The Community Post

Mar 14, 2012

Florida Native Finds a Warm and Welcoming Home in Yerucham, Israel

From left to right: Friends Aela Sapir, Shauna Gamsey and Lauren Hyman

When Shauna Gamsey, a University of Florida alumna, decided to participate on an extended Birthright Israel trip in the summer of 2009, she couldn’t have anticipated how deeply that trip would change her life.

After spending June through October 2009 in Israel – splitting her time “between Torah study in Jerusalem and dance parties in Tel Aviv,” – Shauna was determined to find a way to return to Israel. Thanks to a Greater Miami Jewish Federation MASA program called OTZMA, Shauna was able to return to Israel as a volunteer. This time, she found herself in Yerucham, one of Miami’s partnership cities, located in the Negev desert.

“I chose this program specifically because I wanted to work outside of the center [of Israel], to live in a small community where I could immerse myself in Hebrew, develop close connections, and understand the scope of Israel’s diversity,” said Shauna, who stayed in Yerucham for 10 months through OTZMA.

Shauna was particularly moved by the warmth and support of Yerucham residents, including Nili Avrahami, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Miami – Yerucham Partnership Director. “Dozens of homes have welcomed me to their tables for Shabbat,” she said. “I have found friends here from everywhere in the world, from Morocco, India, Russia, Uzbekistan, Mexico, and so on.” The more people she got to know in Yerucham, the more Shauna was amazed by the warmth and friendliness of the town.

At the end of her program, Shauna decided to make aliyah – and she was thrilled to discover that she could do so in Yerucham. As a Master’s degree student at Ben-Gurion University in Sde Boker, Shauna currently resides in a Yerucham Ayalim village. Ayalim, which receives funding from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation through our overseas partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel, is a student volunteer village that fosters Zionism and community in the Negev and the Galilee.

About her decision to make aliyah in Israel, Shauna said: “I joined this village because I wanted to continue my immersion in Israeli culture and deepen my connection to Yerucham. I am grateful for my experience, for the perspective and the community that I have found, and I welcome you to visit me when you find yourself in your Negev home away from home.”

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation offers a wide variety of Israel programs. To learn more about opportunities to travel to Israel, or about the projects funded by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation in Israel (including Ayalim), please contact our Israel and Overseas Department at or 786.866.8445.


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