Why come to Milwaukee? For you. | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Why come to Milwaukee? For you.


MILWAUKEE – Why would two 18-year-old Israeli guys want to come and spend a year in Milwaukee?

They’re here because of us.

Mark Esman has come, at least in part, because he wants to better understand how Jews here view Israel. Omer Brymok has come because, after a 10-day visit to Milwaukee when he was 15, he decided that “I love the people here.”

The men are shin shins, young Israeli cultural emissaries who spend a year in service in Milwaukee before beginning their service in the army. They arrived in August.

Each year brings a new pair of shin shins to stay with host families here. They spend their time in area public and religious schools, interacting with American teens, spending time with Hillel Milwaukee, at synagogues and at the Steve & Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken JCC, among other activities. Shin shins must go through an application and selection process before they can earn a spot in our snowy city.

Both men like science and computers, but they’re quick to point out they have other interests, too. Brymok loves hiking and says he has hiked every part of Israel, from top to bottom. He likes photography, too, and has combined that with the hiking, taking pictures of places he’s visited.

Esman is a former competitive swimmer who studied Arabic in school and enjoys following the news. This is surely tied to his desire to come to Milwaukee and “feel Israel from afar.” He’s curious “to see how the media here affects the Jews here.”

“Sometimes it’s wrong, sometimes it’s not correct,” he said, referring to media coverage. If you see Esman, feel free to ask him about it!

Esman’s parents made aliyah from the former Soviet Union and he’s noticed the impact of Russian-Jewish culture on Israel.

He came for a short visit with the Jewish community of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2015 and realized he wanted to come back for more. Of the local shin shin program, he said, “It’s the best chance to do it.”

In talking about loving the people here, Brymok seems to have some affinity for our “Midwestern nice.”

“I had so much fun,” he said, recalling his brief visit three years ago with teens at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay and Camp Interlaken JCC in Eagle River.

It was, he said, “the first time I had any experience like that.”