Before I came to Milwaukee I was so excited to start this new experience, but like every new opportunity I had many questions and concerns for this new chapter in my life.
What will my host families be like? Will I feel as though I belong in these families? How will it be to work with Omri, the other shin shin? How does Judaism differ in America from Israel and so many more!
When we landed in Milwaukee many of my concerns went away! I saw all these new people, including my supervisors and my amazing host families with big smiles on their faces and welcome signs which instantly helped me to feel welcomed and at home. Being surrounded by all the warm love and new experiences it made me feel as though I had found a new home and that the year that was to follow would be an incredibly special year.
During my year here, I learned so many new things. Looking back I don’t think that I could have imagined all the new experiences and learning opportunities that have helped me grow into an even stronger person. By being away from Israel, I was able to understand better what it is like to be a Jewish adult in the Diaspora. While being here, I was able to learn about the different sects within Judaism and how people in America are affected and brought together through their similarities and differences. Throughout the year I faced many different challenges.
In the beginning, I found it very hard to be separated from my friends and family. Though my homesickness never fully went away, I was able to break out of my discomfort and finally feel comfortable with who and where I am. One thing that I found difficult was the fact that I was not surrounded by teenagers or kids my age. Fortunately for me, my excitement outweighed any of my hesitation and I was able to thoroughly enjoy my year of working with a different age group. I loved the work that I did and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.
I also struggled with the fact that I wasn’t working with a team. Rather, I was working with only one partner. Like most partnerships, we had our ups and downs. We were able to overcome our differences and our relationship both professionally and socially strengthened from our experiences. Through these experiences we are able to better understand each other and have built a lifelong friendship. I learned a lot about myself this year. Everything that I experienced and the way I handled every situation taught me a lot about who I am and who I want to be going forward.
For me, one of my biggest takeaways is to have self-confidence. I know now that I can handle more and I should have more faith in myself and my abilities to accomplish what I need to accomplish. I would not have been able to have as incredible of an experience as I had, were it not for my host families. The Jewish community in Milwaukee and my friends welcomed me with open arms and though I technically was not home here, I was able to build a new home that I will cherish forever.
Though I missed my twin sister and my family a lot, my new host siblings feel as though they have been a part of my life forever. I really did love being able to end the year at Steve & Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken JCC. It was really exciting stepping into this new opportunity and the relationships that I have formed here will be relationships that I will hold dear to me for the rest of my life.
What’s a shin shin?
The annual young emissary program brings two 18-year-olds – each is called a shin shin – from Israel to Milwaukee to spend a pre-army year doing volunteer service abroad. The program is locally operated by Partnership2Gether of Milwaukee Jewish Federation.