United Hebrew Congregation, 13788 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO 63141 | 314-469-0700

November 20, 2020 – Toldot

Shabbat Message from Dana Koren, our Shinshinit

Shabbat Shalom dear community!

My name is Dana Koren. I’m 18 years old and I’m the new Shinshinit here in St. Louis and at United Hebrew Congregation. I’m so excited to be here. 

I came here all the way from Kibbutz Kfar-Ruppin in Emek HaMaayanot (Valley Of Springs) which is located in northern Israel, the Kibbutz borders the state of Jordan. This is an amazing area with lots of springs and nature. Living on a Kibbutz is special- it’s a type of settlement that exists only in Israel. The sense of collectivity, the connection to the land and the community life on the Kibbutz are very important. I’m the youngest daughter of Eyal and Shiri Koren and a sister to two older siblings Hadar and Ori –  both of them served in the Israeli army. 

 Music is an integral part of my life! I sing and play the piano. I used to sing in different frameworks as a soloist and as part of a choir. I also love to travel, work out, act and bake.

 I was a counselor in a youth movement called “Bnei HaMoshavim” – a youth movement that operates in Moshavim and Kibbutzim- special agricultural villages in Israel. In the activities, we met friends, put up community projects together, celebrated the holidays with the community and talked about Zionism, equality, tolerance and democracy.

I’m standing here today because an experience that I  had 3 years ago changed my life forever. 

I was privileged to take part in “HaZamir”- International Jewish High School Choir for two years. The HaZamir choir connects Israeli and American Jews through music. The texts we sang originate in the Jewish bible. We rehearsed in Israel all year and in March we flew to Cleveland and later traveled to New York for the international HaZamir choir conference. During my visit, I got acquainted with different Jewish streams- Conservative, Reform and Orthodox. I have learned how they keep their Jewish identity and realized the mutual and the different aspects to Israelis.  I was especially impressed to witness their determination to maintain their Jewish identity despite all the difficulties. Throughout my journey, I got to know Jewish Americans my age who became my friends. I was proud to sing in Hebrew outside Israel and represent the Jewish people abroad. This journey strengthened my relationship with my country and the understanding of how necessary the connection between Israel and Diaspora Jewry is. 

One of the most important and powerful conclusions that I came up with after twice being part of a delegation to the United States, was how important it is to strengthen the connection between Israel and the Diaspora Jews. During my visit, I got to know the variety of the Jewish streams, the uniqueness of the communities and especially how much it attracts me to learn more and to take an active part. When I saw the Shinshinim, I felt that I want to be there too In order to contribute from my knowledge and skills, to be meaningful, to influence, to show and bring Israel in the most authentic way. I truly believe that it is a journey and a process which has the power to change people’s lives and worldview.  Furthermore, I feel that the Jews in the Diaspora are an integral part of the Jewish legacy and tradition and that we should be very grateful for everything they do for us. I want to accomplish a good and solid bond with Jewish communities across the world, to strengthen their Jewish identity and to be there for them as a reliable and accessible representative of Israel who they can always turn to for any question or dilemma.

I wish to share with you my journey with the Jewish Agency For Israel until I came here.  When my senior year began I needed to decide where I was going the following year. In Israel, every graduate has 2 options – either immediately going to the Israel Defense Forces or postpone his service, and do Shnat sherut- a year of service. I signed up for the year of service program in the Jewish communities around the world through the Jewish Agency for Israel. Through this program, about 200 Jewish graduates from Israel are sent to Jewish communities around the world for a full year in order to strengthen the connections between the communities and Israel.  After a year and a long process of sorting, I was accepted to the Jewish Community in Long Island. Due to the COVID19 situation were canceled. At that point, I felt that the big dream that I had might not come true. Yet and despite the difficulty, I knew that everything was for the best and that something good was on its way to me. I waited for 3 months and then I got another interview and was accepted to be a Shinshinit here in St. Louis. I am so grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity. The message I want to convey is to follow your dreams. If you want something, you should keep seeing yourself fulfilling your desire. You should work hard and be in complete faith that God brings you to what is most right for you. And here in St Louis- it definitely feels right. 

Thank you all for the amazing welcoming and for listening to me.

 I wish all of us a meaningful and healthy year together.

Shabbat Shalom, Toda.