Open Your Home to a Young Israeli Leader

UJA ShinShinim is a program that supports mature, motivated 18-year-old post-high-school Israelis for a year of volunteering in Jewish Toronto (and around the globe). They volunteer to bring a piece of Israel into our community and participate in meaningful programs. While they’re here, they need somewhere to stay. That’s where you come in!

Thanks to over 500 GTA families since 2006, our UJA ShinShinim have been welcomed into caring and supportive homes every year. And with a new group of UJA ShinShinim arriving this summer, we’re looking for more host families. While inviting an unknown teen from halfway across the world can seem like a daunting task, it can be an incredible and life-enhancing experience. Just ask Robyn and Leslie, two of our past host mothers (who are both planning on hosting again!).

Both Robyn and Leslie have busy houses full of kids, pets, and activities, but they each found that their UJA ShinShin fit right into the family. “My children consider Noya their Israeli sibling—we all love her dearly!” Leslie told us.

Robyn agreed:

“Nitzan was like an older sibling to my two teenaged children. She developed a unique relationship with each of them and they became very close…. She was quickly adopted as another grandchild by my parents and my in-laws (and she remains their ‘Israeli granddaughter’).”

While the visiting teens were busy with their volunteer hours, they all spent as much time as possible with their host families. Sharing meals, when schedules allowed, and learning about each other and their cultures allowed them to build strong bonds that will last a lifetime. As Robyn said, “We got a better understanding of life in Israel and of Mizrahi culture (our family is Ashkenazi) and we Nitzan taught us some lovely Mizrahi foods and traditions.”

Both families are still in touch with their UJA ShinShinim! “Between myself, my husband, and our five children, at least one of us is in touch with Noya literally on a daily basis, by text and/or FaceTime,” Leslie said. “And we wish each other Shabbat Shalom every single week. I know we are always in one another’s thoughts.”

Noya was supposed to come surprise Leslie’s daughter for her wedding on October 13, 2023—the atrocities of October 7th put a stop to that. The families kept in touch throughout, offering each other support and love. In January 2024, Leslie and her husband visited Noya and her family on a trip with UJA’s Israel & Overseas Committee:

“It was an incredibly meaningful trip all around, but perhaps the most special part of all was getting to see and hug Noya in real life, and to spend Shabbat with her family and connect and bond with her parents, siblings, grandparents and extended family. I know we will always be welcomed with open arms into one another’s’ homes. I share this story to illustrate the immense closeness and love we have for Noya and her family. Our lives have been forever positively changed by the relationship we have with Noya, and we are so grateful for it.”

Rachel’s family is just as connected to Nitzan, who joins them by Zoom every Friday to light Shabbat candles. They’ve even been back and forth to visit each other over the years.We were so fortunate to have Nitzan in our lives and she will forever be part of our family.”

UJA ShinShinim enter your home as strangers, but leave as family. And, you’ll be building lasting connections with Israel. It’s an unforgettable experience you and your family will treasure forever.

Interested in becoming a host family? Apply on our website.