Every year, a group of young Israeli adults just out of high school defer their military service to serve for a year throughout Connecticut and central Massachusetts as cultural “ambassadors.”
These Young Emissaries, sponsored by the Jewish Agency For Israel (JAFI) and the Southern New England Consortium of Jewish Federations (SNEC), live with host families and bring Israel into synagogues, Hebrew schools and dayschools, homes for the elderly, youth groups, and public-school classrooms. They design, facilitate, and participate in Jewish communal celebrations and commemorations; they give many and varied presentations on Israeli culture and society. As representatives of Israel, they serve as a “living bridge” between SNEC communities and its sister region of Afula-Gilboa in northern Israel.
What results is a true exchange: While the emissaries bring Israel closer to American Jews, they in turn gain an appreciation of and perspective on the unique spectrum that is American Judaism.
As this year’s group of Young Emissaries prepares to complete their term of service in Connecticut at the end of the month, we asked them to tell us of their future plans. Here’s what they had to say:
Asaf Urie, Eastern Connecticut
I will be volunteering at Camp Laurelwood this summer. I leave for Israel on Aug. 25. My army date is not known at this time but I will be going into a combat unit.
Shai Fogel, Eastern Connecticut
I am traveling around the country in July and heading home on July 30. My army date and unit are not yet known.
Yael Meydan, Eastern Fairfield County
To end this wonderful year that I have had here in my Eastern Fairfield County community, I’m planning on traveling this summer all over the United States. It’s my first time in America and while I have been here, I have not left the East Coast! America is very big and there are so many different and beautiful views that I want to see and explore. I will be traveling with some of the other emissaries from SNEC. I’ll be back from my travels for the last two weeks of August, so that I can spend some time with the community that has been my family for the past year and to say my final goodbyes.
When I return to Israel, I will have a single month to get used to being home before being drafted into the IDF. My two years of service will begin on Oct. 9. It is very important to me to have a significant role in the army. I feel I can achieve this through training the next generation of fighters. I hope to be a trainer, guiding and teaching new soldiers to be fighters.
I want to thank my host families and everyone in the community for this lifetime experience. I have learned so much and you will always be a part of me. Toda Raba; until we meet again.
Rom Bacha, Eastern Fairfield County
After this amazing year that I have had, I have learned a lot from this great Jewish community of Eastern Fairfield County. I have made lifetime connections with many great people with whom I hope to stay in contact for years to come. When I return to Israel, to my family and friends whom I miss very much, I will be able to spend some time with them before entering into military service. On Nov, 21, I will join the IDF as part of the “Shirion” unit; this is the unit that specializes in tanks. I’m really excited to join the army. It’s going to be a very interesting and special time in my life. Until then, I will spend the summer in Camp Laurelwood, volunteering there as a counselor. I am looking forward to a fun summer, making new friends with campers and staff.
Alon Ariel and Bar Yeflach, Westport, Weston, Wilton and Norwalk (WWWN)
After a wonder year here in WWWN, we decided to take some time off and travel a little bit. We will travel to Florida for two weeks and will do part of the Appalachian Trail as well. We will go back home on the end of July. Bar will join Tzahal in October and Alon in November.
Yinon Or, Greater Hartford
This summer I am traveling to California with two other Young Emissaries. I am joining the army on Aug. 21 and I am going to be in a secret Intelligence unit. Thank you everyone for the most meaningful and ‘sababa’ year I’ve ever had.
Gal Ron, Greater Hartford
First of all, I want to say that I had an amazing year, I enjoyed it very much. This July I’m going on a trip to California with fellow Young Emissaries. We’re going to start in San Francisco and travel south to Los Angeles, with stops along the way.
I’m going back to Israel in the end of August, and will be drafted into the army in the beginning of the Fall. During August, I’ll be spending time in Hartford, my community.
Dror Ben Ami, Central Massachusetts
This summer, I am going to travel on the East Coast, though I don’t know yet all of the details. I am planning a spontaneous trip. In the army I am trying out for the Air Force; I want to be a pilot.
Aner Shofty, Greenwich
This summer I am going to travel to the West Coast for a month! I’m very excited to see another side of the U.S. Plans for the army are uncertain yet. I want to go to the Nachal, where you do combat service for two years and one year of communal service.
Lidor David, Central Massachusetts
First I want to say that this year was amazing! I can’t believe that it is over. I was having so much fun that I didn’t notice the time fly by. My plans for the summer are to travel all over California , Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. For the second half of the summer I’m planning to volunteer at a camp, hopefully Camp Ramah. I’m going to be drafted on Oct. 11 and still don’t have any clue what I am going to do in my service.
Anat Desiatsky, Greenwich
I am going to Europe this summer with my family to travel for three weeks in France, Germany, and Holland. My plans for the army are to be in the Intelligence in a secret unit that I can’t say a lot about… but it should be interesting! I had an amazing year in Greenwich, thank you all for making me feel at home!
Lisa Ahuvia, Greater New Haven
In the summer I will travel to the West Coast and I’m so excited about it! I will go to the army in December. I will be in the Intelligence, which is an honor for me.
* “L’hitraot” is the Hebrew version of “see you soon.”