DVAR ISRAEL: SHABBAT, JANUARY 26, 2019
THE HOST FAMILY EXPERIENCE
All of Toronto’s ShinShinim were on vacation back home in Israel for winter break. It was time well spent with friends and family. Now that we are back and trying to readjust to our everyday routine back in the Canadian winter, we have another very big change to adjust to moving to a new host family. We stay at host families from the community for 5 months and then we move on to a different host family within the community. It is a privilege to get to live and experience a whole new family who are complete strangers at first, and in no time at all feel like part of my extended family. We often focus on the importance of bringing Israel Engagement to the Toronto community, but the hosting family experience is something that is centrally important to the experience of a ShinShin. The hosting experience allowed me to really feel the richness of the Toronto Jewish community from the inside and see its effect on each individual in the family, depending on the stage of life they are and what role they play in the greater community.
Each Jewish family is the product of its own Jewish story, the values they choose to build their lives upon, and the culture they choose to follow. To be a part of that Jewish story, is the most valuable lesson a ShinShin can take and bring back to Israel. What I didn’t expect and what I am so happy to report is how much my experience at my first host family enriched and informed me about my own values and my own Jewish story. Not only did I become a part of a lovely family, but I learned so much about the community and also about the Jewish Diaspora in general through them. Now that I am fully immersed into my year of service in Toronto, I understand so much more clearly the Jewish values of my host family and how those values are echoed within the Beth Tikvah community. I had no idea how strongly the synagogue community is tied to Israel. The amount of dedication, passion and love of Judaism and the ties to the people and State of Israel was not something I was prepared for when I began my year of service. My early childhood was spent in a Jewish community in the diaspora while I lived in LA, and continued in Israel, where I discovered a different way of living Jewishly within a Jewish state. This sh’nat sherut got me back to the time I was part of the Jewish diaspora, and here in Toronto, more than ever, I feel that my Jewish story is the mix of these two fascinating communities, the Diaspora, and Israel.
The commitment to key Jewish core values here in Toronto is truly incredible and something that you can’t fully understand until you have lived in the community. As my host mother Karyn said, “these great Jewish core values, are in fact our basic values as human beings. Human values of opening up your home to whomever is in need and by extension playing our part in making society better”. A family, that decides to open up their home to a stranger from the other side of the world, is not an easy task at all, but it is so central to the success of the program. I decided to share my thoughts with you this morning because I am a sure that my move to a new host family will not be easy. I am leaving my current family with much sadness as I leave one home that was full of warmth and love and move to the doorstep of a new host family who has their own Jewish story. I can’t wait to see how their story will further affect my own as I continue to experience this incredible shenat sherut in Toronto. Shabbat Shalom