Israeli Chronicles — Connecting Israel & Cincinnati
New Chaverim M’Israel Hope to Bring Their Authentic Perspectives to Cincinnati
“I hope to bring my experiences to the Cincinnati Jewish community,” said Shachar Aviram. “I want to bring my own Jewish and Israeli experience to the people of Cincinnati to show them the spirit of life in Israel along with the community feeling that we have in Israel during holy days and events.”
Shachar, along with Mika Ritter, are Cincinnati’s newest Chaverim M’Israel, or Friends from Israel. The Chaverim M’Israel program, or ShinShinim Program, is a year-of-service opportunity that allows Israeli students to travel and serve in a community abroad before entering the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Two students are selected every year to be part of the program in Cincinnati, but some cities have as many as a dozen students while others have only one. At the international level, the program is run by the Jewish Agency for Israel; at the local level, it is run by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.
We spoke to Shachar and Mika after they arrived in Cincinnati in August. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you share a little about yourselves?
Shachar Aviram: I live in Israel in Ramat Gan, which is a city near Tel Aviv. I have two siblings, an older brother, Tomer, and a younger sister, Inbar. I like acting and singing. Until I graduated from high school, the Israeli Scouts were a big part of my life, and in high school, I majored in music and chemistry.
Mika Ritter: My name is Mika Ritter, and I’m from Netanya. I have three siblings—a 15-year-old brother and 12-year-old twin sisters. I love to do sports, especially swimming and running. I love to travel and explore new places, and I love to watch movies with my friends and go to new restaurants to try new food.
What made you want to take part in this program?
SA: I wanted to take part in this program to help others in a meaningful way before I went into the IDF. I applied to several programs, but as I progressed, it became clear that this was the one I wanted to do the most. I think that volunteering in a Jewish community outside of Israel is an amazing and important opportunity to give people a taste of what life is like in Israel. It’s also a great experience for me to learn about and experience life as a Jew outside of Israel.
MR: Last year I started looking for places where I can do a gap year because I knew that I wanted to give my time and help different communities before joining the IDF. I know some people who have taken part in this program, and I knew they had an amazing time. I thought this would be a great opportunity for me and where I could have the biggest impact.
Had the two of you met before being named Chaverim?
SA: We didn’t meet before being named Chaverim, but after we were chosen, we met a lot in Israel before we flew here.
MR: We took our time to really get to know each other before we arrived.
What do you hope to bring to Cincinnati during your time as Chaverim?
SA: I hope to bring myself. I want the people in the community here to get to know me, Shachar. I would also like to bring my own Jewish and Israeli experience to the people of Cincinnati to show them the spirit of life in Israel, along with the community feeling that we have in Israel during holy days and events.
MR: I want to bring Israel to Cincinnati. Israel for me is home—it taught me my values, and showed me what it means to be a community. I want to bring myself and the things that I like to do and the way I see things.
What’s something that’s surprised you the most so far about being in Cincinnati?
SA: I’ve been surprised that life isn’t like what we see in the movies. And everything is so big here compared to Israel. Something that’s not surprising, but exciting, is how nice everyone has been so far! It was great to see that everyone in this community is so welcoming.
MR: This is my first time in the United States, and when we got here, I was surprised to see the difference in the food sizes! Everything here is super big!
What is something you’re hoping to bring back to Israel from your time in Cincinnati?
SA: I’m hoping to learn a lot more about myself and to develop here. I also hope to gain new experiences and to meet many new friends and people who I’ll hopefully keep in touch with and come to visit later.
MR: During our time here, we are the ones who will decide how this year is going to be, based on our mindset. We’re coming to work and to meet everyone here, and I want to bring back to Israel this way of thinking—to go back to Israel with an open mind.
Are there any quintessential American things you’d like to experience in your year here?
SA: I want to do as many American things as possible: concerts, food, sports games, and sightseeing. I want to see what life in a college looks like and just experience the American lifestyle.
MR: I really want to experience American life. I want to travel and do things that aren’t possible to do in Israel.
Any final thoughts?
SA: I just want to say that I’m really excited about my year here in Cincinnati. I’ve enjoyed working here so far and meeting all the different people in the community.
MR: I’m really happy that we are in Cincinnati. This is a great community, and I can’t wait to get to know more people.