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A Gap Year Abroad

Guest blog by Tamar Segal

Tamar Segal is a nineteen-year-old from Herzliya, Israel. In the past year, she has been serving as a “Shinshinit” in Westchester County, working with all ages in the Jewish community teaching Israeli education and Hebrew.

Tamar Segal playing with children during her gap year abroad

What is Shinshin?

The word’s meaning in Hebrew is an acronym for the term gap year, a volunteer year of community service. In Israel, there are different types of gap years, dealing with various topics such as agriculture, working with at-risk youth and children, working with people on the autistic continuum, and more. The Shinshinim are teenagers who have graduated from high school and volunteer to help and contribute to the community for one year.

Most of you know that usually Israeli's who have graduated from high school are sent to serve in the IDF right after graduation as a duty and not as a volunteer. For those teenagers who want to do a gap year and volunteer, the IDF postpones their service a year forward. That is, they still fulfill their duty as soldiers in the IDF, just one year later.

There are many different types of gap year programs for Israelis, one of them being volunteering in Jewish communities outside of Israel.

My name is Tamar Segal and I chose to do my gap year overseas.

The organization that runs this program is called: The Jewish Agency. Every year, around 200 18-year-olds are sent all across the globe to teach Israeli education and Hebrew in the Jewish communities.

Tamar Segal playing the guitar for children during her gap year abroad

It isn't easy to get into this program. The Jewish agency makes you go through a lot of tests and exams in order to make sure they pick THE BEST to represent Israel.

What is the process you ask?

Step 1 - While you are in Grade 11, exams of all kinds are given to screen the huge number of volunteers that apply (about 3,000 teens a year) since there are only 200 spots available.

Step 2 - For about six months, teens are being tested on psychological, social, general knowledge, and more. I would say there is a total of seven major tests.

Step 3 - The teens who pass all the tests are interviewed by the heads of the Jewish communities from all around the world.

Step 4 - If there is a match, then you are affiliated with the community and undergo another six months of training for the job.

Tamar Segal giving a class to children during her gap year abroad

My match was with the Westchester community.

They are a very strong community that treats me with love! I am not alone here, with me there are seven other Shinshinim and together we work at a total of thirty-three synagogues, Hebrew day schools, JCCs, and etc.

It is my honor to be a shinshinit!


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