Last year the Davis family opened their hearts and their home to host Yael Yankelevitch, one of Atlanta’s Schoenbaum Shinshinim. It was a decision that impacted everyone in the family in the best possible way, and one they’ll never regret. As Mom Sara Davis says, ‘The most rewarding part of hosting a Shinshin was Yael herself. She became an older sister to my children as well as a close friend to me. She became a part of our family — the piece we didn’t know we were missing.”
Who are the Shinshinim? They are exuberant 18-year-old Israelis who just graduated high school who are taking a gap year in Atlanta before their army service. They are here to share and infuse their authentic Israeli experience across the Atlanta Jewish community.
What would you tell someone considering hosting a Shinshin?
Hosting a Shinshin I would say, is the best gift you can give your family. I would advise going into the experience with an open mind, compassion, and understanding. These are young adults who most likely haven’t been away from home for longer than a month. They are in a foreign country and may or may not know the language. You can be the safe place for them to ask their questions, voice their concerns, and have a warm place to unwind at the end of the day. In the end, you will gain more from the program than they do.
What hesitations did you have before hosting? How have they been resolved?
One hesitation I had before hosting was having a stranger in my home who might not do things the way I would hope or expect. Another hesitation was what if she didn’t blend well with our family, or if her differences made it awkward and uncomfortable. These hesitations were resolved by being open and having clear communication. Don’t just assume someone else will know your routines and how you keep your home. At the same time, understanding goes a long way, they are the ones alone and far from their family and everything they know. Compassion is key.
What has been the impact on your children by hosting a Shinshin?
My young children had an older sister they looked forward to snuggling with at bedtime, playing games together, and learning the Hebrew word of the week. My now 3-year-old still talks about “Yael Bestie” regularly and asks to call her. The guest room in our home is no longer called a guest room but “Yael’s room.”
Host families are needed right away! Contact Jenn Handel and learn more about how hosting a Shinshin for the 2022-23 school year can bring joy to your family.