Young Adult Emissaries Share Insights About American Jewish Life


Jasmine Hubara and Benny Winkelman are living in Israel, sharing and educating about American Jewish Life 






A typical day for Jasmine Hubara and Benny Winkelman includes teaching English, American diplomacy and citizenship to Israeli school children, taking Ulpan classes to learn Hebrew, working in the Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) Partnership office, and socializing. Jasmine and Benny, both 24, are, “Shlichim,” or emissaries, and their jam-packed days are part of their mission to spend time living and working in Israel, educating Israelis about American Jews. They are the first to participate in the JAFI Hadera-Eiron Southeast Consortium’s newly created program and are living in the town of Pardes Hanna. According to Adam Bronstone, Director of Planning and Israel Partnerships for The Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, “It is somewhat well known that Israeli Jews know very little about diaspora Jews, so we all thought this was a way to change the music, so to speak.”  

Jasmine, 24, is from Charleston, South Carolina. She is a graduate of Goucher College in Baltimore, where her thesis research centered on antisemitism in the United States and Israel. She says she has always been active in the Charleston Jewish community, so this program just felt like the right step. “This program is a perfect blend of my two passions: Judaism and my hometown.” Benny, also 24, is from Richmond, Virginia. He comes from a large Jewish family, and his grandparents are Holocaust survivors. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati, where he majored in communications, and Hebrew, and was a member of the AEPi fraternity. After graduation, he worked for AIPAC, until this new opportunity presented itself. He says his family hosted Israeli Shlichim, so he is no stranger to the concept. “I’ve seen that this is a great way to bring our culture to Israel. I really wanted to represent my country in this way and to give back.”  

Both Jasmine and Benny agree one of the hardest things to explain to Israelis about American Jews is the difference between the three main branches. “Israelis just go to synagogue, or not, and they study Torah. They don’t understand the space between religious and secular life,” says Jasmine. And Benny says, “The concept exists for them, but they don’t define it the way we do here. They just have a different way of looking at it.” Other issues young Israelis are curious about include politics, family, and college. “Every day, I see the importance of this program,” says Benny, “They want to know what it’s like to live in America, specifically, they ask about antisemitism and whether I’ve experienced it.”  

Not every interaction takes place in the classroom. Jasmine says informal settings like Shabbat dinners provide a relaxed backdrop for sharing the American Jewish experience. “Each family we visit has a different approach,” she says, “I’ve been able to share that in America, we make the choice every day to be Jewish and to participate in Jewish life. In Israel, it’s all around us, so it’s easier to feel Jewish.”  

The pair are active on social media and have been conducting virtual programs as well as spending time in person visiting a nursing home, working in a youth center and just being who they are: young American Jews in Israel. “We’re the first shlichim to come to Israel,” says Benny, “We’ve had to jump in quick and learn by doing.” And Jasmine says she is proud and honored to be part of the inaugural team. “I feel we are really building something here. I’m excited to see a future where this program is well established. We can really help Israelis understand how much American Jews need Israeli support, and we want people to also feel Hadera is an extension of our community back home.” And Benny agrees. “If we are to continue our relationship with those here in Israel as equals, it is as important to share our way of ‘Southern Jewish life’ with them as it is for us to gain insight into theirs. Our American Jewish Zionism must progress and forge longstanding relationships that only come from connecting our people. What better foundation to this type of relationship, than sending an ambassador to explain our American Jewish life to our partners here in Israel.” 






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