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ShinShinim – Bringing the Spirit of Israel to Bialik

“They are coming! Are they here yet?” Then, to thunderous applause “they” walk into our opening school assembly. Who could generate such excitement in school? The Boys in Blue? The Raptors? Drake? None of the above.

“Who?” you ask.

The ShinShinim, of course!

Bialik - ShinShinim – Bringing the Spirit of Israel to Bialik

Whoever said: “Dreams come a size too big so we can grow into them,” was so right. At Bialik, now in our 11th year of the ShinShinim program, we dreamed big. As a result, instead of having two young emissaries at our school, this year we have four ShinShinim.

Bright, talented and enthusiastic, the ShinShinim have joined our school community for one year, making bonds and connections with our students, families, and community. Rotem Sahar and Asaf Cohen are at the Viewmount branch and Itamar Degany and Noa Dolev are at the Himel Branch.

“ShinShin” is an abbreviation for “Shanat Sherut,” meaning “a year of service.” The UJA’s Israel Engagement ShinShinim are young leaders who defer their army service for one year to volunteer in communities around the world. Our ShinShinim contribute in innumerable ways to our vibrant school community. They facilitate many programs that nurture a real personal connection between young Israelis and Canadian Jews. It is through the ShinShinim that our students are able to develop an authentic relationship with Israel and a more complete understanding of Israeli society.

Bialik - ShinShinim – Bringing the Spirit of Israel to Bialik


Our ShinShinim also partner with Temple Sinai, Darchei Noam, the Schwartz Reisman Center and BBYO.

Students share with the ShinShinim what is unique about the Toronto Jewish community so that they become more informed Israeli leaders. The goal of the program is to strengthen the local Jewish community and its institutions by engaging and building relationships to modern Israel and the concept of Jewish peoplehood.

Itamar, Noa, Rotem and Asaf are certainly up for the challenge. But, for our students, they are celebrities who are fun, friendly, engaging and super cool! They are celebrities who go out for recess, play ball and hang out with the students. They make it cool to speak Hebrew.

Hosted by Bialik, Darchei Noam and Temple Sinai families, the ShinShinim cannot believe how amazing their host families are to them, and the families feel they have gained another member. During the High Holidays, when it was difficult to be far away from home, the ShinShinim were happy to be made to feel so welcome and part of the community.

We are very fortunate to be given a year with these four very special and talented young people. Asaf Cohen comes from a small agricultural town call Givat Ada. He is a physics and theatre major. Rotem Sahar lives in Kfar Saba. She wants to specialize in neurosurgery and sings and plays guitar in a band. Itamar Degany lives on Kibbutz Hatzor-Ashdod, studies Arabic and physics and is an active player on Israel’s National Badminton Team. Noa lives in Kiryat Haim, Haifa. She is majoring in biology and communication and is an accomplished dancer and guitarist.

In our short time together, the ShinShinim have planned sukkot activities, Yom Rabin and peace-related programs, and joined the Grade 6 students at Camp George. And that is just in one month! With their many talents, this is sure to be a year of exciting ShinShinim activities.

Kathy Friedman
Director of Jewish Studies