Benjamin “Ami” Slifkin came to Israel from Atlanta as an 8th grader. “Coming to Israel was a major cultural shock,” says Ami. “Everything was different, the language, the music, the shows. I was sitting in school and not understanding anything. As a kid with ADHD, it was impossible. I just wanted to go back home to Atlanta as soon as I could.”
Going to YTA, a high school specifically for olim, and joining NCSY Israel was a turning point for Ami. “NCSY helped me find that happy midpoint, where I could be both Israeli and American, and I didn’t feel like I had to be embarrassed about how I dressed or acted.”
The draw to NCSY for Ami was the fun at first. “Before NCSY, on Thursday nights I would just sit in my room and play on my phone. Now, I go to really great night activities like iJump, rock climbing and trampoline parks. NCSY gave me the sense of belonging. There were a lot of NCSY trips to holy sites and historic places that I would never have gone to before. The trips helped me connect to the land while Latte & Learning helped me understand the history.”
Although Ami has fond memories of Atlanta, he notes the changes in himself and his five younger siblings. “In America, we didn’t do anything on our own or use public transportation. If we wanted to go the movies, our parents drove us. Now, we go everywhere on our own, even on a school night. NCSY pushed me out of my shell and provided that outlet for me to do it safely so I didn’t end up in bad places.”
From wanting to make yerida, Ami now has a strong Zionist identity, and is looking forward to beginning his army mechina (preparatory) program, Kol Ami, before deciding where to go next. He hopes to become an architect after his army service.
By Pnina Baim