JEWISHcolorado is set to welcome four young Israeli ambassadors, or shinshinim, recent high school graduates who delay mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces in order to serve Diaspora communities around the world.
Shinshinim spend a year immersed in the local Jewish community, teaching and educating about Israeli culture and society, current affairs, Jewish tradition, and the Hebrew language.
“These students are often called the living bridge between our community and the people of Israel,” said Rabbi Jay Strear, president and CEO of JEWISHcolorado. “By serving here in Colorado, they ultimately strengthen the global Jewish community. The relationships that form between the shinshinim and the young people in our community are real, lasting, and life-changing.”
Shinshinim are chosen from hundreds of candidates after a lengthy and thorough selection process. This year, Itay Kurant from Herzliya (near Tel Aviv), Noa Kurlender from Atlit (south of Haifa), Yali Harel from Haifa, and Yoav Filo from Moshav Kidron (near Rehovot and Ashdod) are headed to Denver.
Shinshinim began coming here in 2015, and since then, more than 4,200 local teens each year have had the opportunity to connect with these intrepid young cultural ambassadors. They are hosted by local families, whose generosity and care make Denver a forever home-away-from-home for the Israeli teenagers. To date, 51 families have hosted shinshinim, and 24 community partners have welcomed them into their classrooms, clubs, youth groups, college campuses and senior centers.
Participants come from all sectors of Israeli society and all backgrounds and include religious and secular youth, new immigrants, and native-born Israelis. In its more than 20 years of operation, the program has sent some 200 Israeli teens to Jewish communities to North America, South Africa, and Europe, and it is but a subset of a larger, yearly Jewish Agency delegation of 2,000 emissaries of varying ages and backgrounds who work around the world at summer camps, university campuses, youth movements, synagogues, JCCs, and Federations like ours.
The Shinishinim program here in Denver is a partnership between JEWISHcolorado and The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). It is supported at the national level in part by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Keren Hayesod–United Israel Appeal, the preeminent worldwide fundraising organization for Israel.
Former chair of JAFI and now President of Israel Isaac Herzog summed up the impact of the program: “The thousands of Jewish Agency shlichim serving in communities around the world bring Israel directly into the homes and hearts of hundreds of thousands of people—children, teens, families. And when they return to Israel, they… [bring] the voice of world Jewry to Israeli society.”