Personalized Connections through Cleveland Shin Shinim
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Each year, the core of @akiva's teen engagement work is our Shin Shinim program, where recent high school graduates from Israel join our community for the year to work with our high school students. The Shin Shinim become integral parts of our community, building relationships with their host families, the schools, and synagogues that they work in, and most of all, with the teens with whom they engage in one-on-one learning.
Each Shin Shin becomes a 'near-peer' mentor to a cadre of hundreds of teens, serving as a friend, a teacher, a guide – in short, a multifaceted connection in the teen's ongoing Jewish journey. These relationships take different forms, tailored to each teen. We have Shin Shin learning sessions where ice cream and backgammon are the vehicles for Hebrew. We have in-home sessions, where food and cooking are the curriculum, with teens learning how to make classic Israeli dishes and the whole family joining in on the fun. And we have opportunities that come up as organically as the students get to know each new group of Shin Shinim.
Last year, two Mandel JDS middle schoolers would stay after school on Fridays to play guitar with Guy, our musical Shin Shin. They played classic and contemporary Israeli songs, and on full display was the mutualism of the relationship. Just as the Clevelanders learned about Israeli culture, Guy, our Shin Shin, also got a chance to learn tunes that are found at American Jewish summer camps, and was able to appreciate the cultural exchange on another level. The parents of one of the teens expressed that this was the highlight of their son’s week, and had opened his eyes to a whole new world of what it means to connect with Israel and Israelis.
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