‘Dream to reality’ – Letter to Milwaukee from Gal and Itay

Hi there ! It’s Gal and Itay, the Milwaukee shin-shinim. We can’t believe a year has gone by so quickly. It was a real rollercoaster, but it was absolutely the time of our lives. Where can we even begin? No words can describe all that we have learned, experienced and done this year.

Let’s start at the beginning…

Gal: Let’s go back in time to 2017. A group of American students from a school called Milwaukee Jewish Day School came to my high school – Kadoorie, located in the Milwaukee Partnership Area, Sovev Kinneret. I remember how excited I was when I received the message that my family would host some students and I could meet them. Never in a million years would I have believed you if you told me that five years later I would write you these words all the way to Milwaukee. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity during the MJDS visit to hear about the shin shin program. That was it. I knew it is what I wanted to do. This dream has always marked me: to become shin shin in Milwaukee.

Three years later (while I was constantly nervous waiting for the call from JAFI, the Jewish Agency for Israel), I received the better news — I’ve been selected to be one of Milwaukee’s next shin shinim! I remember it like it was yesterday, I couldn’t believe it. Me? A shin shin in Milwaukee? It always seemed like such a distant dream. That day was the best day of my life. Waiting for the start of the year was all I thought about and talked about.

Itay: In 2018, I went on a month-long delegation to Charlotte, North Carolina, with my school. It was the first time I visited a Jewish community center and discovered a Jewish community outside of Israel. I knew I had to explore and experience more! During the first year of high school, I applied to be a shin shin with the Jewish Agency for Israel. I didn’t know where or even if I would be selected. After a very long six month process, I got the phone call regarding an interview with the Milwaukee community. Milwaukee? I had Nope idea that it was a real place. Long story short – I walked in! I was delighted.

For both of us, coming to Milwaukee for the service year was a little scary. The long list of wonderful ancient shin shinim was also intimidating – we knew we had some. really big shoes to fill, but we were ready for the challenge and for the adventure. Our service here would include representing Israel in the Jewish community, teaching and sharing about our lives, Judaism and Israel, making connections, learning about the culture and people, living with new families, and much more!

On August 19, 2021, we arrived! We were so excited to start our new journey. We were greeted at the airport by strangers holding signs. Little did we know that these strangers would become the closest people to us, the most loving, caring and warm people. We jumped into their cars and for the first time went to our new homes.

The homestay experience was one of the best things we could wish for this year. We have done so much together and learned so much about Jewish life outside of Israel. We’ve done everything with them, from everyday dinner parties to trips across the country. We can’t even explain how grateful we are to them. These are the bonds that will last forever. They have a house in Israel, and we have a house in Milwaukee.

Thanks to the Steele, Mirviss-Jossart, Nelles, Graupe and Stein families. We couldn’t have done this without you. We love you.

We cannot express how much we take with us this year. What we have received has as much impact as what we have given. This year has taught us lessons for life, especially how to deal with long, cold winter (just kidding), but the most The most important lesson is that home is not just one place. It’s where you feel safe and loved, and that family is not just by blood, but the people who care about you most – your story and meaning grows inside you and who you want to become.

Our year has been packed up with amazing things. Sounds like a lifetime, certainly over a year.

We started straight with Jewish holidays at MJDS, Gan Ami and many synagogues in the area, even Waukesha.

Later, we joined the Hebrew classes at Nicolet High School, which was absolutely amazing!

Meeting all the students and teachers was such a blast, but more than anything our goal was to be the face of Israel in the community. We’ve made connections in big and small ways – in the classrooms and in the small chats we’ve had with people at Starbucks, the streets, the halls of MJDS, attending BBYO events, and more.

None of this would have happened without all the people who have been part of our journey. We appreciate you. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience the year of our lives. Thank you for making us prosper. We will forever cherish the best moments of Gan Ami Early Childhood Educationnotthe Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center; MJDS; Nicolet High School; Hillel Milwaukee; Congregations Shalom, Sinai, Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, Emanu-El of Waukesha, Beth Israel Ner Tamid; and more. You have our hearts. Thank you for all the unique people and experiences we have been able to meet and experience throughout this year.

We so appreciate the children and people of all ages, our host families and so many others with whom we have had the good fortune to meet who have become our community, our safe place, our home. Special thanks to Susie Rosengarten, Uria Roth and Tzipi Altman-Shafer of the Jewish Federation of Milwaukee. And thanks to Rabbi Shari Shamah, Heather Spencer, Jori Broidy, MJDS staff, Gan Ami staff, all our supervisors and synagogue staff, Toni Davidson Levenberg and Camp Interlaken staff, Or Eliaz and Hillel d always be there for us. It was a pleasure for us to work with you. You have shaped our experience into the best possible.

We end the year in the best place on earth, Camp Interlaken! It was amazing to end our year in this amazing place. Here we were able to reconnect with some people we already knew, as well as meet new and wonderful people. We made more friendships and were able to do things we had never tried before – waterskiing, working with the campers, experiencing wonderful Shabbats and exploring the beauty of the northern Wisconsin woods. We can’t believe camp is almost over! We love him so, so much and we don’t want to leave.

Now, as we approach the finish line of our year as shin shinim, we are filled with pride, joy and jealousy for the next shin shinim to come to this incredible community. We wish we could start all over and start over. Exactly the same as it was. We want to thank you all for making this year as meaningful as it was. Thank you for welcoming us into your community, for being open to learning with us, for sharing with us, and thank you for all the times we realized we were so happy here – in Milwaukee, our second home. It won’t be too long, we’ll be back.

With then much love and gratitude,

Gal Garti and Itay Rokban

Milwaukee Shins Shins 2021-2022


What is a tibia tibia?
A shin shin is a young emissary, who comes from Israel to Milwaukee for a year to spend a year abroad, often just before serving in the army. The shin shin program is funded and organized locally by the Jewish Federation of Milwaukee in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel.

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