By Cindy Mindell
Every August, a select group of recent Israeli high school graduates arrive in the communities throughout Connecticut and western Massachusetts that comprise SNEC, the Southern New England Consortium of Jewish Federations. They are Israeli Young Emissaries — “ambassadors” who defer their Israeli military service for a year so as to build living bridges between Jewish Connecticut and our sister region of Afula-Gilboa in northern Israel.
Sponsored by each community’s Jewish Federation and the Jewish Agency for Israel, these young adults live with host families and bring Israel alive in synagogues and homes for the elderly, in religious schools, day schools, and public schools, and at community-wide Jewish celebrations. Many lifelong friendships are forged between the emissaries and their host families and sponsoring community members.
This year, eight communities hosted two emissaries each.
“Not only is the Israeli Young Emissary program the perfect ‘living bridge’ between our local community and our family in Afula-Gilboa,” says Steve Friedlander, executive director of UJA/Federation Westport Weston Wilton Norwalk, where the idea originated in the late ‘90s. “But over the years, it has created lasting roots and established permanent communication amongst all who have been part of the program.”
Last month, each pair of emissaries said goodbye to their respective communities. The sentiment was largely the same: We had a great time, we can’t thank you enough, and we will miss you. Eastern Fairfield County’s Ayelet Peled put it this way, “Thank you for everything; for giving me the opportunity to be here, for letting me feel at home, so far from home. I cannot believe I’m saying this, but it’s my time to leave. It is hard, it is not easy, and all I have left to say is that I hope to see you soon, my house in Israel is always open, and I hope to come back to visit you all soon.”
Just as the Ledger has welcomed the arrival of each new group of emissaries since the program was initiated 14 years ago, we now bid farewell to this group of young educators, who have infused our communities with their passion for Israel. The emissaries shared with the Ledger their summer plans and what they will be doing when they arrive home and join the Israeli military.
Ido Goldstein and Yuval Malhi, Greater Hartford
Ido is volunteering at Habonim Dror Camp Gilboa in Big Bear Lake, Calif. and will be drafted into the Israeli Navy.
Yuval is volunteering at Camp Tamarack in Ortonville, Mich., and will be drafted into an IDF officer-training unit.
Hadar Sivan and Paz Assor, New London/Eastern CT
After celebrating her bat mitzvah at Congregation Beth El in New London, Hadar is traveling for a month in the western U.S. with her dad and sister. She is deciding between the IDF’s six-year Mamram computer-programming course and the nine-year air force pilot training course.
Paz is staying in the Eastern Connecticut community until August. He will travel with his mother in the U.S. before returning to Israel, where he has been accepted into an IDF intelligence unit.
Assaf Ben-Kish and Yuval Barkan, Greater New Haven
Assaf is volunteering at Camp Tamarack in Ortonville, Mich. and will be drafted into the IDF Intelligence Corps.
Yuval is traveling coast-to-coast with Rivi Behar and Ayelet Ofir and will be a simulator guide in the Israeli Air Force.
Mori Herzel and Rotem Margi, Westport Weston Wilton Norwalk
Rotem is volunteering at Camp Jori in Wakefield, R.I. and will serve in an IDF intelligence unit.
Mori is volunteering at Habonim Dror Camp Gilboa in Big Bear Lake, Calif. She will be a physical fitness instructor in the IDF.
Ayelet Peled and Amit Hacoon, Eastern Fairfield County
Amit is volunteering at Camp Surprise Lake in Cold Spring, N.Y.
Ayelet is volunteering at Camp Jori in Wakefield, R.I.
Itamar Wilf and Ayelet Ofir, Greenwich
Itamar will be drafted into the elite IDF Talpiot training program for recruits who have demonstrated outstanding academic ability in the sciences, physics and mathematics and leadership potential.
Ayelet is traveling coast-to-coast with Rivi Behar and Yuval Barkan.
Ziv Zamir and Rivi Behar, Worcester
Rivi wants to work in an IDF educational unit, with soldiers who come from difficult circumstances or who are recent olim. Ziv, too, will be joining the IDF.
Ron Gabayon and Noam Zaafran, Western Mass.
Both Ron and Noam will be joining the IDF.
The Ledger looks forward to introducing the 2013-14 Israeli Young Emissaries in August.