by The Levy Family

When Atlanta Shinshinit (feminine form of Shinshin) Yuval Modan moved into our guest room in October, our entire family fell in love with this poised, mature, and beautiful 18-year-old young woman from Hod HaSharon, Israel. This is Yuval’s first time in the U.S., and her first time away from home, but you’d never know it. She is friendly and adaptable, like a puzzle piece that fits in and completes our family. She has created a special relationship with each one of us.

For Sydney, our 11th grader, Yuval is like a sister. “She has been teaching us Hebrew and sharing her Israeli traditions with our family. Molly braids challah with her most Fridays, Jordan watches Grey’s Anatomy with her, and I spend hours talking to her about our life experiences. Through bonding with Yuval, I have learned about her high school life in Israel and her passion for the scouts. She has introduced us to Israeli games and food.”

My husband Sam and I agree — Yuval has become our Israeli daughter.

Our family hasn’t had much exposure to Israel. I haven’t been since 1995. My husband Sam’s second trip to Israel was last January, on the Community Leadership trip, and Jordy went to Israel with Davis Academy. Yuval has changed all that. This summer Sydney is going to Israel with Camp Judaea and is already thinking about doing a gap year in Israel after high school. Yuval will be working at Camp Barney Medintz this summer while Sydney is there. I believe that Yuval’s positive experience in Atlanta gives Sydney the confidence to go to Israel on her own. What a gift!

Yuval teaches us all the time. Not just about Israeli food and culture and language, but about how to be an ambassador. In turn, I think we’ve provided a wonderful nest for her in our home. Teenagers are at their most vulnerable when away from home. If you open your arms and your heart to a Shinshin, you’ll give a gift to your family.

When she left for Atlanta, Yuval’s mom said, “Don’t fall in love with America or you might not come home.” I totally understand her mom’s worry. But I know Yuval’s love for Israel is deep. She can’t wait to serve in the army and is passionate about her land. We are excited to welcome Yuval’s family for Passover at our home — all of them, except her oldest brother, who is serving in the army, will be here soon.  It brings our families full circle and sets up a lifelong friendship for all of us.

Shinshinim Atlanta brings 18-year-old Israeli high school graduates to Atlanta for a year of service. If this story touched you, consider welcoming a Shinshin into your own home next school year. Find out more about hosting here, or contact Ezra Flom, Shinshinim Atlanta Director at 562-234-6609.