A few weeks ago, Connecticut said “L’hitraot” – until we meet again – to last year’s group of Young Emissaries who completed their year of service in communities all across the state and returned to Israel. Now, Connecticut’s Jewish communities are saying “Shalom” once again, this time to welcome the new crop of 18-year old Young Emissaries who just arrived and are eager to pick up where their predecessors left off: That is, to strengthen the living bridge between Israel and the communities to which they have been assigned. Now heading into its “bar mitzvah year,” the Young Emissary program is sponsored by SNEC, the Southern New England Consortium, which is made up of 12 Jewish Federations in Connecticut and central Massachusetts. This year, 16 Israeli teenagers will serve in eight SNEC communities. All natives of Afula-Gilboa, SNEC’s sister region in northern Israel, the emissaries have delayed their Israeli military service to perform a service year of outreach in SNEC communities, while living with local host families. Pioneered in Westport and emulated throughout North America, the Young Emissary program is a project of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership 2000, which connects 400 communities worldwide with regions in Israel.
Here, the 2011-12 Israeli Young Emissaries introduce themselves:
I live in Kiryat Tivon; I love music – I play piano, mainly jazz, for almost 10 years. I have been in the [Israeli] Scouts since third grade, and now I’m a counselor for a group of 60 teens. It will be a pleasure to bring “My Israel” to “Our Greenwich” and discover our Judaism and Zionism hand-in-hand. I’m sure it will be a fun and fulfilling year for me as an emissary as well as for the community!
I come from Gan-Ner, a community on Mount Gilboa. I’m 18 and have three sisters and one brother. I have been training in karate for 11 years now, and teaching it for four years. Aside from karate, my hobbies are reading, dancing, watching movies, and traveling. As an emissary, I hope to help children and adults in the community to get to know Israel in a different way – the way an Israeli teenager sees it, instead of the way the world sees it.
EASTERN FAIRFIELD COUNTY
I live in Kibbutz HaSolelim, which is located in the beautiful Yizra’el valley in the north of Israel. I have amazing parents and a cute collie dog named Cookie. My parents made “aliyah” 20 years ago and I was the first member in our extended family to be born in Israel. I just graduated from the Israel Arts and Science Academy in Jerusalem, which is a three-year private boarding school. I have been singing in a choir for five years, and in high school I had a band. Five years ago, when I came back from Camp Tamarack in Michigan, I knew that I wanted to take part in strengthening the living bridge between Israel and Jews in the U.S. Israel for me is the only place in the world I can call home.
I live in Kibbutz Ein-Harod, which is below Mount Gilboa. I have two brothers and a sister; I’m the youngest. Most of all I like dancing and singing. I chose to be a Young Emissary because the connection between the Israeli Jews and the Jewish populations around the world is very important for me and, as a Jew, I believe that whatever is happening in the world, Israel always will be our home.
WESTERN WESTON WILTON NORWALK (WWWN)
I was born on Feb. 28, 1993 in Haifa. I have a 14-year-old sister named Neta. My mother’s name is Hagit and my father’s name is Kobi. I have two cats and two dogs. I live in a kibbutz called Kefar Hahoresh, in the Jezreel Valley, which is near Afula. In my spare time I like to travel around my beautiful country, go to the beach, play on the guitar, be with my friends, read books, and listen to music. I am very excited to meet all of you and start our year together. I believe my service year is very important. I hope it will make a stronger bond between Israel and the Jewish people around the world.
I was born on Aug. 15, 1993 and I live in Hever, a little settlement in Gilboa, a 15-minute drive from Afula. My father’s name is Ofer and my mother is Anat. I have two younger brothers: Tal, 13, and Amit, 9. I love to watch their basketball games. I also love to be with my family and my friends and to play sports. I have participated in a program called Unistream for three years. As a part of this program, I volunteered at a place where young children from families in need come in the afternoon. I got huge satisfaction from the experience. As I see it, the most important thing is to maintain the bond between the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora, and the Young Emissaries program allows me to do so.
I live in Beit She’an, a small city in the north of Israel, just near Mount Gilboa. I like sports, especially basketball, working with kids, baking and cooking, photography, and travel. In the last three years I’ve been in a leadership program called Diller Teen Fellows, where I explored my Jewish identity and saw the connection between Israel and the Diaspora. It was a main reason I decided to be a Young Emissary. I have two brothers: Tal, 21, and Omri, 11. My dad teaches physical education in elementary school and my mom is a literature teacher in high school.
I was born and raised in Moshav Tel Aadashim, right outside Afula. My parents started up a company together 25 years ago and have been working together ever since. My oldest brother, Navot, serves as an officer in the IDF Armored Corps, and my sister, Reut, followed my dad into the Air Force commando unit, where I hope to be recruited next year when I go back to Israel. In high school I majored in biology and art studies. My biggest love is art; I love painting, sculpting, and also studying the history of art. I led a youth group for two years as a counselor, working with kids of all ages. I hope to help maintain and strengthen the connection between Israel and Jews in America. It’s a great way for me to help Israel, and a way for me learn about American Jews and different expressions of Judaism. I’ll get to represent Israel, which will give me great pride.
I am 18 and have three younger siblings, ages 15, 12 and 10. I was a counselor in the youth movement for a year. I recently took up playing the bass guitar and also enjoy dance and sports. I love almost every sport, particularly football, soccer, and basketball. I am looking forward to learning about American culture and giving you a new perspective on Israel.
I am 18 and have two older siblings, ages 23 and 19. My favorite classes in high school were music, chemistry, and biology. I play clarinet and dance in a folklore dance group. I was a member of the youth movements. At the end of August, I’ll be traveling with the Gefen Ensemble, an orchestra that plays old Hebrew songs. We were invited to play by a music school in Dresden, Germany, after teachers there saw us on YouTube. The organization that coordinated our visit is “I & EYE,” Israeli and European Youth Exchanges.” I am looking forward to bringing Israel to Eastern Connecticut. I also feel that this experience will help me to know more about my own Jewish identity and to realize the importance of being a part of the Jewish and Israeli heritage.
I’m 18 and I live in a settlement called Shimshit. I’m the eldest in the family. My brother Ori is 16 and my sister Noa is 10. My mother is an English teacher in an elementary school. My father works for the Jewish National Fund. I’ve been taking part in a youth movement, Bnei HaMoshavim, for three years. At the end of eighth grade I took part in the Jewish summer camp Tamarack in Michigan. It was an unforgettable experience and I made American friends whom I keep in touch with until today. In addition, I learned there about new streams in Judaism which I wasn’t familiar with. At the beginning of my senior year, I flew with my class to Poland. It made me ask when and how I can contribute not only to Israel, but also to all of the Jewish people. I love my country and I’m excited for the opportunity to bring some of Israel to Jews in the U.S.
I’m 18 years old and live in a community settlement in the Yizra’el Valley named Alon Hagalil. I graduated from a Rudolf Steiner elementary school and a regular high school. Since age 9, I have taken clarinet lessons and participated in a youth wind orchestra. In my free time, I teach children from my neighborhood to play recorder. During the last three years of high school, I was a counselor in a program called Mashatzim. This program involves taking younger students from my school on different kinds of trips in the area. My mother is head of a molecular hematology lab. My older sister, 25, is a student at the Bar-Ilan University, and my younger brother, 17, is a high school student. As a family, we spend Shabbat together and celebrate holidays with our extended family in our community.
I live in Afula and am a senior in high school. My father owns a company that provides light and sound services for shows and festivals. My mother is a senior nurse and a logistics manager for the Israeli health system in the Galilee region. I have two older brothers, Itay and Orr. Itay was a Young Emissary in Westport. I was a counselor in the Israeli Scouts for two years. I also took part in two important delegations: A journey to the death camps in Poland with March of the Living, and a foreign-exchange student program with Germany. My favorite hobby is dancing and I have been taking classes in all dance styles since I was a little girl. I am interested in coming to Springfield as a Young Emissary for many reasons. First of all, I would like to give back to a community that has done so much for my home community.
I was born and raised in Merhavia, a small moshav next to the town of Afula. My family has lived in this moshav since 1911 and was one of its founders. We own a vineyard and a winery in which I’ve been working since I was a child. My father has a PhD in agronomy and consults for wineries in Israel and worldwide. My mother is an organizational development consultant. I have three older brothers: Amir, 33; Shahar, 30; and Nitzan, 25. I play the bass guitar and I used to play the trumpet. Last fall, I took part in a program called Peace In Music, which involved musicians from Israel, the Palestinian territories, and from around the world, who met in Belgium to work on a concert together. Since I was nine, I have been a member of B’nai HaMoshavim youth movement, and since I was 16, I have been a counselor there. I chose to participate in the Young Emissary program because I have great belief in the importance of the connection between Israel and the Jewish communities abroad.
I’m 17 years old and I live on Moshav Ram On in the Gilboa Region. I have two younger siblings: Ron, 15, and Ziv, 10. My mother, Michal, is a geography teacher, and my father, Yuval, is a sales manager. In my free time I dance, modern and ballet. I enjoy traveling and hiking in Israel and abroad, and recently I became interested in a new hobby, photography. I believe that the Young Emissary Program is helping to strengthen and preserve the bond between American Jews and Israel.
I was born and grew up in Kiryat Tivon, an amazing community near Haifa. I’m very close to my community, to my family, and to my friends. I have an older sister, Nofar, 21, and a younger sister, Linor, 15. My mother is a teacher, and my father is a lawyer. I have been part of two youth movements: Scouts and HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed, where I was also a counselor. My favorite hobby is dancing. I started to dance at the age of three. This is my first time in the U.S. and I am very excited!