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Getting to know our Shinshinim, Noa and Itamar, by Marcy Tepner

03/10/2018 10:00:58 AM


Marcy: Welcome to Toronto Noa and Itamar! I understand that Toronto has the largest group of shinshinim in the diaspora and the program here is in its 12 th year. You have both deferred your army service for one year in order to
volunteer as Israeli emissaries here in Canada. Tell me a bit about yourselves and what part of Israel you are from.

Noa: I come from a suburb of Haifa. In my family, I am the eldest of 3 girls. I love dance, mostly lyrical and contemporary, and I play the guitar and the ukulele. I have been very active for the past number of years in the Diller Teen Program
both as a Fellow and later as a junior counselor. The leadership experience that I got from that organization has taught me so much about working with other teens. I’m excited to use this experience to impact other Jewish youth in Toronto.

Itamar: I come from Kibbutz Hatzor-Ashdod. It’s about a 45 minute drive to Beersheva or Tel-Aviv from where I live. I am a third generation Kibbutznik. My grandmother was a “hippie” and made aliyah to Israel from the U.S. when she
was in her 20’s. She met my grandfather there on a kibbutz and never left. It’s so nice to be able to live in such close proximity to my entire family. I have a younger brother and an older brother. I play pro badminton and was the Israeli Junior
National Champion this past year! I also like to play bass guitar. For the past few years I was very active in Hashomer Hatzair. I have been accepted into the Pilot’s course for my Army service.

Marcy: Has coming to Toronto been a culture shock? What are your first impressions of this city?

Itamar: I was blown away by the size and the diversity of people! Everywhere I went there were “rivers of people” from all ethnicities. Also I was impressed by how much greenery there was in the city.

Noa: I’ve been to Toronto before (for my sister’s Bat-Mitzvah trip) so I kind of knew what to expect. Coming from Haifa, I was more used to big city life than Itamar. Even so, it was hard to contain my excitement when we landed!

Which organizations will you be working with while you are here?

Noa: During the week we will be working at Bialik North, the Schwartz- Reisman Center, the Holocaust Center and BBYO. On the weekends, we will be at Darchei Noam for Shabbat services and the Hebrew School on Sundays. Every Monday we
have “Federation Day” at the Prosserman JCC. It’s like a P.D. day for the all the Shinshinim.

Marcy: Wow! That’s a busy schedule! What exactly are you required to do for these organizations?

Itamar: Our role is to provide age-appropriate programming for each organization. Our goal is to bring “our Israel” to Toronto. Through Israeli based programming and the personal relationships that we make, we hope to strengthen the Toronto Jewish Community’s connection to Israel. We are passionate about Israel – both the good and bad, and hope to share our stories
and views with Torontonians.

Marcy: I’m curious to hear your thoughts about Reconstructionist Judaism. I know the movement doesn’t exist in Israel.

Itamar: I come from an extremely secular background. My family doesn’t go to synagogue. Instead we celebrate the Jewish Holidays on the Kibbutz. It’s incredible to have a Passover Seder with the entire community in the Kibbutz Dining Hall. When I first came in to Darchei Noam and met with Rabbi Tina, I felt a little intimidated because of my lack of religious knowledge. But the Darchei Noam community has been so welcoming and supportive that I now feel more
comfortable. I’m a work in progress.

Noa: I too come from a secular background. Most synagogues in Israel are Orthodox. There are not many religious options. I’m really in the process of exploring my spiritual and religious beliefs. I love the fact that Darchei Noam is so inclusive, egalitarian, and progressive, though as a female, I’m still not comfortable putting on a kippah. I love the tradition of wrapping everyone up in a tallit for the community prayer. One thing that shocked me was to see that people needed a ticket to attend High Hoy Day services. In Israel, synagogues are open to everyone and there is no fee to attend.

What impact do you hope to have on the Toronto Jewish community?

Noa: I really want to share my personal perspective on Israel – what it’s like to live
there, the issues we face on a daily basis etc.

Itamar: There is so much negativity from the media about Israel. I want to
highlight all the positivity. And, I want to make meaningful connections with
people here in Toronto that will hopefully last a lifetime.

What are you most excited about experiencing in the coming year?

Noa: I am excited to experience new cultures, and even though I am a vegetarian, I want to try as many new foods as possible. There is so much to see and do in Toronto. I try to get downtown whenever I have some free time. Itamar and I have already been to two concerts – Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars! Both were amazing! Also, I’m excited to experience a Canadian winter – NOT!

Itamar: I’m enjoying big city life! Navigating the TTC on my own and being independent are wonderful challenges. And, I’d love to try skiing!

Noa and Itamar are delightful to talk to and really want to get to know the D.N. congregants. They will be at Darchei Noam most Shabbats. Come and say hello, invite them to your home for a meal, practice your Hebrew, attend their programs or challenge Itamar to a badminton match!

Noa and Itamar, Bruhim Habayim!

Thu, 23 May 2024 15 Iyar 5784