June 7, 2016

Ran Sharon: The New Shapiro

Eran Shapiro ‘18

            For the first five months of my sophomore year, my family was lucky enough to participate in one of the most life-changing experiences: hosting an Israeli Rishon.
We hosted Ran Sharon, from September 1 until February 1. Those five months were amazing and deeply impactful for my family and me.
            The Rishonim program is run by the Jewish Federation of the Greater Metrowest. After the application process in Israel, six pre-army high school graduates are sent to the Greater Metrowest area every year. They each stay with a host family and volunteer at several places including schools, synagogues and other programs run by the Federation. After five months with the first host family, the Rishon moves on to a second for their last five months.
            When Ran first arrived, it was, in a word, awkward. Some guy drenched in cologne only a couple years older than I was living in a room across from me, and we had nothing in common. As we began to spend more and more time together, we quickly realized that we actually shared many traits: we enjoyed the same music, we both ate lots of food and we both liked girls, which was definitely a topic we discussed frequently.
Within the first week of his arrival, my family had gathered a list of over 30 places we wanted to take him, such as Bluestone Cafe, Smorgasburg, Central Park, Saint Mark’s Place, Mexicali Blues and Raymond’s.
My father and I even took Ran to his first football game, to see the Jets host the Dolphins. Seeing that it was Ran’s first NFL experience, he wanted to get into the spirit of it. Ran and I decided to go to Modell’s and buy as much Jets gear as we could get our hands on. We had a ton of fun at the game, despite Ran’s getting his selfie stick taken away.
During winter break, my family took Ran on our trip to Florida. We stayed in a hotel right on West Palm Beach. At night, Ran and I would go exploring the hotel or go to the beach. At nights when no one would be on the beach, we would play loud music and race from beach chair to beach chair.
During his five months stay, Ran and I probably watched over 30 movies together and completed two television shows, “The Blacklist” and “How To Get Away With Murder.”
One of the many things I have come to love about Ran is that he can be wildly irresponsible. For example, he lost his passport a couple of weeks before his return trip to Israel, and then my dad found it two hours after Ran ordered a new one from the Israeli consulate.
Despite his tendency for irresponsibility, Ran is a great teacher. He taught me many things and knows how to engage his students and campers. One trick he told me, to get the attention of a group of campers is to yell, “I’M PREGNANT!” When everyone looks, he continues with his lesson.
            The most amazing thing about this program is how the structure benefits the host family in so many ways. Ran is in America to show a real side of Israel that many Jewish children can’t experience. Because my family lived in Israel, I didn’t think that Ran had much in terms of Israeli knowledge to offer us.
Though I don’t like to admit it, he proved me wrong.
I now have an older brother in a country that means so much to me, but also a country I want to build a stronger relationship with as I grow older. Israel is made up of a community of people connected by sharing the same land. Now that Ran has made my family and I an important part of his life, we are a part of that community in a stronger way than we ever were before. 
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