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Meet the Israeli Bringing His Culture to DC

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!

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The above is a sponsored blog post. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

5 People to Meet at Falafel Frenzy this Christmas Eve

 That person you lost touch with from a previous Jewish life.

via GIPHY

Hebrew school, Jewish summer camp, youth group, an Israel trip; someone from “a lifetime ago” will most likely be there. You’re bound to run into at least one blast from the past—whether you recognize them or not is another question.

 

The party-goer who is only there for the drink specials.

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It seems that every time you look at the bar, this person is getting another drink. But hey, can you blame them for wanting to take advantage of those fabulous drink specials? Whether or not you choose to drink, you can say “L’chaim” and have a ton of fun.

 

That guy who is totally owning the dance floor.

via GIPHY

This person is leaving it all on the dance floor. They came to throw their cares away and party like it’s 5759 (or 1999)! Word of advice: don’t get too close to the line of fire.

 

The person who genuinely came to support a good cause.

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They’re here to do good and they are loving every minute of this mitzvah (good deed)! Say hello to your fellow ‘do gooder” and give them a high-five, because 100% of your ticket proceeds go to The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s continued efforts to build a stronger Jewish future around the world.

 

The networking guru who’s never without an ample amount of business cards

via GIPHY

You can find the networking aficionado by the trail of business cards left on the floor by all of his new “friends”. This person is worth meeting because they have the insider scoop on all the best Jewish gatherings in DC.

 

In sum, go to Falafel Frenzy because it’ll be an awesome night filled with innumerable next-day brunch stories.

Register today at shalomdc.org/falafelfrenzy to get a free drink ticket!

 

The above is a sponsored blog post. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Judaism

Okay, given the seemingly infinite nature of Jewish text, history, and interpretation, there may be more than 5 things you didn’t know about Judaism. But, here are 5 things you can learn more about at Federation’s ROUTES: Day of Learning on Sunday, November 5th at George Mason University! ROUTES is a full day of classes led by world-famous presenters from all walks of the Jewish world – including many from right here in the DC area. So, did you know…

“JewBarrassment” is a thing. It’s that uncomfortable feeling most of us get when we think we’ve said or done something wrong with regard to Jewish practice. It was coined by Archie Gottesman, founder of JewBelong.com and a featured speaker at Federation’s ROUTES, who will discuss her vision of making Judaism more accessible. (Search Class 1A and 3A)

You can use rhythm and movement to engage with Torah. Jewish tradition has a long history with using rhythm to evoke meaning in Torah texts through cantillation and Chassidic niggun, a form of religious song. Matisyahu Tonti will lead a ROUTES session where participants will use a classic Torah story, and musical techniques from the Orff Approach to music education, to learn and create a short performance that will be fun, kinesthetic, and intellectually stimulating. (Search Class 1B)

The Torah is green. Jewish tradition teaches us to protect the environment through a wide range of lessons about how to conserve resources and use them responsibly. Eating locally and sustainably is tied closely to a Kosher diet. In Evonne Marzouk’s ROUTES class, you can learn about what Jewish wisdom says about protecting the environment and using resources sustainably, then see pictures and learn about the “ingredients” of sustainable home improvement. (Search Class 1E)

The Statue of Liberty is totally Jewish. Kerry Brodie’s session at ROUTES will discuss the brief life and legacy of Emma Lazarus, the Jewish woman behind the words etched into The Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” (Search Class 2F)

Jewish Washingtonians held a vigil outside the Soviet embassy in DC every day for 20 years. GatherDC’s Jewish Teacher of the Week(!), Aaron Bregman, will explore the time when Soviet Jews were fleeing the Iron Curtain, American Jews in DC responded to the reports of harassment and oppression by organizing a resistance movement that included vigils, protests and more. Come ready to discuss questions like, “Was this experience the last time diaspora Jewry bonded together over such an important topic?” and, “What does it take to galvanize or unify our Jewish community?” (Search Class 1D)

Check out all the details and register here. Plus, get $20 off your registration with code GATHERDCROUTES2017. Heads up – if you use the code, lunch will not be included with your ticket (but you can BYO). Online registration closes Wednesday, November 1st, but young professionals (under 40) can show their IDs at the door to receive $20 off the door price of $54. This discounted price does not include lunch.

 

This is a sponsored post. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Minyan of Thinkers and the ConnectGens Fellowship

The deadline to apply for the 2013 ConnectGens Fellowship, powered by PresenTense, is Sunday, November 4th.  To learn more about getting involved as a Fellow, mentor or coach, attend the ConnectGens Fellowship Open House on October 24th at 7pm.  For more details about the Open House or to apply online visit www.shalomdc.org/fellowship.

A piece of paper with some ideas jotted down: that’s a scrap of paper.  Too many scraps of paper you’re bound to lose some.  To keep your ideas organized you need a notepad.  And when you want to feel like your ideas matter, you put that notepad in a portfolio.  That’s the symbolism of the new portfolio The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington gave me as part of the ConnectGens fellowship.  It’s symbolizes what the ConnectGens fellowship did for my ideas. And for me.

And I definitely have some ideas.  Crazy ideas.  That being a part of a faith community does not mean leaving your brain at the door.  That we can be logically consistent in everything we do.  That we can say prayers we mean, and practice rituals in a way that makes sense in our contemporary lives.  That challenging our religious traditions and practices through genuine intellectual inquiry only makes our community stronger.

I have been thinking these ideas for a long time now, and a lot of scraps of paper accumulated over the years.  I want to create a community of Jewish thinkers who could have critical, thoughtful discussions about major contemporary Jewish issues such as rationality and faith, intermarriage and assimilation, Jewish rituals and modernity, spirituality and Jewish prayer, Zionism and liberalism.  The community could confer on inter-denominational harmony, halachah and feminism, Israel as a Jewish state, the inclusivity vs. exclusivity of kashrut, etc.  I am calling it the Minyan of Thinkers.  A traditional minyan harnesses the power of ten individuals for Jewish public prayer.  I want to harness the brainpower of ten bright, young Jews in the DC area to dialogue on a monthly basis about our community’s challenging issues.  We will write reflection pieces that synthesize our arguments for others to use as a way to approach a topic they might otherwise find too overwhelming, complex, or contentious.

One year ago these were just ideas on scraps of paper.  Being a part of the ConnectGens fellowship gave me a system of resources and support to turn those ideas into a reality.  The resources and support came in many forms.  First, the fellowship gave me a group of peers who were also committed to using their entrepreneurial spirit to give back to the Jewish community.  They are all very special to me, and I enjoyed being on this journey with them.  Second, I was matched with a caring, creative mentor, Esther Safron Foer, who took time to guide me along the way and help me refine my vision for the group.  PresenTense also matched me with a sharp, business-savvy coach, Jeff Chod, who helped me come up with an executable plan of attack for every task related to the minyan.  I am incredibly grateful for their encouragement and guidance as the Minyan of Thinkers came into existence.  Third, the leadership team from PresenTense and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington taught me an unbelievable amount about starting a business and making it grow.  The fellowship was really a jump start to my venture; I went from having an idea to having a name, website, logo, business cards, business plan, etc.  This was my first experience with both PresenTense as an organization and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and I made meaningful connections with the leadership team from both organizations.  They are good people as well as being competent professionals.

Being a part of the fellowship affirmed that my voice matters and my ideas can make a positive difference in our community.  At launch night this year, each of the fellows received a portfolio but I did not think about the symbolism until today.  It is not a perfect analogy, but I think it makes my point.  I really appreciate the new portfolio, and everything that came along with it.