Meet Tzachi Levy. He is a Sabra through and through. (Sabra refers to a Jewish person born anywhere in Israel.)
He can trace his roots in Israel back 13 generations, and has lived on several kibbutzim. He loves Israel so much that he has devoted his career to sharing his appreciation of Israel–the history, the culture and people–around the world. Last year, Tzachi convinced his family to pick up and move to Washington, DC to serve as Senior Shaliach (Israeli emissary) at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
In this position, he wears many hats, all of them focused on bringing Israel to the DMV by educating American Jews all-thing-Israel through first-hand perspectives.
We sat down with Tzachi to learn more about what he’s doing to connect Washingtonians to Israel, and which American items took some getting used to!
Kendra: Why are you passionate about bringing Israel to the DC community?
Tzachi: I’ve worked for almost 20 years with Jewish communities around the world and in Israel, from the Ukraine to South Africa to Pittsburgh. I find it fascinating that no matter where you are, you can find common ground with any community on the basis of Israel. Any Jewish person can find a way to connect to the Jewish homeland, whether it be through religion, culture, etc. Specifically in Washington, people are so politically minded and sometimes forget that the news only tells one story. When it comes to Israel, I’m so excited to share an Israel that people can find a connection to, whether it be through food, culture, or social justice issues.
Kendra: So, you help run Federation’s Imagine Israel. Can you tell us more about that and how our readers can get involved?
Tzachi: Sure! Imagine Israel is Federation’s initiative to engage Washingtonians with Israel and Israelis through a variety programs. For example, Federation’s Changemakers Series brings dynamic Israeli agents of change to DC to lead conversations about how they influence and challenge Israel’s status quo and affect social change in Israeli society.
The next Israeli Changemakers event is April 24th and 25th. On the 24th there’s a FREE special night just for young professionals with the Changemaker, Joseph Gitler. He’s the CEO and Founder of Leket Israel, Israel’s largest food bank and food rescue network. I’m excited about this because food waste is becoming an issue many Washingtonians are starting to view seriously so it will be interesting to hear the Israeli perspective.
Also, our Imagine Israel Podcast connects listeners to a modern Israel through stories from Israeli influencers in the fields of social justice and civil society. It’s covered subjects like HIV, Food Waste, Education, Diversity, and much more. There are other programs under Federation’s Imagine Israel initiative, but…how much time do you have!?
Kendra: What is the wildest difference between Israeli and American culture?
Tzachi: I see a LOT of differences between Israel and America. I guess if I had to pick the most wild, it would be the differences in the driving culture. First of all, I don’t really understand why traffic lights need to stay on red when the junction is completely empty. There is no reason. Also, I now realize that a 4-way stop would never work in Israel… there would be lots of car accidents and shouts of “I was here first!”. Also, the concept of turning right on red doesn’t exist in Israel. I’m thinking it would probably increase the number of people in the hospital.
Kendra: What is something about Israel that you wish was in America?
Tzachi: This sounds weird, but I really miss the dish sponges in Israel called Scotches. Seriously. Every time that a friend from Israel visits the states, the only thing I ask them to bring is the sponges (see picture below). I don’t understand how Americans, who care about germs, can stand to use the cheap, turbid sponges that mush the leftovers on the plate and do not actually clean anything.
Kendra: Are there any funny stories from the Shlichim Program so far this year you’d like to share?
Tzachi: I don’t really understand why every time the shlichim are invited to an event, we are served falafel and Israeli salad. I really like American burgers. Why can’t we have burgers? BTW—all the shlichim feel this way, I’m speaking on their behalf.
Kendra: Any closing words?
Tzachi: Yes! Whether you have never been to Israel and want to learn more, or have been and miss it, Federation’s Imagine Israel initiative is designed for you. Come learn more about Israel, it’s culture and people. Hey, you may even get a new sponge!
Learn more about Tzachi Levy, Federation’s Imagine Israel’s initiative, and its upcoming programs here. You can get register for the upcoming Federation Young Leadership event with Israeli Changemaker, Joseph Gitler here. It’s free!