Updated: May 3, 2021
Aliyah Date: July 4, 2013 Made Aliyah from Evanston, Illinois Currently living in Be'er Sheva
David made Aliyah, joined the army, and soon after, founded his non-profit and passion. Find out about what makes "Ani Shlishi" such an incredible business and life motto.
David Baskin hails from a suburb next to Chicago, Illinois. He made Aliyah ironically on July 4, 2013 - American Independence Day! He currently lives in Be'er Sheva, the capital of the Negev desert.
For a long time, people asked David about his decision to make Aliyah, because it seemed so crazy. He grew up with only a few Jewish friends and was not deeply involved in Judaism, so it came as a surprise to some. However, part of this decision was rooted in history. David's grandfather grew up in Germany but he escaped to America before the war. After living there for a while, he joined the paratroopers and even participated in the liberation of a concentration camp during his service!
David grew up his whole life hearing these stories, and how these historical events ultimately led to the founding of Israel as a state. One thing that David's grandfather said he regretted was that he didn't fight in the War of Independence. David decided he wanted to continue the narrative, and continue the history of his family and people.
That's one side of David's reasoning. The other side is that David came to Israel on Birthright after college. Since making that decision, he has determined that explaining why you make Aliyah is similar to explaining why you love someone. You can make a list of reasons, but it's something you just know in your heart, and sometimes can't explain. But ultimately, he made Aliyah because he wanted to, and he's very happy with that decision.
David runs a non-profit organization called "Ani Shlishi". "Ani Shlishi" is a group of second-hand clothing stores that hire youth at risk so that they can build skills for a brighter future.
The majority of the youths are aged 16-18, and many are school dropouts. At age 16, these youth can open a bank account and start saving for their future. "Ani Shlishi" gives them a mini financial literacy course to get them started. There are opportunities for promotion, leadership, developing sales skills, and of course confidence.
Many of the employees even label themselves as "at-risk." David says, "We see our job as to shift that label from "at-risk" to "valued employee" and then to "confident capable member of society." David and his team have led more than 50 kids who have completed this mentorship program. So how did David think of this program in the first place?
Of course, it's intertwined with his own path. David was in Garin Tzabar, which is a program for lone soldiers to live together on a kibbutz. In the end, everyone leaves, and David realized that from the group he was living with, he was going to accumulate a massive amount of clothes that would have otherwise just been thrown away. Instead of leaving the clothes to that fate, David decided to gather them together and donate them to a youth shelter in Tel Aviv. When he brought the clothing in, he saw so many kids excited about the donation and appreciating something that he took for granted. As a result, he decided he wanted to chase that feeling again and again.
He began collecting clothes and donating them and then realized if people were donating nicer clothes, he could charge for them and use the profits to fund vocational courses for youth at risk. And that's what he did -- he was able to raise enough money to build a comprehensive program for youth at risk. The first donation David made was in June of 2016 and "Ani Shlishi" was incorporated legally in May 2017, and now they have two stores -- one in Tel Aviv, and one in Rishon Lezion.
So, where does "Ani Shlishi" come from?
"Growing up, I was not a youth at risk per se, but I got arrested a few times before I was 17. I was pretty lost in high school. I met someone who really made an impact on me during this time. His name was Ross Freeland, and he was a baseball coach who would wake up before school with me and we would just do batting practice. He gave me the dignity of his time just to work on something, and this showed me there is a better version of myself that I can become. I graduated and enlisted in the Israeli army, and Ross got cancer and passed away quickly right around the time I made that first clothing donation."
David explains that Ross was quiet, but had a unique philosophy, called "The I'm Third" philosophy. It goes like this: First, is the greater good. Second, comes Others. And I am third. I am third translates to "Ani Shlishi!" Words to live by.
In terms of challenges, of course, the language has been difficult for David. It's really important to him to be able to articulate, and this is hard without fluency. But you do get used to the frustration and learn patience when you can't find the right words, and you adjust accordingly.
And the best part of Aliyah for David? Of course, he loves the non-profit that has become such a major part of his life, "Ani Shlishi; he also loves the host family that he has here. They agreed to foster him for two years without even meeting him -- and that warmth is such a wonderful part of the culture.
David's advice for Olim, or rather how his experience can be indicative of someone else's, is as follows. You have a macro purpose and a micro purpose. The macro purpose can be making a large decision --moving to Israel and serving in the army. But when you're tired or hungry or trying to solve a problem, you're not focused on the macro so much as the micro. The micro purpose is what sustains you -- it's the community, contributions, and moments that will keep you going when it's rough! For David, what gets him up, is that one kid might come in with their head down, and he can help give them the tools and abilities to come out of that situation with their head held high.
In short, if you are looking for that micro purpose David says "When in doubt, volunteer."