I first heard about the Shinshinim Program a little more than two years ago and thought it was something my family should be involved in. The program brings talented Israeli high school graduates to Diaspora communities for a gap year, where they volunteer before entering the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
The Jewish Federation of Ottawa runs and funds the program locally and the shinshinim come to Ottawa and live with three different host families during their stay. They volunteer with our community organizations and bring Israeli language, culture and traditions into our lives.
My husband Michael and I discussed the merits of hosting a shinshin in our home and we agreed it would be a great experience for our family. We were excited to have an Israeli live with us and become part of our family, while doing their volunteer work. However, we had no idea of the impact hosting an Israeli would have on our family.
Our shinshin, Noga Weiss, fit into our family perfectly. It was as if she was always a part of the family. From the outset, we got along really well and Noga had no trouble adjusting to our family while she lived with us. Noga made time to connect with each of us and made sure to find something special to share, whether it was making an Israeli recipe, playing a video game with our son, girl-talk with our daughter, or educating us on Israeli culture and life. The time flew by while she was kept very busy in our community. It was hard for us to see Noga move on to her next host family, and eventually go back to Israel to join the IDF in August 2017.
We have stayed in touch, remained very close, and we video chat at least once a week. Michael and I spent a Shabbat with her family when we visited Israel in March. Noga lovingly refers to us as her “rented” parents and we called her our “rented’ daughter. Her parents were comforted to know she was in such loving homes, like ours, during her time here.
I assumed the role of chair of Federation’s Shinshinim Committee this past spring. We are gearing up for a third pair of shinshinim who are set to arrive at the end of August. I know the community will embrace Inbar Haimovich and Liam Afota, as they are phenomenal new shinshinim that come with a host of experiences to share. Both are well spoken and enthusiastic, and I know they will represent Israel with pride.
Inbar and Liam will spend most of their year volunteering at the Ottawa Jewish Community School, in synagogues, afternoon schools and at Camp B’nai Brith. The Jewish Agency has prepared them well to provide interactive and engaging programming to educate our community about Israel, the IDF, Israeli culture, politics, food, and much more. Combining their training with their own personal experiences allows the program to be so successful.
If you are interested to learn more about the Shinshinim Program or to be a host family, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.