PITTSBURGH — A group of 18-year-old Israelis recently spent eight hours showing how they could serve Jewish Pittsburgh. As candidates in the Shinshinim Program, administered locally by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the teens shared their ideas and demonstrated their capabilities. The result of the interview, the culmination of a year-long application process, was the selection of four Israeli teens who will serve as Pittsburgh’s 2022-23 shinshinim, or neighborhood emissaries of Israel and Israeli culture. The August arrival of the four new emissaries will mark the expansion of the program from two to four shinshinim. The expansion results from the success of the program in building Pittsburghers’ personal connections to Israel.
The new shinshinim are Michal Dekel, from Karmiel, Misgav; Shahar Kurland, from Karmiel, Misgav; Einav Mayer, from Kibbutz Dovrat, Emek Yizrael; and Bar Zeevi, from Midreshet Ben Gurion, Ramat Negev. Each is a high school graduate who will defer Israeli army service for one year to volunteer in Pittsburgh.
The term shinshinim derives from shinim shinshin, the Hebrew acronym for shenat sherut, meaning “year of service.”
Risa Fruchter, the Jewish Federation’s shinshinim coordinator, was an interviewer in the shinshinim-selection process, along with representatives from the Federation’s Partnership2Gether Program, Community Day School and JAFI. “We saw all four of the selected shinshinim work as individuals and as a team,” Fruchter said. “We believe their different strengths, talents and personalities will allow them to deepen shinshinim service to Pittsburgh.”
One shinshin brings experience working with teens; another, with children. One shinshin has a theater background to complement existing community programs. Another brings musical and media know-how as well as experience presenting to older adults.
Fruchter continued, “I invite Pittsburghers to be captivated by each shinshin’s capabilities as well as to experience how the shinshinim can connect Pittsburghers with Israel.”
For more information about “adopting” one of the shinshinim by serving as a host family, contact Risa Fruchter at
412-992-5253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The two current shinshinim, Amit Haizler and Shahaf Balasiano, will continue serving Pittsburgh through July, providing connections to Israel through programs at organizations and schools throughout Greater Pittsburgh.