Late last month, Connecticut welcomed 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 state’s Jewish 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.
Before they fanned out across the state, the teens were treated to a day of fun and orientation at the picturesque Camp Laurelwood in Madison. There they had the opportunity to meet the heads of Connecticut and Massachusetts Federations and other Jewish community leaders.
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
New England’s 2019 Israeli Young Emissaries.
“I really love this place!” is how Tal Amar describes her hometown of Netanya, with its beautiful beaches and picturesque promenades. The daughter of Dalit and Edi Amar, Tal is the oldest of three children.
Tal, who enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading books and listening to music, was involved in the Scouts program for several years, eventual becoming a guide to younger scouts and, as a senior in high school, a leader for children with special needs.
Tal says she is looking forward to making connections, sharing her stories and learning all about the people in her new community.
“I see this shlichut (emissary program) as a way to continue the connection between the Jewish community of Eastern CT and Israel and to teach you about Netanya,” she says.
Roi Refaeli comes to Connecticut from the city of Kfar-Saba, located in the center of Israel. Roi’s father, Danny, is the vice president of a company called Zaifer; his mother, Sharon, is a CPA. Roi lives with his parents, his younger sister, and a dog named Yuli, whom he describes as “the most beautiful King Charles in the world.”
A recent graduate of Herzog High School, Roi loves to draw and work out in the gym. where he participates in a program called “5 Fingers” – a military combat training program. He also takes part in a youth program called “Neta,” which aims to bring people together from all around the country, regardless of race or religion, through a mutual interest in technology.
Through his shlichut, he hopes to help unite the Jewish community abroad with the people of Israel. “We need to be much more involved with one another,” he says. “We are all part of one big family no matter where we are living. This gives me satisfaction that I’m doing something meaningful.”
Shaked Buzaglo is from the town of Nesher in northern Israel, where he lives with his family – his parents, Avi and Eti, and his two sisters. For the past five years, Shaked was very involved in Nesharim, his local scout movement, and spent many of his summers working as a camp counselor. In high school, Shaked studied electronics, physics, international relations and diplomacy. An avid basketball player, he hopes to continue playing his favorite sport while living in Hartford.
Passionate about the connection between the Jewish people living in Israel and those living in the diaspora, Shaked is excited to both share his stories about his homeland with the community and learn more about life in America.
Gan Ner, a village on the Gilboa Mountains in the north of Israel, is home to Michal Hacmon and her family – including her parents, Liora and Tzvika, and her 21-year-old triplet siblings. Michal describes herself as “curious about how the world works,” which may account for her high school majors, biology and physics. She was involved in the Bnei Hamoshavim youth movement which, she notes, had a huge impact on the development of her values. In her free time, Michal enjoys cooking, baking, running and going to the beach with friends. While in Connecticut, Michal hopes to fulfill her dream of strengthening the connections between Jews throughout the world and to transform negative views about her country into positive ones.
Lion Avraham lives with her mom in Barak, a moshav in northern Israel, and close by her dad, who lives in Afula. Her majors in high school were psychology, sociology, and theater. She likes to read and explore nature – and to simply hang out with her friends and cousins. For Lior, who has experience in leadership through her involvement with an Israeli youth movement, her shlichut in New Haven is a homecoming of sorts: Last year she had a fun summer working for a month as a counselor at the New Haven Jewish Community Center summer camp in Woodbridge.
Tal comes to Connecticut from his home in Rishon Letzion, where he lives with his parents, his twin sister and younger brother. In addition, it is with his family that he enjoys traveling the world. Tal is interested in learning more about the environment which, he says, is why in high school he studied biology and chemistry. In his spare time, he loves listening to music, playing guitar, reading, and simply spending time with friends. Like Lion, Tal has experience as a leader through an Israeli youth movement.
Lion and Tal are looking forward to spreading their love to Israel in our community.
UPPER FAIRFIELD COUNTY
Ella Cohen lives on Kibbutz Heftziba – which she describes as “a beautiful little place near the Gilboa Mountain” – with her parents and two younger sisters, plus two dogs, a cat and several rabbits. (Fun fact: Ella and her sisters, Hadas and Shaked, all have the names of plants!) In high school, Ella studies theater and biology. An inveterate volunteer, at home in Israel Ella volunteers in a dog shelter and with Magen David Adom. “One of my biggest dreams is to fly to Africa and volunteer in an orphanage there. I feel I have a lot of myself to give,” she says.
Through her Shlichut, Ella hopes to bring the Israel she loves to New Haven’s Jewish community, and to learn about Jewish life here. “I want to contribute, to represent Israel, and show the amazing and special sides of it,” she says. “[I want] to tell my story and the story of Israel.”
Noya Ben Or lives in a small town on the Gilboa Mountain called Gan Ner with her parents and two younger siblings and two cats. Both of her parents are massage therapists – her mom, Efrat, also teaches yoga, and her dad, Avraham, works with Tibetian Bowls, special musical instruments used for healing.
In her spare time, Noya enjoys painting, baking and listening to music. She served for three years as a guide in the Bnei Hamoshavim youth movement.
Noya understands the importance of maintaining a strong connection between Jews in Israel and Jews in the diaspora – and, she says, “how we as young emissaries can help it continue to exist.”
Hoshen Peretz lives in Gideona, a small village in northern Israel’s Jezreel Valley, with her parents and two siblings – an older sister now serving in the IDF, and a younger brother, a student at the military boarding school in Haifa. Her father is a jeep tour guide and her mother is engaged in education and works for the Rashi Foundation.
In high school, Hoshen studied biology, nutrition and human resources management, in order to learn “about the person, his body and his soul,” he says. She also enjoys traveling within Israel, and spending time with family and friends.
Hoshen spent three years as a counselor in Mashatzim, a youth movement that prepares youth to be youth leaders through the knowledge and love of the land. She also served as chairperson of the Student and Youth Council in the Department of Rural Education in Israel. Hoshen is also a trainer of the Israeli self-defense system known as Krav Maga. A black belt in karate, she was Israel’s female youth karate champion between 2008 and 2016.
Ido Yaaran, lives in Herzliya, a town north of Tel Aviv. He is the older of two sons.
In high school, Ido studied math, physics and engineering. “Challenges, like school, lead me a lot in my life, and this is one of the reasons why I chose to go on shlichut,” he says. Beside that, he says, “I want to work on building strong connections between Jews all over the world. I was empowered by my work as a junior counselor for the Diller teen fellows, a leadership program for Jewish teens all over the world.
A hard worker, Ido says “Exploring is a key word for me; [you can see it] in my love for traveling and also questioning who I am, my Jewish identity, hobbies and more. I love changes. But mostly, I try leaving a mark.”
Dolev Stav lives on Kibbutz Beit Hashita with his father, whose family comes from Eastern Europe, and his mother, whose roots lie in Yemen and Iran. His stay in Connecticut won’t be the first time he’s lived in the States: when he was two years old his father’s job took his family to New Orleans for three years. In high school, Dolev majored in theater and psychology.
“Ever since I was a little kid,” says Dolev, “I loved learning about Israel and Judaism, and I was very interested in learning aboout Jewish customs all over the world. I strongly believe in making connections and in interacting. I have always been interested in Jewish communities all over the world, and I think that it is important to expand our horizons and learn about our culture.”
Dolev hoped to represent Israel at its finest. “I want to share my point of view of this incredible country with the community.”
Lior Levi was born and raised in Connecticut’s sister city of Afula, with her mother, whose family immigrated to Israel from Morocco, and her father, whose family came from Iran. She also has two older brothers and an older sister, all of whom are officers in the IDF. Lior’s brother-in-law is also in the military.
Dedicated to helping others, Lior participates in “Screen Savers,” a special project that aims to increase awareness of cyber bullying by teaching kids about the importance of being cautious while using the internet. Additionally, she volunteers with Magen David Adom. In her spare time, Lior loves to travel throughout Israel, especially Mount Gilboa and the Jezreel Valley.
“My main goal this year is to bring my own story about a teenage girl living in Israel and make a connection with the community,” she says, emphasizing the need to connect younger generations of American Jews to Israel. “Since I was a young girl, I had a passion to represent Israel.”