Young emissaries will link St. Louis to Israel

Israeli teens Gal Roberman (left)  and Yuval Cohen will spend a year in St. Louis as part of the Shinshinim program. They will work with local synagogues to  help children, teens and young adults build connections with Israel. 

By Eric Berger, Staff writer

Local Conservative and Reform congregations will be getting a little extra help from Israel later this summer. 

Two Israelis who recently graduated from high school will be delaying their mandatory military service for a year to volunteer at Congregation B’nai Amoona, Kol Rinah, Congregation Shaare Emeth and United Hebrew Congregation.

The emissaries will be working with children, teens and young adults to build a connection with Israel through programs during religious school, summer camps, youth programs and on holidays, said Cynthia Wachtel, who will supervise the program. 

Other emissary programs are focused more on religion; Shinshinim (a play on the Hebrew words, Shnat Sheirut, or “year of service”) is a program primarily about Israel, she added. 

The program, which is funded by Jewish Federation of St. Louis and the congregations, “builds a bridge between Israeli youth and Jewish communities, creating educational dialogue between the two, in order to strengthen our Jewish family ties and to build the foundation for a secure Jewish future,” Wachtel said.


The two emissaries are participating in training with the Jewish Agency for Israel and will arrive in St. Louis in August. 

Gal Roberman, 18, is from Caesarea and hopes to work in naval simulation during her service in the Israel Defense Forces. She describes herself as more on the Reform side of the religion and, because Israel has few such congregations, she is looking forward to participating in American synagogues.

“I really love Israel, and I think it’s a great opportunity to show people what Israel means to me and the things that I love in Israel, and make them feel more of a connection to Israel,” said Roberman, who will spend most of her time at Kol Rinah and Shaare Emeth. 

Yuval Cohen, 18, lives near Modiin. He is unsure what he would like to do in the IDF and is in the midst of interviews. But until he learns his assignment, he is looking forward to working with children.

“I really wanted to see a new community and meet new people,” said Cohen, who will work at B’nai Amoona and United Hebrew. “I like the idea of becoming part of the community and helping in whatever way I can.”

St. Louis already has a number of emissaries from Israel. Torah MiTzion Kollel, an organization dedicated to teaching about Judaism and Zionism, is directed by an Israeli couple, Ginat and Tal Midler,  who also teach at Orthodox day schools Yeshivat Kadimah High School and Epstein Hebrew Academy. 

Yael Treger works to connect Israelis living in St. Louis with one another and to the local Jewish community through programming at Bais Abraham Congregation and elsewhere as part of a partnership among the modern Orthodox synagogue, Jewish Federation, the Jewish Community Center and Tzofim, the Israeli Scouts.

Cohen and Roberman will live with host families during their year in St. Louis. The program is still looking for hosts, Wachtel said. Each family would host an emissary for 12 to 14 weeks. For more information, contact Wachtel at [email protected] or 314-442-3878.