A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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St. Louis Shinshinim hosting ‘Taste of Memories’ honoring a fallen IDF’s soldier’s favorite foods

For the last seven years, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis has brought a group of shinshinim, or young Israeli emissaries, to St. Louis. They share a taste of Israeli culture through their presence in the community and lead programming at local synagogues, camps and other various Jewish organizations.

This year’s shinshinim, Ofer Ashur, Or Garti, Naama Herz and Yehonatan Zohar arrived last August. They left behind their families to stay at host homes, said goodbye to their friends entering the Israeli Defense Forces to meet peers from the United States, and traveled far from home for a year unlike anything they have experienced before. That would be hard for any 18-year-old, but after Oct. 7, the difficulty they expected increased drastically.

Yehonatan, Naama, Or and Ofer behind the scenes with their cake while filming their first Taste of Memories recipe video.

“Being here during the war has been really hard. We wake up every day nervous to see if anything has changed in Israel,” said Herz.

As their personal lives have changed, so have their shinshinim duties. They have served as strong voices and leaders in the Jewish community through the last six months of heightened antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment. When a shinshin in a typical year might be running more lighthearted activities, this year they have taken on new challenges.

“After Oct. 7, our purpose here has changed,” said Herz. “We always came here to teach about Israeli culture and our lives there, but after Oct. 7 it became much more important for us to teach about Israel and what it is like to be an Israeli right now.”

Cynthia Wachtel, Israel emissary initiatives manager at the St. Louis Jewish Federation, manages the four shinshinim. She has watched them step up to the challenges this year has brought on.

“This has been such a challenging year considering everything that happened on Oct. 7 and the ongoing war in Israel,” Wachtel said. “The shinshinim pretty quickly understood the shift and importance of their role in our community and the need to raise awareness.”

One project the shinshinim have decided to bring to St. Louis is “Taste of Memories.”  This Israeli initiative honors fallen IDF soldiers and terror victims through cooking their favorite recipes while also telling the stories of their lives.

“Taste of Memories is a very well-known project in Israel,” said Herz. “Thanks to the project, we get to make new recipes, learn the stories behind them, and keep the memories alive.”

In March, the four shinshinim posted a video to Instagram baking the favorite cake of 22-year-old soldier, Omer Nissim Bitan z”l, who died on Oct. 14. They posted a second video a few weeks later sharing the favorite pasta of Raz Peretz, z”l, a 24-year-old commander who was killed on Oct. 7. Now, the group has decided to take the project offline, and are hosting a Taste of Memories event.

“After sharing a few recipe videos, we decided to host an event honoring a special soldier, Adi Landman z”l,” said Herz. “We are excited to make her favorite cookies and learn more about her. Adi’s family lives in Yokneam, which is the partnership region of St. Louis. It is important for us to share Adi’s recipe because she grew up in the same city as Yehonatan, and I knew her a little bit, too, so it is important to us to share her recipe and share something close to us.”

The event is specifically for high schoolers, and will take place at United Hebrew on Thursday, April 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. It will be fully kosher.

Working with high schoolers and forming peer-to-peer relationships have always been a large part of the shinshinim experience. However, this aspect of their role now includes helping teens to comprehend the events going on in Israel.

“Our work with teens has changed because in the beginning of the year we would do more fun activities, but since Oct. 7 we have gotten more into the war and what it has been like to be an Israeli abroad,” said Herz. “Taste of Memories is a really important event for us to engage with the teenagers here who we don’t get to engage with every day, and show them there are four Israelis here who care about them and who have their backs.”

High schoolers can register for the Taste of Memories event on April 18 here.



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