Most little kids have big dreams. Sometimes those dreams are as big as a tuba.
Alon Lachman always loved music, and when he was only 9 years old he learned to play the tuba–and the baritone, the trombone, and soon afterward the electric guitar and the bass guitar, all of which Alon, now 18, plays very well. Soon, his beautiful music will be in Detroit.
Alon is one of four Israeli schlichim (emissaries), along with Noa Sabag, Tamar Schnitzer and Yuval Weiss-Izhaki, who will be working for one year in Metro Detroit, beginning this September. The students will participate in a Jewish Agency for Israel program called ShinShinim (short for Shenat Sherut, Year of Service, which some Israelis opt for prior to military service). They’ll work at Hillel Day School, the Frankel Jewish Academy, synagogue schools, camp programs, the Pitt Child Development Center and with the Jewish Community Center’s JFamily programs, as well as participate in community events that focus on Israel.
“We hope they’ll be everywhere and meet everyone!” says Dona Stillman, Senior Associate overseeing the Partnership2Gether program for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. “Their role is to bring Israel here in a very tangible way.” Americans often hear and read about life in Israel, she notes, but the schlichim help them understand “what it’s really like to be Israeli.”
The students hail from the Central Galilee, Metro Detroit’s partner region famous for its kibbutzim, moshavim, dance and music festivals – and amazing food. Stop by for a meal there and you’ll likely be served fish, cheese or beef wrapped in the fresh, beautiful scents of locally grown thyme, basil, mint, parsley and rosemary. The Central Galilee is home to more than 4,000 students in 25 schools, and the Israeli Camper Program, Teen Mission and Detroit Community Taglit-Birthright Israel give families in Israel and Michigan the chance to connect.
But back to the food (“Obviously the food,” Yuval says); it’s that, along with friends and family, the Israelis say they’ll miss while in the United States. But mostly they’re so excited to be in Detroit–where they also feel like they have family.
“I already feel part of the Jewish community and part of the family in the States,” Alon says.
When she first met members of Detroit’s Jewish community, “they were so welcoming, smiling and wanting to learn about Israel,” Noa says. “I was very impressed by their love of Israel.”
“I really noticed how welcoming the community is,” Tamar adds. “Everyone I met was so interested in my well-being. In addition, I could see that the community is very strong and united, with a rich community life.”
“I love how much the [Detroit] community’s kids are interested in getting to know the Israelis…asking questions about our way of life and sharing their life experiences with us,” Yuval says.
While here, the four are eager to help Americans learn more about Israel.
Alon first came to work in the United States in 2014, and he has served as a counselor at camps throughout Israel. He’s especially proud that Israel is a country where people are like one family. “Every time Israel is in a war or a difficult situation, everybody helps each other and gets together to feel protected,” he says. One dream Alon has for his home country: He would like to see “all the religions and ethnicities love each other and respect each other.”
Noa has worked in camping since 10th grade, and last summer she served as junior staff at Tamarack Camps. She appreciates the physical beauty of Israel – “the beautiful, green landscapes and the breathtaking desert” – and its citizens. Wherever you go in the country you’ll find people you know or who know people you do, and while yes, she admits that Israelis can be a bit outspoken and brash, Noa also describes them as “funny and nice.”
Tamar has worked as a counselor for 4th, 7th and 10-graders. She would love to help build “a stronger, more unified Jewish community” wherever she goes in the world, and she hopes she can help people around everywhere understand more about what life in Israeli is really like. “No matter how complicated life can be here, it feels safer, more than anywhere else,” she says. Yuval’s love of camping began when he was himself a camper as a child, and in the United States he worked at Camp Maas. Like Noa, he loves Israel’s natural beauty, he appreciates its diverse cultures and peoples, and he says that Israelis are “warm and kind.”
Meet the Schlichim
Alon, who lives in Migdal Haemek, is the grandson of four Holocaust survivors; his father Boris is a physician, and his mother Natalia is an electrical engineer. In addition to playing all those instruments and learning music history and theory, Alon studies telecommunications. He loves reading and photography, and he’s very interested in politics and behind-the-scenes at TV and other media. Alon recently took up a new hobby: He builds drones.
Noa studies biology and theatre, and she enjoys working out and participating in sports. Noa sings professionally and has been dancing for 10 years. “And of course, like every teen ager, I sometimes like to sit on the sofa with some popcorn and watch TV.”
Tamar has two brothers and a sister, and she lives in Shimshit with her mother, a historian, researcher and lecturer, and father, who is the head of a sales department at Tosaf Compounds, Ltd. Tamar is majoring in physics (“Because I really like science”) and theatre (“Ever since I was young my dream was to act, write scripts and direct”). She also enjoys playing the piano, working out, running and swimming, and she loves being outdoors.
Yuval resides at Kibbutz Ha’soelim in the Jezreel Valley with his father Ram, a manager at a high-tech firm, his mother Tahel, a vice principal at a junior high, and two brothers. Yuval studies physics and computer science, an interest he inherited from his father. When not learning about science (ever since he was a young child, “I remember sitting and watching ‘National Geographic’ and ‘Discovery’ channels,” he says), Yuval loves sports: running, swimming, CrossFit, snowboarding and most of all, hiking. He also enjoys reading science fiction and thrillers, photography and filmmaking.
Can You Help?
Alon, Noa, Tamar and Yuval are four of 170 Israelis who will serve as emissaries in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and other countries throughout the world. All are recent high school graduates who will live and work in Jewish communities and serve as educators and advocates for Israel.
Dona Stillman says that the Federation specifically sought out teens from the Central Galilee, Metro Detroit’s partnership region, and young men and women who have previously worked locally. (All four students served at Tamarack Camps, and three were part of the Teen Leadership program.)
Stillman notes that Federation staff carefully considered, “Who would be a good match for our community?” before finally choosing Alon, Noa, Tamar and Yuval. This group was ideal not only because of their previous experience here but because they expressed a real affection for the community; “Detroit already felt like coming home to them,” she says.
Calling all happy households, surrogate moms and dads and siblings!
The Federation is seeking hosts for the schlichim during their stay in the United States. Students will be provided with their own car and will be busy working most of the day, but they will need their own room and a guaranteed residence for six months, Stillman says.
Hosts do not need to supervise their guest at every moment, though they should be prepared to welcome him/her like family. Don’t let the word “teen” scare you. “These are super-talented, polite and really great kids,” Stillman promises. To learn more about hosting Alon, Noa, Tamar or Yuval, contact Dona Stillman: firstname.lastname@example.org or Nina Yahalomi at email@example.com