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two young white women wearing white shirts and Israeli flag "Minnie Mouse ears" headbands
Enav and Maya at Yom HaAtzma'ut (Israel Independence Day), one of the highlights of their year of service.

Todah Rabah (Thank You), Indy!

(Published July 27, 2021) By: Enav Elhaiany Perez and Maya Hirshberg

It’s safe to say that our shnat sherut, or year of service as Shinshinim/young Israeli emissaries between graduating high school and joining the army, did not quite begin as anyone expected it would. Because we arrived in Indianapolis in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, our first introductions to this community were virtual, and several of our programs continued to be held onscreen for many months. But as soon as our two-week quarantine period ended, we started getting to know as many people as we possibly could (safely, of course):

A black woman setting up a video camera, with two young white women standing about six feet away from her
Interviewing with Katiera Winfrey of WISH-TV
  • We attended events like Adopt-a-Family, the community menorah lightings in Celebration Plaza and Latkes & Lights at Newfields
  • We began working with JCC Early Childhood and After School Care students, teaching them about Israeli culture and holiday traditions
  • We even made it onto the news when we did an interview with WISH-TV

As the year went on, we continued to come up with creative ways to share Israel with Indianapolis. We met virtually with synagogues to teach cooking classes and religious school, we created a “Trek Across Israel” challenge for Mordoh Fitness Center users to follow, we conversed with several groups of Jewish teens and 20-somethings, we held a discussion with an Israeli entrepreneur, we taught an Israeli dance class, we decorated JCC hallways and, as COVID-19 restrictions loosened, we planned our own in-person celebrations, the biggest of which was Yom HaAtzma’ut (Israel Independence Day). And of course, we spent the summer bringing Israeli culture to CampJCC.

A group of children holding signs that read "To all of the kids in Israel we hope you are safe and sending you hugs"
JCC After School Care kids sent a message of love to the children of Israel during Operation Guardian of the Walls.

This year had its challenges, too, especially during Israel’s Operation Guardian of the Walls. But while it was difficult to be so far away from home, we couldn’t have asked for a better support system. To the Daniel, Keren, Koehler, Pitzele and Rich families, thank you for welcoming us into your homes and caring for us. To all the JCC staff and other Jewish organization colleagues we’ve had the pleasure of working with, thank you for championing our ideas and allowing us to lay the groundwork as Indy’s first-ever Shinshinim; it is an honor we have not taken for granted. And finally, to all the community members we’ve had the privilege of meeting, we want you to know that you’ve had just as much of an impact on us as we hope we’ve had on you. We have so enjoyed getting to know each and every one of you, and we definitely want to keep in touch.

If you’re in Israel, look us up! We’d love to show you around our home just as you all brought us into yours. Todah rabah, thank you very much, and l’hitra’ot, until we meet again.

All our love,

Enav and Maya

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