Goodbye Milwaukee! I had the chance to teach about a great passion

It all started three years ago when I saw a post on Facebook about a youth delegation called teen mifgash, coming to Milwaukee. The delegation was heading to Milwaukee, which is the partnership region of my home, the Sovev Kinneret region of Israel.

I applied to join the delegation to Milwaukee and came for two weeks. One week was spent in Milwaukee and one week at Steve & Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken JCC in Eagle River.

I had the best time and met so many people on the trip and we have stayed in contact ever since. One of the best things to happen to me during that time was meeting the shin shins, Omer and Orni, who were here in 2016-2017. They explained the role of the shin shinim and why it is so important to have them in the community. I immediately knew I wanted to apply and take part in this amazing program in the Milwaukee Jewish community. After I returned home to Israel, I announced to my parents that I was going to do a gap-year abroad before I even applied.

What’s a shin shin?
An annual young emissary program brings two 18-year-olds from Israel to Milwaukee to spend a pre-army year doing volunteer service abroad. Each of the 18-year-olds is called a shin shin. The program is funded and organized locally by Milwaukee Jewish Federaton in cooperaton with the Jewish Agency for Israel.

The application process with the Jewish Agency for Israel was extremely challenging, but each step of the journey helped me to understand the real reason why I wanted to become a shin shin. When JAFI told me that I was selected for one of the shin shin positions, I was beyond happy! After all, it was a two-year dream of mine that finally came true.

I’ve participated in six seminars, had two wonderful supervisors, had one amazing year and got to work with one incredible partner who is like a brother, Yogev. It has been a true living dream!

Shin shimim Yogev Toby and May Ben Shabat

Yogev and I have worked all over Milwaukee and have tried our best to be everywhere all the time. We didn’t want to miss a single moment from this long yet very fast-moving year.

Throughout the year, I had the opportunity to teach all about one of my greatest passions: Israel. I loved every single program, lesson, game, and all the creative working time I had with my partner, Yogev. I know I’m going to miss all of it!

During the year I had two host families that are now my actual families forever. The moments I shared with them helped me feel at home and I know that this connection will never be broken.

Camp has been a different experience and has been a whole new world for me. I love seeing and learning about all the little traditions which I would never see anywhere else but at Camp Interlaken. Something is always happening at camp and I’m pretty sure I have FOMO (“fear of missing out”) thanks to camp.

During the first and second sessions we planned Israel Fest for camp, and all those moments when I saw kids dancing to Israeli music and trying to learn some cool new Hebrew slang made me feel like all the hard work was so worth it. Being at camp feels a bit like closure for me – after all, it’s the place where I first found out about the shin shin program and now, two years later, I’m back at Interlaken as the current shin shin and it’s amazing for me.

Everything I have experienced during my time in Wisconsin has shown me how lucky I am to be able to do what I love to do. This community is 100% the best community I could have ever asked for.

Sometimes I can’t believe it’s only been a year and I feel like I’ve spent my whole life here having had so many wonderful experiences.

I learned a lot about the American culture, how Judaism is so different here, and what the definition of community really looks like. Every single event I took part in looked and felt like a family gathering, and at those moments, I knew that this is where I belong.

During my time in Milwaukee, I have missed my family and friends in Israel, but I know that when I go back to Israel, I’ll still miss my family and friends, but this time, it will be all of you in Milwaukee. You showed me that home is not a location, but a feeling – a feeling of belonging, of love and safe space, of having people who care about you as you care about them. I feel at home when I’m in Milwaukee.

Thank you so much for an amazing year!  I love and will miss you all.

May Ben-Shabat

Shin shin, 2018-2019