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Connecticut Welcomes Israeli Young Emissaries

ct cover 12-2-11This month, Connecticut welcomes a new group of Israeli Young Emissaries who arrived in late August and are eager to begin work strengthening the living bridge between Israel and the communities to which they have been assigned.

Now in its 16th year, the Young Emissary program is sponsored by the Southern New England Consortium (SNEC), made up of 11 Jewish Federations in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The teens from Israel’s Afula-Gilboa region have delayed their military service to perform a year of outreach in SNEC communities, while living with local host families.

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.

The Ledger asked this year’s Israeli Young Emissaries to introduce themselves. Here is what they had to say about themselves.



Itamar ShohamItamar Shoham
I am 18 years old. I born and raised in Gan Ner, a village on the Gilboa Mountain in the north of Israel. My mother, Tzafra, is a teacher of Hebrew literature and bible, and my dad, Ran, is an architect. I have a brother, Ofir, who is 15, and a sister, Ya`ara, who is 12, and a dog named Bunny. We love hiking and traveling together all around Israel, especially Jerusalem.

Since childhood, I have been in a youth movement called B’nei HaMoshavim. I was a madrich (counselor) for four years. I was also a guide in a program called Etgarim, which means ‘challenges’ in Hebrew. As part of the program, I guided eighth graders in extreme sport activities, such as climbing and rappelling, and I worked with children with special needs. I have attended many seminars, participating in and leading many counseling sessions. For the last two years, I have participated in LEAD, a youth leadership development program, which has changed my life and helped me to become who I am today.

I chose to be an emissary in order to share my love for Israel; to give you the chance to taste a little bit of it, to get to know all its beautiful sides, and with it perhaps some of the complicated things that make up the country and the amazing people in it.


Matan bouterMatan Bouter
I am 17 years old. I come from Kibbutz Givat-Oz in the north of Israel, where I live with my parents Ron and Anat and my two young brothers Amir, 13, and Stav, 11, as well as our cat, Michelle. We love to travel together throughout Israel, from the dry, hot desert to the snowy north.

I went to high school in Kibbutz Ein-Hashofet, where my majors were arts and Israeli philosophy. Working out, reading, listening to music and hanging out with friends are my favorite pastimes. During the last eight years I have been active in the Shomriya youth group, which is part of the youth movement Hashomer Hatzair. This has made up a large and significant part of my life so far.

I love Israel and want to share with you all the best and most beautiful things about my country. I understand the huge importance of the connection between the Jewish communities abroad and Israel. I will work hard to make this year meaningful and successful for all of us.



raz firsternbergRaz Firstenberg
I live in Kibbutz Geva, near the Gilboa Mountain in the north of Israel. I have two older brothers and two younger sisters. My major subjects in school were theater and social science. For the past five years I have played rugby in the Israeli national youth team and I won two medals in the 19th Maccabiah. My many hobbies are connected to art, such as singing, drawing and acting.

Since I was young I have wanted to do a year of community service before entering the army. I believe the Young Emissary program will give me the chance to connect my country with the Jewish community outside of Israel. I feel that Israel is not only my country, it is much more: It is my family, my home, and the place that any Jewish person in the world will be accepted.

To be a young emissary is a huge responsibility and I know I’m going to do the best I can to make this year unforgettable for both myself and the New Haven community.


ofir ronOfir Ron
I am 18 years old and live in the north of Israel in a small community on the Gilboa Mountain named Gan Ner. I have a 22-year-old sister and a twin brother. Before joining this program, in my free time I was a counselor in a youth movement. I also love to play the guitar and to sing. When I was four years old I moved to Connecticut with my family for three years. As a child living in Connecticut, I always looked up to the young emissaries and I’m very excited to get the chance to be one myself this year – and to be one in New Haven.




noa brosh1Noa Brosh
I am 18 years old. I come from the north of Israel where I live in a small village called Korazim, with my father, Yoav, and my mother, Smadar. I have a 22-year-old sister, Yarden and one special fish called George. I was a counselor in a youth movement in my village for two years, leading a group of kids ages 12-13 and a group ages 16-17. Last year I volunteered with kids who have mental disabilities and it was one of the most amazing experiences I ever had!

It was important for me to come to the Eastern CT community – which I’ve heard amazing things about – because I think the connection between Israel and the Jews in the rest of the world is important. I had a similar experience when I was 16 and at Camp Tawonga in San Francisco. I’d like to return to Tawonga as a counselor after my army service.

I also participated in a 15-month international leadership program for Jewish teens called the Diller Teen Fellows Program. Diller teens are committed to repairing the world and have a sense of belonging and responsibility to their communities, Israel, and the Jewish people. I feel that Diller changed my life and was one of the reasons that I chose to do the Young Emissary program this year.


Ron pelegRon Peleg
I’m 18 years old and live in a small village near Afula named Ram–On. My father, Yuval, is a sales manager and my mother, Michal, is a geography teacher. My older sister, Shahar, is currently a soldier in the IDF, and my younger sister, Ziv, is in middle school. In my free time I like playing tennis and playing guitar.

My family isn’t very religious, so this year I hope to learn more about Judaism  to strengthen even further my Jewish identity.

I chose to be in the Young Emissary program because during my sister’s year in this program – Shahar was a young emissary in Worcester, Mass. three years ago – I saw how important it is to have a connection to Israel and how important the work of a young emissary is to the community. Another reason that led me to this program is the presentation of Israel in the world. Sadly, today Israel is shown as the “bad guy” in the Middle East. I believe that I can help change that image by communicating what is really happening there.

Israel is my home, the place I feel connected to – the land, the culture. This year, I want to show you Israel as I see it – from the country’s special atmosphere during the holidays, to her beautiful views – the Negev, the Golan Heights and especially the Gilboa.



naomi cohenNaomi Cohen
I live in Kiryat Tivon, a small town in northern Israel, near Haifa. I have three younger brothers – Uriya, Eitan and Asaf – whom I love, and two amazing parents, Iris and Moshe. I lived in Boston, Mass. for a year when I was in the first grade, and then for another year when I was in the eighth grade, while my dad completed his Doctorate at Harvard University. While there, I went to the Edward Devotion School in Brookline. I played the piano for seven years and I play the guitar as well. Music and traveling are a main part of my life.




tal inbarTal Inbar
I am 18 1/2 years old and come from a small moshav (settlement) named Ram-On on the Gilboa Mountain in the north of Israel – one of my favorite places in the entire world. My dad, Eyal, is an export sales manager for a big company called Hishtil, and my mom, Nirit, is a teacher, a grade manager and Mofet manager. I have an older sister, Nitsan, and a big brother, Dor. Both live in Tel Aviv and are serving in intelligence in the army. We are a really united family, and spend a lot of time together. We skydived together and we dove 30 meters in the gorgeous sea of Eilat. I also have an eight-year-old cat named Tiger, and he’s one of the family, too. I liked school a lot and majored in electronics, biology and agriculture.

Ever since I can remember, I was involved in the Bnei Hamoshavin youth movement. I’ve also been in the student council for many years and, in my last year of school, I was head of the student council. What I like the most is Friday, when my brother and sister come back and we eat in a restaurant and in the evening do Kiddush.

When I was in the second grade, my family moved to Turkey for two years, where I studied in an English private school that included kids from all over the world. I will never forget how I felt knowing that the Jewish culture was not the majority culture. When I heard about this program I didn’t know why I related to it, but today I know. It is the closing of the circle; after this year I’m going to serve my country in the army.



lidorLidor Osmo
I am 18 years old and live in Nesher, a small city next to Haifa. I live with my parents and my brothers. My father, Rafael (Rafi), is head of the Sports Department in Nesher; my mother, Simha, is an economics teacher. I have an older brother, Liad, who is currently in intelligence in the army, and a younger brother, Shaked, who will celebrate his bar mitzvah this year. In high school I studied chemistry, physics, Middle East studies, English translation, and many other subjects.

I’ve played the guitar since the age of 12; I love listening to music, hanging out with friends, watching movies and playing tennis. I spend a lot of time volunteering at school and in the community. In school, I was chairman of the Student Council and one of the founders of the Debate Club. I participated in the Tournament of Champions of the World Scholars Cup at Yale University last November, and I’m an active member of Halas, a group in which students counsel and mediate between students and between students and teachers.
Outside of school, I am chairman of the Municipal Student and Youth Council of Nesher, and a member of the Regional Student and Youth Council of Haifa district and of the National Student and Youth Council. I participate in various committees in the Knesset and in my city, organizing youth activities.

I love my country. That is why I chose to be an emissary. I believe that the real voice of Israel is not being heard and the story of what is really going on here is not being told as it should be by the world’s media.


Yarden bengioYarden Bengio
I live in Gan Ner, on the Gilboa Mountain in the north of Israel. My mother, Inbar, is a food engineer and my father, Izik, is an economist. My brother, Idan, is 14, and my sister, Nitzan, is 11. I go hiking with my family and my youth group often. I also enjoy working out, specifically running. I studied ballet for 12 years, and I majored in school in physics, math, English and theater.

During the last three years, I served as a guide in a youth movement, leading fourth, sixth and eighth graders; and for the last year I also coached younger guides. I was also a guide in a program called Etgarim – ‘challenges’ in Hebrew. There, I guided eighth graders in extreme sport activities such as climbing and rappelling. As a part of this program I also worked with children with special needs. I have attended many seminars and now I’m a counselor myself. One of the activities I am proud of is organizing the annual two-day opening for the guides. In addition, I guided many hiking trips and was responsible for many of the community events. As part of my final exam in theater, I directed a play dealing with integration of people with special needs in the society.

I decided to become an emissary because I’m aware of the importance of the connection between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. I believe I can contribute to both Israel and the Jewish community.


Yuval HochmanYuval Hochman
I am 17 years old and live in Moshav Ram-On next to the Gilboa Mountain in the north of Israel. I live with my parents, Hezi and Yael, my older brother, Bar, who is now serving as an officer in the army, and my 13-year-old brother Peleg. I went to school in Kibbutz Ein-Harod, where I majored in social science and history. I love traveling in Israel. Music is a big part of my life; I love singing, cooking and reading. I was also part of my school’s delegation to Poland, where we visited concentration camps and sites that were once a main part of the Polish Jewish community in Poland and were destroyed. I was also a counselor for two years in the B’nei HaMoshavim youth movement.

I love my country so much and want to spread the word about all her best aspects, as I see them. I understand the huge importance of the connection between the Jewish communities abroad and Israel. I also want to learn as much as I can about your culture and Jewish lifestyle.



Tal livniTal Livni
I live in Kfar-Tavor, which is located in the north of Israel. I have two older sisters, Shay, 23, and Nitzan, 20 – and two dogs, Lady and Berry. My parents were born in Israel; my father’s parents came from Romania and Hungary, and my mother’s grandparents came from Poland and Ukraine. My parents have many brothers and sister, and I have many cousins. I love my family very much; they impact who I am. 
I decided to become a Young Emissary because I believe that the connection between the Jewish people around the world is very important. I’m looking forward to getting to know all of you and become part of the community.


aviv jerbiAviv Jerbi
My mother and her family made aliyah from Morocco. My father was born in Israel, but his parents made aliyah from Libya. I have two sisters, Mali and Adaya, and three brothers, Amnon, Meydad and Liav.  I also have four nephews.
My family is a big part of my life, I tell my mom everything that happens to me, and my nephews make me happy every time I see them.

I live in a small village called Tefahot, which is in the north of Israel. It’s a religious village (I am secular) and I am very involved in my community.
I am taking part in this program because I believe that the Jews in the Diaspora and the Jews in Israel should be united, and should maintain a connection with one another. I already have many ideas to bring our communities together!



noa elishaNoa Elisha
I live in a moshava – a small village – named Binyamina, which is between Tel Aviv and Haifa. My father, Doron, and my mom, Tamar, both work as managers.

I have two little brothers, Guy, 16, and Itai, 12 – as well as a dog named Bunny.

I’ve been in the Binymina scouts for nine years; I was a counselor for two years and was head of the scout’s community staff.

I love spending time at the beach, which is a 10-minute drive from my home. I love drawing, dancing, going on trips, surfing wakeboard and hanging out with friends.


ofek livniOfek Livni
I live in Moshav Ram, a lovely place near the Gilboa Mountain. My mom, Vered, is an architect, and my dad, Raz, is a building supervisor and a security guard on the moshav. I have an eight-year-old brother, Tav, and a 22-year-old sister, Lee, and a beautiful Japanese Akita dog called Imahime. I was in the youth movement B’nei HaMoshavim for nine years, and a counselor for three years.

I love sports – basketball, soccer and tennis – and I trained for 11 years in Shi Hon martial arts, in which I now have a black belt. I also love the outdoors and camping, music and the sea.

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