By Amit Toledo
When the Shinshinim landed in Atlanta on September 27, I was feeling excited about the unknown and ready to tackle the two weeks of quarantine. Yet I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I was actually here. There were so many times over the last many months when all of us were worried the program would be cancelled for the year.
My adventure only began to feel real when I met my family, the Seitz’s, over Zoom just a few weeks before boarding a plane to Atlanta. I learned very quickly that they were the epitome of the “All American Atlanta Family” with their photo of the Braves in the background. I spent 30 minutes on the phone with my host sister Barri, who showed me her bedroom as we began getting to know one another.
Spending Yom Kippur and Sukkot in quarantine was the beginning of a new chapter in my adventure. Being quarantined with my Shinshinim cohort I learned quickly how to lean on and trust my new friends and colleagues. We cooked, cleaned, did laundry, and bonded over the two weeks in a beautiful Airbnb in a Roswell neighborhood. (I recommend the quarantine experience for future Shinshinim, not for Covid-19 but for bonding purposes.)
Many different supervisors, rabbis, Israeli community members, as well as current and past host families came to visit us and shared their experiences with our new group. It was overwhelming but I took it all in and learned a lot about the Atlanta Jewish Community.
I was nervous as I entered my new host home for the first time but quickly felt at ease. Though I expected it to feel awkward, it felt both natural and overwhelming — in the best way possible. Of course, the Braves were on TV, the energy was high, and my first American Shabbat dinner of hamburgers was delicious. Our family hike was the topping on the cake!
I’m very excited to see all of Atlanta and am looking forward to making an impact and seeing the changes that will happen in the year to come.