Mark Winter, one of the teachers working with Maya Shany at Congregation B’nai Tikvah, North Brunswick (CBT) Hebrew school says, “Maya brings a different voice to the classroom. She’s a bright, engaging, young Jewish woman, months from her Israeli Army service as an air force flight simulator instructor. Each aspect of that is great for the students here to see and get to know.”
Maya is one of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ’s two Shinshinim1, teen ambassadors from Israel spending a gap year between high school and military service to introduce people here to the real face of Israel. Federation is the lead funder and manager of the Shinshinim program, initiated by over-seas partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and supported by local partners, CBT as well as Marlboro Jewish Center, Congregation B’nai Israel, Rumson, and Neve Shalom, Metuchen.
In one class discussing Israel’s diversity, Maya played several songs that are “top 10” in Israel. As the students danced to each, they said the songs were nothing like Heyvey-nu Shalom Alechem and other Hebrew songs they knew. Maya agreed: “People in Israel come from all over. And they bring their music with them.”
Maya’s fellow shinshinit2, Dana Zachar, used a similar technique during Shabbat lunch at The Hebrew Academy, showing Israeli cartoon characters dancing to Israeli music and leading the room in mimicking the dance moves.
Dana said, “This is an amazing experience. I’ve never been any-where before where people loved me just because I’m Israeli.”
Maya and Dana also worked closely with local teen leaders producing the Jewish Federation’s recent Teen Israel Summit at which 120 teens from Middlesex and Monmouth counties gathered for “a virtual day in Israel.” It included a Shuk (marketplace) with food, photo ops and free gifts as well as breakout sessions on advocacy, sports, food, innovation, and more.
The Summit connected area teens to Israel. It was made possible due to generous support from the Laurence S. Weiss And Edith G. Weiss Foundation Inc.
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Notes: 1 - name of the program, also masc. pl. Hebrew; 2 - fem. pl. Hebrew.