Four Shinshinim — high school graduates serving as Israeli emissaries before their military service — have been giving the Puget Sound Jewish community a first-hand taste of what life is like in Israel. Noga Cherzman, Noa Dveyrin, Amit Komidi, and Yikrat Yogev arrived in town last August and are energetically strengthening local ties with Israel in ways only
people-to-people connections can.
The Shinshinim, whose visits are sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel, have been posted at local program partners: Camp Solomon Schechter, Congregation Beth Shalom, Minyan Ohr Chadash, Seattle Hebrew Academy, Temple B’nai Torah, Temple De Hirsch Sinai, and URJ Camp Kalsman. The Shinshinim program is in its second year, following up on last year’s success when two shinshinim, Matan Aizen and Shavit Guttel, spent a year in our region fostering greater understanding of Israel.
The program’s goal is to strengthen connections between Jewish Puget Sound and Israel by bringing Israeli life and culture alive.
In interviews with the Federation, Noga, Noa, Amit, and Yikrat talked about their goals, their impressions of Seattle, and what they plan to share about Puget Sound Jewish life after they return home. The interviews have been edited for length and for clarity. Summaries of the interviews follow.
What brought you into the program?
Yikrat: Before my army service, I wanted to do something different, learn new things. This has been the experience of a lifetime. Few people get to live inside a Jewish community abroad and to make a difference.
Noga: I was raised on Zionism and taught to love Israel, and I want to make sure people know Israel is an option for Jewish people. I want to teach people what Israel is, what life is like in Israel.
Noa: It was a good opportunity to go abroad, meet people, and share my point of view about what is actually happening in Israel. It’s really important that we do that.
Amit: I went to Rochester, New York, on Journey for Identity (a JAFI program), and I was with a host family for a week. I experienced a Reform service. It was such a huge synagogue, and I have never seen a synagogue that is also a community center. That got me interested in the program.
What do people want to know about Israel?
Yikrat: Noga and I live in Jerusalem. We talk about the human and happy side of Jerusalem. We really show the amazing life you can have.
Amit: I get asked about my Sephardic background. I talk to people about current events and about things you don’t hear in the news — like the doughnut burger that Burger King brought out for Hanukkah.
Noa: One main topic is the military service, that it’s required. It’s really a big area of difference between Israeli society and US society. People are curious about my army service: Am I excited, am I scared?
What do you think of the Seattle community?
Noga: People are very open and accepting. Everyone can come in and participate.
Yikrat: The love that people give to you. People open their houses, accepting us, inviting us to Shabbat dinner.
What message about the Puget Sound Jewish community do you want to take back home?
Amit: I’d like to bring with me how open Judaism is here. It’s so different. You can be just Jewish. If you want to convert, you can learn, it doesn’t matter who you are. It’s open to all. It’s beautiful.
Noga: I like how the Jewish community works together. Camps, synagogues, schools, Federation: they connect and work together. I want to bring that to Israel.
Noa: In Israel, you hear that the Jews in the diaspora don’t care, don’t have Israel’s back. People are not indifferent to Israel! They care about Israel.
Yikrat: I’d like to tell people they have friends and family here they’ve never met. I’ve been taught so much by people here. I’d like to make that happen in Israel, to be the ambassador of the Jewish people in Seattle.
To find out more about the shinshinim, visit jewishinseattle.org/israeli-emissaries.