The best way to strengthen connections between our local Jewish community and Israel is through the power of face-to-face relationships. To build these impactful friendships, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle brings young Israeli emissaries to town every year, giving community members of all ages a taste of Israeli culture, the opportunity to master some Hebrew, and forums for asking questions about everyday life in our Jewish homeland.
The Federation’s Shinshinim program, carried out with the Jewish Agency for Israel and with local partners, is now in its third year. This year’s emissaries are Tal Bronstain, who is volunteering at Congregation Beth Shalom and Seattle Jewish Community School; and Lidar Efrati, who is working with children and adults at Seattle Hebrew Academy and Minyan Ohr Chadash.
Tal comes to Seattle from her hometown of Haifa, where she studied photography, art, and communications in high school. Tal also led a team of students, Zevet Havai, who volunteered to help physically and mentally disabled children, Holocaust survivors, and patients at Haifa’s children’s hospital. Lidar’s hometown is Ramat Gan, a city east of Tel Aviv. In high school, her major was physics and Toshba (oral Torah). Her volunteer work includes service in the “Krembo-Wings” movement, helping teens with special needs. Here in Seattle, she has helped create a local branch of Bnei Akiva, a Modern Orthodox Zionist youth movement.
In an interview with the Federation, Tal and Lidar talked about their goals, experiences, and thoughts about Jewish life in Seattle. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What brought you into the Shinshinim program, and what are your goals?
Tal: In 10th grade, I was introduced to Diaspora teens in New York. I really enjoyed connecting them to Israel. It was very important to me. I want people to keep asking questions, even tough questions, to keep being interested in Israel.
Lidar: I felt connected to Jews around the world, to different cultures. I felt that this was the place to make the most impact. I don’t expect people to be different, and I wouldn’t want them to. I want them to have a signature of something they learned because they heard it from me.
What do you think of Seattle?
Tal: I like it. I love the rain. I live in Northgate, and I love city life. You can get by bus anywhere. I love public transportation. I could be on a bus forever. People are very informal. They all have their own story, where they came from, did they go to college, where they work, how they’re connected to people. It makes a web of interesting stories.
Lidar: I live in Seward Park. It’s a very natural place. I feel like I live in the woods. You can see Mercer Island, Lake Washington. I love the area. It’s amazing. And 20 minutes away, you can be downtown. People are pretty friendly. People are so kind, because the way people drive here is not the same as in Israel, where drivers are crazy! Here, people are so kind. It’s “You go first, no, you go first.”
What message about Seattle do you want to take back home?
Lidar: The fact that people here care about Israel. Some things are different from Israel, but people are still the same. We speak a different language, but we’re still people, we’re all Jews, with the same customs and the same prayers. We have a lot in common.
Tal: Even though we’re 15 hours away by flight and 6,800 miles from home, people here still care about Israel and want to know more about Israel.