abroad. I hope I will be able to come back to Baltimore as a Shaliach and continue the work I love to do.

Thank you for the opportunity, see you soon!

Lior Mass

Lior Mass

So what does it mean to be a Shinshin in Baltimore?


Working all day with all ages.

Coming home to new families.

Making new friends from the other side of the world.

Being exposed and learn about Judaism in America.

Discover new sides of yourself.

Love Israel a little more every day.

Work in 20 different synagogues and schools in the area.

Enjoy every second of the journey, even though it sometimes can be difficult.

And above all- have another place you can call “home”.

I had the opportunity to spend one year of my life in Baltimore- right after graduating high school and before joining the IDF. During my year which I spent with Itay, we worked in different programs with all ages; Jewish and non-Jewish to connect and teach about Israel.

Two years have passed since, and I can still say that this was the most influential year of my life. I have made personal connections, learned and experienced the most amazing year.

I would like to thank everybody in both my homes- Baltimore and Israel for an unforgettable year and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Liron Menashe

Liron Menashe

My name is Liron Menashe.  I was in the first class of service in Baltimore 2008-2009.  The year of service in Baltimore was one of the best experiences of my life. My year in Baltimore was the same year as the military operation “Cast Lead” which put my family in Ashkelon at the forefront of violence.  It was hard, as an Israeli, to be away from my homeland.

While talking to family via Skype and hearing the sirens and explosions, as an Israeli and a Zionist, there is a feeling that you should be at home and be linked to the fate of your country.  At those moments I realized how important my job actually is in Baltimore.  I am trying to make them know and understand not only the written perspective in the news.  It especially touched and strengthened me to know I’m not alone in my feelings, and that the people around me share the same solidarity, concern and empathy.

My year continued with the Israeli elections.  They were the first elections I could vote in and I was not in the country.  This was a special day where I went to the Israeli embassy in DC and fulfilled my right as a mature citizen.  That same year we had the US election.  It was an election that was a historic moment because the first African American was elected President of the United States.  I went with teens from the JCC to watch the President take his oath in Washington, D.C.

The opportunity to examine politics, policy, communications and economic crises, being exposed to families here as well as education in general and Jewish education in particular was fascinating.  Beyond that I think this is a particularly important age that is so critical in shaping our personality and perception.

The way I want to educate my children in the future and to design my household is based on my experiences in Baltimore.  I learned the possibility to examine things from a different perspective, learn from people around you, establish your citizenship, your Judaism, values and your personal goals. This taught me not to take things for granted and to be grateful to be part of this wonderful nation.  I think the feelings and insights that I carry with me are essential for every Israeli and Jew and perhaps even every 18 year old.

It is not easy for an 18-year-old girl to leave her home, family, friends, mom’s food, language, familiar Israel warmth …and yet with  all that difficulty and complexity it felt like I had arrived at home.

This is a good opportunity to say thank you to my families in Baltimore—The Reef, Zager and Weiner families.  The experience would not have been the same without you opening your home to and for me.  It was the most significant part of this year and you are always in my thoughts.

Today (2015) I am a Captain the army serving the Education and Youth Corps.  In addition I am studying for a degree in criminology and political science.

I do not know with certainty where the winds will take me and what the future holds for me.  But no matter what happens, I know that this experience was a formative and unforgettable one.

Matan Adar

Matan Adar

My name is Matan Adar, and I’m more than proud to say I was a shinshin in the Baltimore Jewish community between the years of 2015-2016. Explaining precisely this unique experience is one of the hardest things for a shinshin. At the age of 18, you’re facing an important obligation and mission. (The Hebrew word “shlichut”  in a way, is parallel to the word “mission”). Learning how to accomplish this “shlichut” is, in my opinion, very individual. Every shinshin wants to do the best and bring his Israeli story to the “shlichut” table, and that’s what really occurred me during my year. The shinshin impact is getting bigger on the Jewish community each and every year, just because we, the shinshinim, want to bring Israel closer to the community and show our Israeli story. As I, who grew up in Ashkelon, a beautiful and  special city which sadly is on the front line of the Gaza attacks, I knew that one of my missions as a shinshin is to actually show that Israel is much more than constant attack or threats from its neighbor countries. I know how the news and social media can change a lot of people’s images, and my true goal was to change that image and give a real picture of  Israeli life. The Jewish community of Baltimore is truly one of the most supportive and open for learning from  others, so working as a shinshin in this community was a gift for me. The host families I had during the year were truly like a family to me, even almost 3 years after, I still feel like I have a home in Baltimore. I could give many tips for the next generations of the shinshinim, but I think that one of the important ones is to remember and take advantage of this huge opportunity. Be yourself, enjoy, learn and most importantly- show your own Israeli story!

Matania Grinvald

Matania Grinvald

My name is Matania Grinvald.  I was a shinshin from 2018-19.  I worked in Ohr Chadash Academy.  As I sit here my last week and think about the past year, I have a big smile on my face because I know that so many of the things I learned and gained this past year, I will keep with me for the rest of my life.

First of all, from my first memory in Baltimore getting to OCA and all the people who were so curious to learn and hear about Israel.  With time I met the rest of the community, in Sunday school, the CJE offices, around the JCC and so many other places.  I gained a lot of things for myself this year – for one thing my English improved so much.  I came to America thinking I’m going to teach other people about my culture and instead I learned so much about American culture and about the Israeli culture from the perspective of American culture.

The AIPAC experience had a very meaningful impact on me.  Seeing the thousands of people who care and support Israel, not just with their money but with their time and connections.

It was such a meaningful experience to me that my host family became my family and I’m sure my connection with them will continue for a very long time.

In conclusion I want to give you all a tip – be open to new experiences don’t be afraid to meet all kinds of new people and be in the moment every moment you are here!

Natan Mish

Natan Mish

In 2008 I started my senior year in high school, and for me, it was obvious I would do a year of service before joining the army.  I have been offered many kinds of service programs, but I felt it was natural to choose doing my year as  shinshin in Baltimore, mainly because as a Diller program alumni I was intrigued by the Baltimore Jewish community and I had made good friends there already.

My experience as a shinshin allowed me to bring my Israel to  a Jewish community in the Diaspora.  That is something that not many 19-year-old Israelis have the opportunity to do.  From the first day in training in Israel, to this day, it taught me a lot about myself.  It made me much more mature as a young adult and guided me in many things I have done in my life since then.

My host families, the people I worked with and friends I made, I will cherish in my heart forever.

After I finished my year of service, I joined the army to a special forces unit of the Nahal Brigade.  In my army service, I have protected Israel’s borders with Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan.

I finished my army service a year ago.  After that I traveled to South Africa to volunteer as a madrich (counselor) in the Habonim Dror summer camp and to travel the country.  In the last seven months I have been working in the Alexander Muss High School in Israel as a counselor for American teens coming to Israel for a semester of studying and traveling.  I have also been training the Jewish Agency’s shinshinim in different seminars and sharing my experience with them.  For the future I am planning to travel to Southeast Asia and then to start University.

Nir Ya'akobov

Nir Ya’akobov

The gap year has made such a huge impact on my life.  Even though it has been four years since I went to Baltimore, I can still feel the change I have been through.  The year changed me in many ways, but the most are that I got to be independent!  I spent the year away from home, managing my own time between work, my free time, and time together with Aviya (my co-shinshin).  Every single day, since I was drafted to Israeli Air Force (IAF), I have been able to
handle more things than I could have imagined.  I get the opportunity to have a responsibility every day in everything I do as part of my job at the Israeli Air force, and all of that is thanks to the things that I learned to accept from being away in Baltimore.  I learned maturity, social skills, and meeting challenges.  I was able to enjoy every one of them, every moment from the gap year and every day since.

Noam Trock

Noam Trock

My name is Noam Trock, a Baltimore shinshinit 2020-2021.

People were telling all of us that we are going for a different and strange year, and then covid started, and they told us we are not going at all. For some crazy and amazing reason, The Baltimore hub looked for Shinshinim anyways and took into their arms four more lost Shinshinim. That was the greatest day of my life.

Until Smadar called us one day and said that we have 36 hours to pack our things. My mom said the next thing: “You are not going”. Lost in the whole thing I started arguing with her on the phone about why I should go, when I didn’t even want to go myself. The idea of spending Shabbat, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot with three secular strangers didn’t appeal to me. But I went and I officially became a Baltimore Shinshinit. Fortunately, all of the other Shinshinim turned out to be quite nice and caring. They respected every kiddush and every Havdalah and made sure that I had enough food before fasting and that I eat enough food after the fast. Looking back at this time today I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have such supportive friends in my life.

This was just the first bump of this year and many have followed it: not having my license, working alone, working on zoom, having a 3-hour break alone every day, having covid, not getting vaccinated and these are only the big bumps. But with every bump, came another great thing.

Having the most amazing institution supporting Noya and me in every project that we wanted to do or students that will do any crazy thing that we came up with. The greatest hub ever that I had the most hilarious time with during office days or planning different things and especially filming the ShinShow. Multiple host families that have let me into their homes and their hearts making sure that I know I have people that are always there for me, and making me feel as if I’ve just stayed with my cousins for the year. I know that after this year I have 17 new family members that will forever be a part of me. Enjoying the American experience with the people that have become my greatest friends and in a way, they have also become my family. Becoming a part of the most welcoming and supporting community that has always made sure that we were okay, alive, and happy.

Out of all of these experiences I can say that I have gained more confidence, became more mature I’ve learned to believe in myself, and also realized that everything is happening for the best and that we should simply learn how to work with the tools that we have got and how to create new opportunities out of them. This year has taught me so much and will forever have an amazing impact on my life and on me as a person.

And even though it was a bumpy ride, I’m so grateful for the Noam that steered the car, she matured and developed and became a better version of herself.

So I want to say thank you to the hub for taking me and not giving up. Todah Rabba!

This is not a goodbye, but a simple Le’hitraot .

Noy Schwartz

Noy Schwartz

“There is no place like home”.  For me this sentence is confusing because I have two homes.  For one year, I was part of the Jewish community in Baltimore and this has been the most
meaningful thing I have ever done so far.  Teaching about Israel, accepting new people into my life and living with my amazing host families taught me so much about myself and about my homeland  Israel.  Since I got back home, I joined a group of the Israeli scouts and we lived together for two months at the Jordan Valley while working at the local agriculture.  Two months ago I joined the IDF, and soon I’ll be a commander of basic training.  There isn’t one day that I’m not thinking about my second home, friends and families in Baltimore.  I’m keeping in touch with my families, and I hosted one of them for a weekend in Israel.  It was an amazing reunion!

My plan for the future is to come back for a summer camp (Capital Camps) and then come back home to Baltimore to visit.

Noya Karavani

Noya Karavani

Well what a crazy year to summarize, a year that started hopelessly with a global epidemic, months of visa problems, co-Shinshinim that quit, a new hub, and even an announcement of the cancellation of our arrival. But then, like all great things that are worth waiting for, I had arrived in Baltimore, and wow, I couldn’t even imagine how worth it it would be.

I had the huge opportunity to be here, show how beautiful Israel is from my own eyes, spread the love for our amazing country, and teach about Israeli culture, Hebrew, and Judaism. This year taught me a lot. it taught me to never give up on my dreams, to have confidence in my English, to ask questions, to work a busy schedule, to work online, and to be open-minded for new people and experiences.

One of the most meaningful days in Baltimore was during operation “Guardian of the Walls” when Israel was under attack and I was a bit homesick, I heard about a pro-Israel rally and I decided to go. To be there, with a few hundred people, that even though they live thousands of miles from Israel, still care about showing support. Talking with people, most of whom I do not even know, and singing with them “Hatikva” was so special for me and helped me understand how much this community is strong, united, and loves Israel and that I have here a home away from home.

My shlichut was once in a lifetime experience.

I met wonderful people that took part in my journey and I cannot imagine my year without them. I had the opportunity to meet my host family that absolutely became a part of my life.

תודה -Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give and to receive back, “Good friends never say goodbye, they simply say See You Soon”.

Ofir Yasur

Ofir Yasur

I’m Ofir and I’m one of the 20-21 Baltimore Shinshinim. The past year was one for the history. The history of the world, the history of Israel, the history of Jewish communities all around the world, and more than anything, my history.

How could it not be? The experiences and memories that I collected here are irreplaceable and unforgettable.
In less than a year, I expanded my family tree, not once, but twice; and that’s something I didn’t even believe was possible!
I met my best friends, made connections as strong as can be with complete strangers, learned how to work in a group in all kinds of different situations and conditions, and challenged myself to be more creative than ever, with the need to come up with solutions to problems that COVID-19 and this crazy year introduced to me as well as to the rest of the world for the first time.

Throughout the year, I developed my Jewish identity, enriched my knowledge, challenged myself in every possible way, and started my journey as an educator, something I now know I want to be.

I have encountered responsibility and independence in ways I never have before, and felt myself mature and grow as I faced every obstacle and learned from it. I met a great range of ages, from Kindergartners to elderly people, brought a bit of myself to them and took a bit of each and every one of them with me.

I started this year afraid that I won’t have enough to bring, and ended it knowing better than ever how to share my story and knowledge In a way that would create a beneficial experience for both me and whomever I speak to.

I got here in order to teach about Israel, and I’m coming back to Israel knowing 10 times more than I did before, yet with more questions than answers about my own country, my own people, and my own lifestyle. I had the amazing opportunity to give from myself for a year, and I decided to take it. I brought all of myself into it and tried to make it as meaningful to others as it was for me. I truly believe I did well.

This year gave me the perspective I never knew I didn’t have, and never realized how much I needed- and coming out of it, I will keep all of its lessons close as I continue in my journey.

Roni Shitrit

Roni Shitrit

In less than a month since we returned from our mid-year break in Israel we were informed that we would have to leave Baltimore again, and we might not return. However reasonable this decision is according to the current situation, it doesn’t make this any easier to comprehend…

I feel as though I’ve been through an entire lifetime throughout the past 7 months, and I suppose this is partially true; for there was my life in Israel which I’ve left on pause and the new adventure I began in Baltimore. I’ve evolved, was enriched and experienced more than I ever thought I would…

I’ll miss everything: my car, the office, the deer, American basements, the endless single-lane roads that give you the feeling you’ve entered an enchanted forest, Target, Southwest Airlines, Orioles, the Hippodrome, American frosting and the Ravens.

What I’ll miss above all is what made these 7 months not a long travel but a small meaningful life – the community. I got to meet, connect and bond with so many people (from all different ages) whom I learned to cherish deeply. Smadar, the host families, Krieger Schechter Day School, The Associated, the Center for Jewish Education, and the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership – thank you for everything: for always caring for us, helping us build this “mini life” here in the community and for giving us the best platform to fulfill our mission here.

Yes, I feel sad about those 4 valuable months I probably won’t have back but simultaneously I’m ever so grateful for the 7 months I did have and got to experience all the way through.

I’ll choose to end this on a cheesy note: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard “

Ronit Pinsky

Ronit Pinsky

My name is Ronit Pinsky and I was a shinshinit in 2010-2011.  I heard about this gap year after Operation Cast Lead, and I thought this would be a great opportunity for Israeli Hasbara. In this year I learned a lot about the Jewish community in Baltimore and in the USA.  My job was to show them Israel as it is and not like you see on television.  Working with 4-year olds to teenagers and even college students, I showed them the real Israel from the beginning.  This year taught me a lot.  It taught me how to work with a schedule, how to speak English well, how to understand a new culture , how to work in an office, how to build different activities with the same idea for a range of ages and more.  I met amazing people and loving host families that made the year even better.  They showed me the real America and we broke some myths.

Before I started my year as a shinshin, I wanted to be a paramedic in the army, but after I started to work with children and teenagers and even speaking with adults about Israel, I understood I wanted to do something more important, and I joined the Education and Youth Corps which is the IDF Manpower Directorate Corps.  It is responsible for the education of soldiers and commanders in Israel’s military.  It is designed to instruct and develop national values among the troops.  I became a commander and explained to my soldiers—new Olim and non-Jews about the importance of our country.  After eight months I decided that I wanted to be an officer.  I became an education officer in the Home Front Command.  After a few months a new unit opened, and I became a part of the Search and Rescue Corps.  After more than three years in the Army, in the end I think I had the most meaningful service I could  have asked for.  For this other amazing experience, I can thank my shinshin year.  Without it I wouldn’t have become who  I am today—a proud Israeli Jew.

Sagie Dotan

Sagie Dotan

Shalom! My name is Sagie, and I’m part of the eight 19-20 Baltimore shinshinim. I always knew that I want to discover and get to know the Diaspora, as a son of shlichim. In the Jewish community of Baltimore I found a house, and a second family. Since the first moment we arrived the community made us feel so welcomed.

For me the best part of this year was the great people, and the connections that I’m going to take with me for life.

Through the year I learned about myself that I can do everything and to be independent.

A huge part from this year was the host families that become part of my real family now.

I can’t sum up everything in a few sentences, I can just say that it was one of the greatest experiences I ever had.

I learned in my time that the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora Jews is extremely strong and important, and how in the end we all part of the big Jewish family.

The Jewish community of Baltimore is such a warm community and I feel it’s just the beginning of the connection between us.

I’m grateful for the time here, and can’t wait to see everyone again

Shani Kalmanovich

Shani Kalmanovich

At the beginning of this year, I took upon myself the challenge of trying as many new things that I had not tried before. I decided that for everything I was offered I would say “yes”. Now, towards the end of the year, I can tell you that it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The amount of experiences I have experienced, the challenges I have faced and the memories I have accumulated this year are inconceivable. No doubt this year has changed me. I became more open to new things. I learned not to be afraid from challenges and to be more attentive to myself.

I grew up in a secular kibbutz. I can count on one hand the number of times I went to synagogue in my life before I arrived in Baltimore. In Israel, I never felt I had to go to synagogue or observe Shabbat to prove to someone that I was Jewish. I never pondered what I needed to do to preserve or strengthen my Jewish identity.  This year changed the way I think about this.  I understood that the situation of Jews in the Diaspora is completely different.  The environment in which they live is mostly not Jewish, so they must constantly think about what makes them Jewish, and do things that bring them closer to Judaism. This understanding made me want to discover the Jewish side of me that was not so developed. So when it was suggested to observe the Sabbath for the first time in my life, I replied without hesitation, “Yes.” And the truth-it was a great experience. To disconnect for one day from all the electronic devices that distract our minds all the time.  Since then I have kept Shabbat two more times, and I have gone to countless Friday and Shabbat meals with people I did not even know, and I enjoyed every one of them. Thanks to my decision to say “yes” to everything , I got to know amazing people, get to amazing places and do things I did not even dream to do (like ice skating).

I learned so many new things this year. Foolish things like eating with chopsticks and also useful things like making presentations on PowerPoint. But the most important thing I have learned is that I can deal with every challenge when I believe in myself.  That’s what I’m taking from this year – never stop believing in myself and in my abilities.

No doubt this was the most challenging, crazy, and amazing year I’ve ever had. I learned so much and I thank you for every moment.

Shir Keidar

Shir Keidar

Hi, my name is Shir Keidar and I’m one of the 19-20 Shinshinim. I heard about the program when I visited Baltimore for the first time with “Diller Teen Fellows” and met the Shinshinim that told me all about the program. After I thought about it deeply. I realized that this program is a great opportunity for me to do the things I like and believe in, in a place, that during my year in “Diller”, became my second home.

During this year I got the opportunity to work with all ages, kindergarten to college students, and I’m so lucky that I got the chance to show them Israel through my eyes. I met a lot of interesting and inspiring people that I would’ve never met in Israel and they educated me greatly. The way the community welcomed me and my friends was the most amazing way to start a year. They immediately made me feel like I was at home and they were always there for help. I got a lot from each person I met in the community and that’s the thing that made me be the new Shir that I am today – a better version of myself.

I have no words to describe how grateful I am for this year and I have nothing to say besides THANK YOU to the Jewish community in Baltimore for welcoming and having me this year even when this year is not over.

Shira Avital

Shira Avital

To be a Shinshin- After a year of being that person, who answers for that definition, I sit and try to conclude but I don’t manage to do that so successfully… I think it’s because I feel like I can’t.

I can’t shrink the essence of being a Shinshin here in Baltimore onto a piece of paper. I can’t conclude my year here. I think it’s since, for me, to BE a Shinshin means that you are always in progress of going forward. You are constantly looking for new things you can help with, new things you can donate to. So that you never really conclude, because you are always looking towards the next goal or task.

That’s the best way I feel I can explain my year here in Baltimore as a Shinshin. To be always in action: teaching, learning, earning new friends, connecting with new people. Constantly thinking where my journey should continue to now? What my new project should be.

I think that after this year I can say that my journey has just started and therefore I cannot conclude yet because I’m only at the beginning.

Tal Bouhnik

Tal Bouhnik

My name is Tal Bouhnik, and I was a shinshin during the 2008-2009 year together with Liron Menashe.

Since I have come back from the year in Baltimore, I have joined the IDF and have served for a bit more than three years in the Intelligence as an analyst.  My army service was meaningful and I’ve enjoyed it all.  As I finished my army service, I felt the need to go back and do what I love and what I did while I was in Baltimore—educate teens about Israel.  I worked for a year with groups of American teenagers who came to Israel for any time from a few weeks to three months.  I did it by working as a Madrich (counselor) for the Israel Experience and the Alexander Muss High School in Israel.  The work with the teens, especially at Alexander Muss, made me miss all the teens I was working with while I was a shinshin in Baltimore.

During the summer of 2014, I flew to Europe to travel for a few months.  During my trip I volunteered in ecological farms in Italy and Germany which was really interesting and new to me.

Last October, I moved to Jerusalem and started studying International Relations and Sociology-Anthropology at Hebrew University.

The year in Baltimore had, and still has, a big impact on my life and the choices I make. The fact that I was embraced by a whole community made me understand how deep the connection is between Baltimore and Ashkelon and it makes me think , every day, about the role I want to take in my community.

Tal Cohen

Tal Cohen

Shalom! My name is Tal Rachel Cohen and I was one of the eight 2019-2020 Shinshinim in Baltimore. I heard about this Shinshinim program through people who took part in the placement process years ago.

Since then I read more about it and decided that this is my next goal. It was a big step for me because I started to think what I’ll do after I will graduate high school when I actually just started it. I made a huge bucket list that covered half of my room’s wall, this list called “100 things to do before I graduate high school” let me share with you that number 100 was to make it to this program. Step after step I’ve been making my own way.

I was a fellow on “Diller Teen Fellows” program and I will never forget how honest I was on my first interview when they asked me why I want to be in this program and I told them that I heard it might help me get into the Jewish Agency gap year program, and of course I fell in love with this program immediately. After a visit in Baltimore I understood even more why I want to be a Shinshinit and part of this amazing community.

So as you might know from the other Shinshinim who wrote here, we haven’t finished a whole year here but I will look on the bright side and tell you that this year taught me a lot, whether it’s about myself, The United States Jewry, or the Jewish community in Baltimore.

I was privileged to work with kindergarten age to high school and the connections I made here even brought me to work with colleges like Goucher College and Johns Hopkins University. What really amazed me is the way I can take Israel, separate it to 30 different topics, and from each topic to make a whole discussion. Seeing how every age approached it in a different way taught me a lot, probably in the same way it taught them.

Now while writing this, sitting in Israel, summarizing what’s so hard to sum up.

I was thinking about what made these 7 months the way it was. We built a whole life in Baltimore-we had work, friends, host families, who absolutely become our family, and it’s not taken for granted at all. We had our favorite spots in town, places we worked out and just a whole life. It is hard to move from one life to another but I can surely tell you that I came back knowing what a real strong community is, knowing more about Judaism, and far away from home- knowing Israel better that I knew at home.

If there is something I learned from this period – is that I’ve always been told that I’m the most Israeli person they have ever met. To be honest I never knew how should I take it, if it’s good or bad but now I can tell you, for sure, that this is who I am, and I’m a proud Israeli. So thank you for this opportunity, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and now I’m more than ready to take the next step in my life in the IDF.

Tamar Maor

Tamar Maor

Toronto? Mechina? Gap year in Israel? The military? Baltimore!!

In two weeks I had to read about this place that I had never heard of, Baltimore, in one week I had to say goodbye to all my

friends and family, in 24 hours I had to pack everything I could fit in two suitcases and finally fly out and experience the craziest and most amazing year of my life.

As Shinshinim, we go through a long training which includes Jewish enrichment, education skills and many others. We come into this year with so many ideas and goals that we can’t wait to share with the community. But now, at the end of the year, I feel like I’ve achieved so much more.

I reached my goals and got to share all my ideas, but besides that I learned and experienced a whole new world. I met so many new people who will be in my life forever, I was accepted into an amazing community which I know will always have room for me. More than that, I learned how to take my ideas and turn them into reality (I wouldn’t be able to do that without Smadar), I learned how to challenge myself and not take the easy way out. If I felt like I had too much free time, I opened up more opportunities for myself, more opportunities to connect to more people.

One thing that really surprised me is that I learnt so much about Israel! Who would have thought?! But in order to teach children about Israel, you have to be an expert.

When I came into this year I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grow up. Now, after I’ve experienced so many new things, I think I know what I what to do. Education!

This year I was so fortunate to work at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore. I worked with the J-Kids and the ELC. I got to meet amazing children and I am so thankful for the opportunity to teach them about Israel. These programs really made me understand how much I love teaching and how much I want this to be part of my life.

I can’t write this without mentioning COVID 19. Such a big part of the year. You would think that I would look at this as a negative part, but no! Thanks to COVID I got the opportunity to participate in so many programs and events that I wouldn’t be able on a normal year. I got to talk in front of so many people and connect with different groups via zoom.

Furthermore, this year I got to test my technology skills and create different and interesting content online. In these days this is a skill that is so important!

Coming into the year I could not tell you how I identify myself on the Jewish spectrum. Throughout the year I got to teach different classes at the Beth El Congregation, but for me that wasn’t enough. I wanted a deeper connection, I wanted to be part of the Beth El community. I think I succeeded, I found different ways to reach more parts of the congregation, if it was joining a family service and giving a “dvar torah”, or connecting with the Beth El Adult Education group and simply being me and sharing what I can.

Besides that, I got to experience living with two amazing hosting families. This was such a big part of my year! I learnt so much from my families and I know this will be a connection for my whole life! I have four new siblings that I love so much! Thank you for opening your homes to me, for treating me as part of the family and not as a stranger, for sharing your culture with me and letting me share mine with you, of course for all the many game nights (I love games!!) and so much more!!

This year gave me my best friends that will be in my life forever. Yes, I am talking about the other Shinshinim. Thank you for always being there for me, whether for a hug, ice cream or for fun!

I want to finish with giving the future Shinshinim a little tip – Take this year and make it your own. Believe in yourself and know that this is your place to do whatever you think of. Be ready to learn so much and be open to different opinions. Don’t forget to have fun and explore new things!! (tasting new food was mine)

I will never forget this year and everything that comes with it!

I thank everyone who made this year so special!!! You will definitely see me back in Baltimore (if you want to or not).

Tomer Sharon

Tomer Sharon

So how do I start reflecting about this crazy year? I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a shinshin in Baltimore.  It was so meaningful to me. I learned a lot of new things, I met a bunch of amazing people, I gave to the Jewish community of Baltimore as much as I could.

The beginning of the year was so overwhelming. An 18 years old boy came from Israel to a different country, a different language, a different culture and different people.

After a few days of understanding what was going on around me, I was ready to start a routine of work, spending time with the host families, creating personal connections and having fun. I truly believe in personal connection and relationships. It’s stronger than any activity that I do. That was one of my goals for this year—create personal connections and to build a bridge between the Jewish people around the world.

I worked mainly in 3 different institutions: KSDS, Beth El and BHC. I really liked working there and being part of those amazing communities. Efrat and I planned a lot of different activities in a lot of different subjects to a lot of kids in different range of ages. The work was so meaningful for me. Beside sharing my knowledge with the students and the staff, I learned a lot of new things about Zionism, Judaism etc.

Being a shinshin means having to work 24/7. When you finish work you are going back to your host families. My host families were amazing and they were one of my best experiences here in Baltimore. They opened their hearts and their houses for me and I’m so thankful for that. The connections that were built between us are unbreakable, these connections will stay forever.

Beside my unconditional love to the Ravens and the Orioles, I love the people here. All of you guys are so warm and accepting. You made me feel like home as soon as I got here and that was so helpful.

Beside the things that I had learned here, I also gained a lot of tools that I will use in the future. This year really shaped my identity, it made me more mature and independent.

I had some highlights through the last year. AIPAC was definitely one of them. I learned so much in this conference.

Unfortunately, I didn’t spend all of my summer at camp Airy because I was called to take a test to the Israeli navy. Camp was a great Jewish American experience. I had never gone to summer camps like camp Airy and I had a lot of fun, met some amazing people and learned new things in my time there.

I will take with me a lot of things that I learned here. Havdalah, Bircat and shouting ‘O’ during the national anthem are just part of them.

Baltimore, thank you so much for everything.

I will miss you. I will come to visit, I promise.

Yael Israeli

Yael Israeli

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been a year since I came to Baltimore. I guess it’s because time flies when you’re having fun.

It feels like just a moment ago I was saying goodbye to my family and friends in my home in Israel, and now I’m saying goodbye to my family and friends in my second home, in Baltimore.

This year was a dream come true, living on the other side of the world in an amazing Jewish community, meeting a lot of new people who entered deep into my heart, living with 3 different host families, making personal connections with the people I was working with- from all the age groups.

After this year I can say that I’m so grateful for being a Shinshin in Baltimore and not anywhere else. The Jewish community in Baltimore is warm, loving and filled with unconditional love to Israel.     I couldn’t be more thankful to my incredible host families.

One of the reasons why I wanted to do this special year before the army is that I wanted to learn from close up how people (especially Jews) live in the other side of the world. I was used to the life in Israel and I was curious about it. My experience with my host families was above all my expectations- I opened myself up to different things that I didn’t know before, I have learned so many things and I created connections that will stay with me forever.

I had the pleasure to work at BT. I enjoyed every moment, I loved being part of their warm community which let me feel at home even when I was so far from home. Every Shabbat I went to Beth Tfiloh Synagogue, I was leading the middle school girl’s minyan and I did activities every special Shabbat. I am coming from a secular family, and I never went to synagogue except for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah.

The beautiful thing that I discovered about the Jewish community here is that the synagogue  is a community- people come here every Shabbat because they want to be together, to feel connected to their Judaism, to be part of this amazing community.

I also discovered here how much the Jewish community care about Israel, how Israel is such a big part of their life. I went to AIPAC, to the FIDF Gala, to the Israeli Bonds fashion show and to the JNF event- all of these were enormous, exciting and touching. So many people came there just to support Israel and to donate. Before this year I didn’t realize how much the Jews in the Diaspora care about Israel.

The most meaningful thing for me was the personal relationships that I created this year. I created friendships for life especially with the BT high school students. I think that these informal relationships are the most important thing in our job as Shinshinim, this is what makes the real connection between the Jewish community and Israel.

During this year I grew up, I have learned so many things, I became more independent and mature and I’m taking a lot of tools to the next step in my life.

I can say wholeheartedly that it was that best year that I could ever have, thank you Baltimore, I will miss you and no doubt I’ll come visit.

Yam Agami

Yam Agami

Shalom everyone! My name is Yam Agami, I’ve been asked to summarize my year as a Shinshinit in Baltimore and I’m trying to find the words to describe this incredible experience.

I’ll start with a quote-“During an unusual situation do unusual things”- Alex Daniel. This sentence has led me throughout my journey this year, I remember the first conversation about the changes in KSDS this school year, the fact that we needed to think of a way to bring Israel the best we could trough zoom, in person and half zoom half in person in the same lesson was challenging but also the best thing we could have asked for. I have extended my creativity and always thought of new ways to reach my goal to strengthen the connection between Israel and the community.

Every week we have dealt with new surprises and we needed to adapt and to be creative and thanks to our institutions and community we could have reached the sky .

Since forever I remember myself as a huge supporter of a community lifestyle, I was amazed by the curiosity, love and support to Israel that is coming from the community, it is not obvious at all, the Jewish community of Baltimore proved how strong it is that even during a world crisis you chose to have Shinshinim to bring an Israel education, energy and more.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to meet such an amazing group of people that have opened their homes, heart and soul to us.

Throughout the year I have changed, I became more mature, open minded, creative, thankful for everything that I have, and especially I have changed because from now on I have more friends and family from the other side of the world, I gained friendships for life and I couldn’t ask for a better experience.

I will never forget this year. I have learned and am still learning a lot every day about Judaism, community, Jews in the USA and more.

I want to say thank you for listening, learning, supporting and loving.

You all gave me the opportunity to bring Israel education in the most creative way I could and you all have a special place in my heart forever.

My home in Israel is always open and please feel free to ask any question any time about Israel and what’s going on there! I am here for you! Thank you again for the best year of my life.

Yarden Vilchek

Yarden Vilchek

The experience of a multifaceted year which is a year living in a different country, with different people, without school, was the craziest experience I’ve ever had.

I learned so much about myself and my country during the year.  It is very difficult to put it into words.  The experience of host families is an extraordinary experience that stays with me to this day.  For me, they are part of my family in just another part of the globe, and the entire community is simply another home that I have elsewhere.  Work was amazing and satisfying.  I always felt warmth and love from all sides.  I think our stay there contributed to the community and no doubt contributed to us.  I know that for me at least, even now when I am in the army, I think of the people there and the experience I gained on numerous occasions.  I always make sure I tell my friends about the special community in Baltimore, Maryland.  It is a community that will always be, for me, a very significant part of my life.

Yonatan Kantarowicz

Yonatan Kantarowicz

Shalom! My name is Yonatan and I’m one of the eight 2018-19 Baltimore Shinshinim. During my high school I had participated in different programs that collaborated with Jews in the Diaspora. While I was participating in the programs, I was exposed to the Shinshin Program and even met some Shinshinim across the USA. Right away I knew I wanted to be part of it too!

The Shinshin experience was amazing. Living here in the Jewish community is so unique. Even though I wasn’t born here I felt part of the community so quickly thanks to everybody’s warmth. I created so many unforgettable moments here. From making new friends, hanging out with my host families, playing and engaging with kids, having dinners with families and preparing programs about Israel.  All these moments made my year so meaningful and satisfying.  I feel that I grew up during the past year. Along with the independence from home we got here I learned so many new things about myself, Israel, my friends, American culture and Judaism.

I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to go on a Shinshin journey. This amazing experience will stay with me for the rest of my life. Thank you Baltimore!

Zohar Shinehorn

Zohar Shinehorn

Hi! My name is Zohar, and I was part of the 2020-2021 Shinshinim Hub. This year has been so crazy and full of surprises, that I can’t believe I’m summing it up already, or even starting to think about the end.

For me, this year has been nothing as I imagined nor expected it to be. We were all affected by COVID-19 and the lockdowns, but I never thought that the events could turn this way. First our training, that was all online, then the difficulties with getting my visa thanks to the presidential order and the lockdown, and flying three months later while working online from Israel and participating in different programs organized by the Jewish Agency. Sounds like a rough start, isn’t it? At some points, I was so frustrated by the situation, no one actually thought that we could join the rest of the Shinshinim. I don’t know where I get all of this will, strength and optimism from, or what kept me going, but looking back, I am so glad that I did.

My year was not one gap year in the Jewish community of Baltimore. My year was a long journey, built from shorter adventures and experiences, leading me to this moment, of looking back on my last six months of service here in Baltimore. And all I am left to say, from the bottom of my heart, is that this was one of the most amazing, meaningful experiences of my life, and that I am truly grateful for this opportunity.

When we first got here, it took me so long to figure out how everything works, what goals I want to achieve, to start getting in the rhythm of things. Actually, I only started to figure it out right before our homeland vacation. But since we came back from Israel, I felt like everything was working like a clock. I knew what I wanted to achieve in different aspects, I had a very clear vision of the different goals that I set for myself. At this point, it was only a question of how.

Do you know those little things, those tiny moments of realization, when you take a step back, and suddenly say- wow, I made it? I achieved what I was wishing for? Those small moments filled with satisfaction, and with a sense of meaningfulness. For me, those are taken as reassurance, as a sign that I’m doing things in the right way and getting closer to my goals.

Well, without any sense of how, I started living those moments. Another sentence, another student coming up with an act of kindness, another feedback, another moment of being really proud of myself, of my team and of our achievements. I started feeling as I was achieving my goals, and that was the best feeling ever, putting all of the puzzle pieces together, understanding what was I doing here and its meaning.

I really don’t know how to put this journey into words. All I know is, that day after day, class after class, events and programs, I had more and more of those moments, and that is truly the best feeling ever.

At the beginning of this year, I was asked what is my main expectation of this experience. The answer to this question, I was only able to figure out during the last weeks of this year. Now, thinking of my year as a Shinshinit here in Baltimore, I know exactly what I was expecting. My biggest expectation, in which I am truly happy to say that I have achieved, is to have such an amazing adventure, that would make the greatest goodbye. I was expecting connections that I would be so sad to maintain from far away, and experiences leaving me with a mixed bittersweet feeling of happiness that they happened and sadness that they are over. I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart everyone that helped make this year as amazing as it was.

Thank you to the amazing community of Jewish Baltimore, for the best year I could ask for.