Home Away From Home

HOME AWAY FROM HOME
by Saren Schapiro, Host Family to Shiraz Bar Haim

Why did you choose to host a Shinshinit? What were you and your family hoping to gain?
Over the last few years, our family has seen the incredible experience our friends had hosting teens from Shinshinim Atlanta. Also, our two girls had unforgettable experiences learning with the Shinshinim at their Hebrew school at Or Hadash. When life slowed down this year and forced us to be home from work and school, the opportunity to devote time and attention to a Shinshinit was there. We signed up right away and were so excited when we heard that we would be hosting! I hope this year will be a year to remember for both our kids and Shiraz. We are excited to gain a daughter, big sister, and lifelong connection to Israel.

Tell me about your family’s feelings during the application process.

We were hopeful! No one really knew whether this year would happen or how it would look. We really just went with it, put ourselves out there, and looked forward to a unique opportunity.

So, you heard that you were chosen as a host family. It took a while to be officially introduced to your Israeli daughter. When you were introduced, how did the first meeting go? How did your family begin preparing for her arrival? What were your thoughts, plans, and emotions during this time?
That’s right! We didn’t find out this was happening until very close to the arrival time. The minute we found out Shiraz was paired with our family, we set up a time to FaceTime with her and her family in Israel. We met her mom, dad, and sister, and asked her all about herself. We showed Shiraz her new room as our girls jumped around in the background with excitement! Getting our guest room ready for her was a good incentive to do a little organizing around the house!

Tell me about the drive-by meeting on the day of Shiraz’s arrival. And then the Shinshinim’s two-week quarantine. How did your family manage that?
Meeting Shiraz that first day during the drive-by of their quarantine house was awesome! The girls made big Welcome signs, we brought our puppy along, and got to connect in person for the first time. We were able to get a feel for Shiraz’s personality and communication style. The two-week quarantine was HARD!!! We just wanted to hug her already! Shiraz’s birthday fell on the second day she was in Atlanta, so we were able to bring her a birthday cake and delicious lunch for an outdoor socially distanced party. We visited Shiraz in quarantine a few times over the two weeks, which really allowed us to get to know her. I was shocked and happy to see how quickly she clicked with my kids and was excited to engage with them and play, and how easily she seemed to fit into our family.

Tell me about Shiraz’s first week with you. What were the things you did together to begin the bonding experience?
The first day Shiraz was with us, we spent a quiet afternoon helping her unpack, showing her around the house, and exchanging gifts. Shiraz is such a kind, thoughtful person. She brought gifts for the kids, lots of games and toys, and asked them to help her unpack. They had a blast! My girls gave Shiraz a big basket of things we bought her to help her settle in. The first two nights Shiraz was here, my husband and I, and Shiraz stayed up late and talked forever. We discovered that Shiraz is an incredible young lady, very mature and insightful, with so many ideas and views. Over the first week we have been cooking (shnitzel night was the best!), hiking, playing, talking, having Shabbat dinner, watching movies, and making s’mores! Shiraz has quickly and easily fit into our family and made our house feel complete. We love her already!