Local mom, author, psychotherapist, Israeli advocate and non-observant Jew becomes surprising ambassador to International Orthodox Jewish Movement

by | Jan 9, 2015 | Other News

Danielle Leibovici and Allison Josephs (Rachel Renov Photography)

Danielle Leibovici and Allison Josephs (Rachel Renov Photography)

No one is more surprised that this happened, than I am. Several weeks ago, a speaker came to the B’nai Israel Congregation for a United Jewish Federation of Tidewater-funded Scholar in Residence program.

Allison Josephs is the founder of Jewinthecity.com, a far-reaching campaign centering on Orthodox Jews. My husband and I are active members of many local congregations and Jewish organizations. We support all Jews in our community and find inspiration with many different avenues. Therefore, I was not particularly interested in a specific Orthodox Jewish Movement talk. I had no plans to attend any of the events that weekend, including a community one held at the Simon Family JCC.

However, out of courtesy to Chamie Haber, the rabbi’s wife, I attended Josephs’ Friday talk after the Shabbat meal. After I heard her message, I ended up attending every event that weekend. Ignited in me after listening to her, was a newfound passion for the common ground we share. Josephs focused on the frequent deliberate misconception of Observant Jews in the media. During the recent events in Gaza, I spent much of my time on social media trying to combat the unjustified and grossly disproportionate criticism of Israel, not just for the improperly informed non-Jewish individuals, but for other Jewish people across the country and around the world. Limited perceptions on Israel are contributing to the rise in anti-Semitism everywhere.

Josephs and I really connected personally, on the belief that an increase in world-wide Jewish solidarity is better for every Jew and the future of Israel. When any Jew is portrayed badly in the media, all Jews hurt. Josephs listened to my points of view and agreed there must be an increase in open-mindedness and tolerance by many Orthodox Jewish people, as well. A bond was instantly formed.

Incredibly, as a result of this bond, I was invited to New York where I stood side by side with my new friend, Allison, during her annual Jew in the City All Stars Gala. This beautiful formal fundraiser and awareness event took place at The Jewish Heritage Museum in Battery Park. It brought together 10 of the most accomplished observant Jews of the year including among others, Yael Federbush, a four-time Emmy producer for the Today Show, Forbes-ranked hedge fund manager and philanthropist Henry Swieca, and Mindy Pollak, a Montreal Councilwoman who made history last fall as the first Hasidic woman to be elected to public office.

I was also invited to be the very first guest blogger on the JewInTheCity site. This was a huge honor for me, considering how big Josephs’ audience is, as well as the highly accomplished influencers that support her such as Senator Joe Lieberman, BCBGeneration creative director Joyce Azria, of the Max Azria empire, and popular actress, Mayim Bialik (who became traditionally observant based on Josephs’ direct mentorship).

Here is an excerpt of the original post I wrote on Dec. 16, which captures this unfolding story. The post continues to gain momentum.

“Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh” from the Talmud means, ”all Jews are responsible for one another.” The miracle of the Jews; such a tiny disproportionally small population on this planet, who have survived persecution and attempted annihilation over and over, are still here today. Why? Perhaps because we have consistently “loved each other into strength.” We come together in celebration and also in need, we support and take care of our weakest links. We therefore, are responsible for each other all the way up the range from ultra orthodox to unaffiliated. Sure, like I mentioned to Allison, there are some orthodox people out there (some of whom I have met personally,) who give off a sense of superiority thinking they are the “real Jews.” Sure equally, there are some extreme liberal Jews (some of whom I have also met personally) who are biting off their noses despite their faces by taking for granted their jewish heritage and the existence of a Jewish State. But, there are many more jewish people who believe in this passage from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) “Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place.”

This is my big take away; we need to stop stepping on each other’s toes, here. We are all Jews with our own divinely deemed paths. We don’t need to come together only when there is a real threat to our existence. It is written that the Jews are, “the light unto many nations.” We are the teachers, “The Chosen,” not because we are any better than our divinely created Non Jewish brothers and sisters, but, because we have a different responsibility. Ask any teacher you know, and I am sure they will tell you; they teach better when they are standing on a foundation of solidarity and support from their contemporaries. So let’s stand together in strength and tolerance, by seeing the “light” in each other instead of looking for the “right.”

For the complete blog, visit: http://jewinthecity.com/2014/12/why-i-became-the-non-orthodox-ambassador-for-jew-in-the-city/

by Danielle Leibovici