The Macks Center for Jewish Education is proud to oversees the Baltimore’s shinshinim hub. A  shinshin  is an 18-year-old Israeli emissary sent by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel to communities abroad to do a shnat sherut  - a year of service. The goal of the program is to educate people of all ages about Israel and Israeli culture.  Through the program, the shinshinim teach members of our community to see Israel as an integral and crucial piece of their Jewish identity. They create informal programming to generate a more complex understanding of and pride in Israel and to infuse ruach Yisraelit  (Israeli spirit) among the people with whom they work.

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

Meet our Shinshinim

Major in High-School: The subjects I have chosen to expand are computer science and philosophy. I chose these subjects because they are two things that interested me since I was young. And I really love…

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Major in High-School: I go to Omanuyot school,  the school of Arts .As part of my studies, I do 5 points in English and Math. Additionally, my majors are Biology and Theater. When I chose…

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Major in High-School: Arabic and Media   Your Hadracha & Volunteering Experience: I was a Madrich 2 years in Bnei Akiva, in addition to this I was a Madrich in a program in my school…

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Major in High-School: My majors in High-School are Robotics and Physics. I chose to study Robotics because in this major you work in group most of time, and I like working with people and I…

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Major in High-School: In school I study Literature, Citizenship, Torah, and P.E. I study Math and English on a higher level and also chose to add Physics and Biotechnology. I picked these two subjects becuase…

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Major in High-School: My major in school is bio-medicine. I chose this major because my grandmother got sick and it made me interested in the wonders of the human body. In this major we study…

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Major in High-School: my major subject in high school is chemistry and I chose this subject for many reasons. First, I enjoying challenging myself. I knew chemistry would be a challenging class, but it would…

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Major in High-School: My major subjects are 10 pts Biotechnology and 5pts Art. At first I chose biotechnology and Chemistry because I wanted to be a doctor but I understood that I need to learn…

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Read about the experiences of previous shinishinim below.

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.

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.

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.

Ni Ya'akobov

Ni 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 is 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 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 leaned 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!