Jewish Federation’s Shinshinim Program to Double in Size

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh will double the size of its “Shinshinim” program, bringing four 18-year-old Israelis to Pittsburgh for a year of service beginning August 2019.

The Shinshinim program (derived from “shnat sherut” in Hebrew that translates to “a year of service” in English) offers an effective way to forge deep connections for Pittsburghers with Israel through informal education and relationship-building. Implemented in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel, the program is made possible through the generous support of a local, private family foundation and Federation funding.

The expansion follows the success of the first year, during which Pittsburgh welcomed Shinshinim Raz Levin and Hadar Maravent.

“The Federation is thrilled to be expanding the Shinshinim program next year. After such a great first year with Raz and Hadar connecting Pittsburghers to Israel, we have identified a need in the community for making deeper and more meaningful connections to Israel. This can only be made possible by increasing the number of Shinshinim.”

Jewish Federation’s Director of Israel and Overseas Operations, Kim Salzman.

All four of next year’s Israeli volunteers come from Pittsburgh’s Partnership2Gether sister cities of Karmiel and the Misgav region: two girls (Tamat Nawy from the city of Yuvalim in Misgav and Sivan Avhar from Karmiel) and two boys (Itamar Medina from the city of Tuval in Misgav and Guy Hoffman from Karmiel). The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh funds the Partnership2Gether program.

Nawy and Hoffman have both visited Pittsburgh with Partnership2Gether’s Diller Teen Fellows Program two years ago. Hoffman has also spent a summer at the Jewish Community Center’s Emma Kaufmann Camp as part of the Karmiel/Misgav summer camp delegation.

“We had an incredibly dynamic and talented class of applicants this year,” said Shani Turel, the Jewish Federation’s program coordinator for the Shinshinim. “The four teens volunteering in Pittsburgh next year will make an amazing addition to our community.”

The Jewish Agency’s international Shinshinim program sends 18-year-old Israelis all over the world to volunteer in Jewish schools, synagogues, camps and community organizations for a period of one year. Here in Pittsburgh, the Shinshinim will expose the local community to Israeli society and culture through informal educational activities while establishing meaningful personal relationships with members of the community; thereby deepening American Jews’ connection to Israel while giving young Israelis a chance to connect to pluralistic Jewish communities outside of Israel.

Typically in Israel, high school graduates are required to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF); however, teens selected for the elite Shinshinim program receive special permission from the IDF to postpone their army service for one year, allowing them to volunteer in Diaspora communities.

The Shinshinim were selected out of hundreds of candidates and bring a highly impressive resume of skills that should greatly increase the Pittsburgh community’s engagement with Israel.

While in Pittsburgh, the Shinshinim will stay with local host families. By hosting a Shinshinim in their homes for an extended period of time, the families will develop a meaningful relationship with Israeli youth, creating a long-lasting impact on their connection to the State of Israel.

Next year’s four volunteers will work with the same main three organizations as this year’s Shinshinim did: Community Day School (CDS), the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Second Floor and the Joint Jewish Education Program (JJEP) in addition to various congregations’ religious schools, including Temple Sinai, Temple David, Adat Shalom and Beth El Congregation of the South Hills, and Jewish youth groups throughout the city.

Families interested in learning more about the Shinshinim program or in hosting an Israeli teen in their homes can contact Shani Turel at STurel@jfedpgh.org or 412-320-1935.

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