This month, Connecticut welcomes a new group of Israeli Young Emissaries who arrived in late August and are eager to begin strengthening the living bridge between Israel and the communities to which they have been assigned.
Now in its 19th year, the Young Emissary program is sponsored by the Southern New England Consortium (SNEC), made up of the Jewish Federations of Connecticut and Central 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 is pleased to introduce our Jewish communities to the 2017 Israeli Young Emissaries.
UPPER FAIRFIELD COUNTY
Some people might think physics and theater are unrelated. And, well, they aren’t. Still, Bar Degani chose to major and minor in those two subjects in high school. “I chose theater because it’s something I’d like to do in the future,” says Bar, “and I also chose to study physics because I really enjoy learning about electricity, optics and mechanics.”
A long time participant in Israel’s Scouts program, Bar served as a scout leader for two years. “Scouts have played a very meaningful role in my life. I feel that I have a great influence on teenagers and also have also gained so much in return,” she says.
A resident of Caesaera, Itamar Erez is the youngest of four children. He considers the fact that his siblings are considerably older than him to be an advantage. “Growing up in such a mature environment is something I’m thankful for, in part because my parents were much more experienced in parenting,” he says, “and in part because my older siblings had a very positive impact on my upbringing.”
In high school, Itamar studied biology and computer sciences, as well as math and English. A member of his local Scouts group, Itamar was appointed a “rashgad” – meaning he was in charge of all the “madrichim” (counselors) and “chanichim (young pupils) in his group.
A resident of Migdal HaEmek, Yuval Hazan has two older siblings. A long-time volunteer with Magen David Adom, she hopes to become an IDF paramedic instructor.
Yuval calls the month she spent at a Michigan camp when she was 12 years old “the most significant experience of my life.” It was there she discovered Reform Judaism. “I really connected to the idea of Reform Judaism, and that each person has the freedom to take religion to his own place.” She would like to see Israel “open up and make room for” other streams of Judaism.
Besides that, Yuval loves the beauty of Israel’s landscape, the warmth of the Israeli people, and the mix of cultures that have brought to the Jewish state an influx of diverse customs, food and languages from all over the world.
The oldest of four children, Ofek Moscovich lives in Modiin. He majored in art in high school, with a special focus on photography, video art and sculpture. He hopes to serve in one of the IDF’s special units.
As a member of the Scouts movement, he has trained high school students attending Gvanim, a special education school. Ofek has also organized several charitable events, including a dog adoption event attended by 350 people, which he organized in Modiin as part of LEAD, an Israeli young leadership organization.
He loves the diversity of Israel’s people and cultures, and even the physical environment – despite the country’s small size.
Born and raised in Ashkelon, Sivan Gvili is the middle of three children. In high school, she majored in science and Arabic. “I chose to learn Arabic because I think it is very important for Israeli people to know both of the formal languages in Israel,” she explains. She hopes to serve in the IDF as an electronic warfare fighter.
Last year, Sivan was a fellow in Diller Teen Fellows, which took her to Baltimore for a 10-day seminar. In February, she travelled to Poland with her school to study more about the Holocaust.
Things she loves about Israel: The unity of the people, the landscape, and the diversity of the people
Ziv Lavi lives in Kefar-Vitkin, near the beach, just a half an hour from Tel Aviv. The oldest of four children, she is her parents’ only daughter. In high school, she majored chemistry and biology.
During her school years, Ziv volunteered in a boarding school for boys from families who couldn’t take care of them. She also worked with children with special needs and in the pediatric oncology unit of a local hospital.
She hopes to serve in the IDF as a combat medic.As a member of an Israeli choir, Ziv has traveled abroad to places like China, South Korea, France, Switzerland and Canada.
Things Ziv loves about Israel: the beautiful landscape, the feeling of brotherhood and, of course, the food.
Tomer Cohen lives with his parents, his sister and twin brother in Tel Aviv. In high school, he majored in French and biology.
He hopes to become a Mashak Tevel in the IDF – which entails being in charge of international relations. “Contributing to my country has a great deal of importance in my life,” he says.
When he travelled with his school to Poland last year, says Tomer, “I was so proud to stand in Auschwitz carrying the Israeli flag and singing our national anthem. I felt for the first time the feeling of being a Jew in a foreign country.” That feeling made him understand the importance of his upcoming ‘Shnat Sherut’ – year of service – in the U.S.
Ofek is proud that Israel boasts Nobel prize winners, world-renowned inventors and the like – despite the fact that it is one of the youngest developed countries in the world. And, he loves the idea that “Israel is the only country in the world where Jews are not a minority.”
The third of four children, Roni Svisa lives in Givat-Ella, a village in northern Israel. In high school, she majored in biology and philosophy/Jewish philosophy. A guide in a youth movement called Bnei Hamoshavim, Roni also volunteered with Magen David Adom and completed a first aid course.
Roni’s father was an IDF soldier for 27 years. “I was raised on the values of love of country. It is very important for me to give everything I can and have a meaningful service in the army,” she says.
One of the best things about Israel, says Roni, is the celebration of the Jewish holidays – “There is a beautiful feeling in the streets; a sense of unity; a feeling that Israel is one big family.” In addition, she says, ”Israel is a small country that has been through a lot. That society has created a united society; you can walk in the streets with face down and people will ask you if you need help. You can feel the brotherhood among the people.”
Moshav Bnei Zion, near the city of Raanana, is home to Rotem Linchevski and his family. The oldest of three children, Rotem majored in music and psychology/sociology in high school and still studies voice and jazz.
He has twice participated in a music expedition with Moran Choir, representing Israel in music festivals in Russia, Switzerland, Czech Republic, South Korea and France.
“The Israeli culture is full of colors,” he says. “I love the fact that every kind of community has the chance to express itself and to have a part in the Israeli culture. I have eastern and western roots – my mother’s parents came from Iraq and my father’s grandparents came from Canada – so I experience the multiculturalism even in my own home.”
Born and raised in Eilat, Talya Machpood is the older of two children. In high school she majored in biology and French. She was a member of Gulf Rangers, an organization that teaches teens about protecting the environment. She was also a part of the Diller Teen Fellows program, during which time she created activities focusing on Israel and Jewish identity, and had the opportunity to travel to Toronto, Canada. The experience, she says, changed her perspective about the Jewish people. “I got the chance to learn about the history of the Jewish people in Toronto, about their strong community and about their different ways of living,” she says.
Talya hopes to serve in the IDF intelligence force where she can put her knowledge of language to good use.
Talya loves her country’s multiculturalism. “I love the diversity that we have here in terms of our traditions, our opinions, and even our music and food.”
Stav Attias lives in Yashov-Bat Hadar, near the city Ashkelon. One of three children, she studied visual arts in high school and was a member of the youth movement B’nai Ha’moshavim. She also played violin in Kolot Hahofe, a band made up of teenagers from different areas of the regional council. “It’s very important for me to strengthen the connection between Jews in Israel and Jews in America,” she says.
Tamar Melech lives in a suburb of Tel Aviv called Ganey Tikva. She has two brothers – one is her twin – a mom she goes diving with; and a dad who, she says, “is really the one with a sense of humor in the family.” In high school, she majored in math, english, computer sciences and chemistry, and participated in the Model United Nations program. Her leadership experience comes from her participation in Shelach, a program of Israel’s Ministry of Education, in which she served as a guide.