This month, we welcome a new member into our vibrant downtown community. I am excited to introduce our new envoy from Israel—Ophir Tal.
Ophir, a Shaliach, will begin his two year mission as an intermediary and envoy between Downtown Manhattan, the 14th Street Y, and Israel. A natural storyteller, Ophir will share his NYC adventures and insights on the 14th Street Y through the 14Y Blog. Accompanying his stories will be songs, representing the soundtrack of Israel and NYC.
I personally relate to Ophir’s journey here to America. I moved to New York City 20 years ago. While I’ve created a new life and a family here. I am struck each time I land at Ben Gurion airport and drive to Tel-Aviv, my hometown, on how the years and time fade away and somehow I am plugged back into my original pulse. It is a phenomenon that I have heard from a lot of immigrants to New York City—Israelis, French, Argentinians. Ten years into being in New York, I was invited to join LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture as a theater director. LABA is a year long fellowship program in which we study Classical Jewish text in a nonreligious house of study. I came for the theater, but stayed for the text study and to get reacquainted with my cultural heritage. It is not lost on me that I had to come all the way to New York City to be open enough to study this core cultural and religious text, and regain some sense and ownership of my heritage. The distance from Israel and new surroundings enabled me to open up and let the old in–in a new way.
You may ask why I’m giving this lengthy prologue as an introduction to Ophir. It is because as we begin to host a Shaliach, we are faced with a complex and exciting challenge—one that I faced many years ago and one that Ophir is facing as he joins our community. As a gesher, Ophir is acting as a bridge between two places—his country steeped in ancient times, and the Diaspora that’s trying to make sense of modern times through ancient wisdom—both connected and removed from the historical homeland. These two places pull at my heart constantly, with love and tension. Perhaps Ophir will feel the same in time.
In his role as Shaliach, Ophir will spend the next few months getting to know the 14th Street Y community and the Downtown Jewish Life partners. He will begin by creating encounters and events that will offer us a taste of Israel in New York City, and provide a platform for dialogue and discussion that highlights a wider context as citizens of the world—one in which we think and grow together. In return, Ophir will also learn about and meet the rich and diverse downtown Jewish community and bring these experiences back with him to Israel.
Each one of us has a unique story. I hope you will come to meet Ophir and share yours with him. In the next two months, he will be joining us at community breakfasts, Sukkot activities, and is excited to meet our community members over coffee.
In the meantime, enjoy some Israeli music and please join me in welcoming Ophir Tal to the 14th Street Y community!
To kick off this special blog series, I want to share 2 songs—one that I listened to in the 90’s in Israel, and the other my kids just brought back from camp in Israel. In these two different versions of “It will be Alright,” you can see that while time has changed, our desires…not so much.
David Broza – It’ll be Alright (Ihiye Tov) with English Subtitles
Stattic and Ben El – Down the coast Highway – Ihiye Tov – It will be Alright (English Subtitles) | סטטיק ובן אל תבורי – כביש החוף | (Prod. by Jordi)
What is a shaliach?
A community shaliach is an educational emissary from Israel who works with Jewish organizations, JCCs, synagogues, summer camps and schools. The shaliach is responsible for deepening the connection of the community to Israel by means of informal education such as workshops, public events and initiatives. The shaliach’s aim is also to bring the values and content he absorbed in the community back to Israeli society.