Shep Englander — Federation Journal
Meet Amnon Maggid: He Hopes to ‘Bind Us Together’ with Israel
As the community’s new Shaliach, or Emissary from Israel, Amnon Maggid will work with local agencies, congregations, day schools, camps, and the Mayerson JCC to create programs that create and strengthen people’s relationships with Israel. Maggid’s role is funded in part through the generosity of Jewish Federation donors.
Maggid sat down with Jewish Federation of Cincinnati Director of Community Building, Barb Miller, to give some of his initial thoughts on what he hopes to accomplish and how he has settled in so far.
Q: Please introduce yourself: what were you brought to Cincinnati to do in the next three years?
A: In all my adult years, I have dedicated myself to the world of Jewish culture, content, and heritage. As naive as it may sound, I truly, deeply believe this endeavor of shlichut [being an emissary] is part of making the world a better place. A couple of years ago, I was thinking about how I could make an impact in the global Jewish world. I realized amazing and important things are happening “out there” in the Jewish world. As Liat, my wife, and I have learned, the deepening and branching out of the connections inside the Jewish world bind us all together and nourish our strength both as individuals and as a people. This is the notion we try to instill in our daughters, Achinoam and Attar, ages 10 and 7.
In short, I can say I came to Cincinnati to bring Israel to American Jews, but I also hope to learn from this Jewish community how to build a thriving, pluralistic, and multifaceted community back in Israel, too.
Q: What is your background? What were you doing in Israel before this?
A: For the last six years, my career was to empower teachers throughout Israel to make the Jewish-Israeli culture more relevant and meaningful—first and foremost for the teachers themselves, and then for their students. Integrating 22 years of educational experience, facilitating skills, curricula development, and community life experience, I reached 450 elementary public schools in Israel, supported more than 10,000 kids writing drasha [Torah interpretation or insight] for their bat/bar mitzvahs, and helped hundreds of teachers to go their classrooms with a sparkle in their eyes when talking about our culture and heritage.
Q: Where will you be living? And where will your daughters go to school?
A: Where can the new emissary live except for the “kibbutz”? It’s a wonderful place to live. The pool made our daughters fall in love with the place immediately. Also, being close to other Hebrew-speaking families is important in helping them acclimate more easily. Many Israelis interning at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital also live in the city.
It was only natural for us to send our daughters to Rockwern Academy. The amazing staff is doing everything possible to make our daughters feel at home, despite the language barrier. We were welcomed with such open arms by people from the school, exceeding any expectations and diminishing any worries we had. This showed us the genuine sense of community that exists at Rockwern. To top it off, our eldest daughter was excited to see Esther (Feuerberg) Brewer, Liat’s aunt, in the yearbook pictures presented on the wall from when the school was Yavneh Day School. So a close family connection also binds us with the school and Cincinnati.
Q: Does your wife have any plans yet for how she will spend her time in Cincinnati?
A: Besides supporting our daughters as they get acclimated to the city, she is going to continue her academic research. After writing a dissertation titled, The Jewish Bourgeoisie of Egypt during the First Half of the Twentieth Century: Gender & Family as Perspectives, she is becoming a Post-Doctoral Associate at the Department of History at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. And as a person with a rocket booster, she already has plans for a couple of publications—a book and a lecture at Columbia University this fall.
Q: From what you have seen so far—or from what you have heard—what do you think are the local community’s biggest challenges, particularly as it relates to Israel?
A: Not necessarily the most significant, but no doubt challenging is how to relate to Israel during a time when it seems less and less appealing—either due to political differences or recent turns in governmental actions against more liberal denominations.
In the past, the State of Israel was a magnet that helped attract individuals to become part of something bigger. However, it seems more challenging now. From what I have seen, Israel can unfortunately become a dividing element, or something that repels rather than attracts. So the challenge is to strengthen the foundations of our communities and enhance the relationship between them. A strong relationship overcoming difficulties can allow our communities to thrive.
Q: What are you most looking forward to?
A: I am really looking forward to working with the Jewish community here in Cincinnati. Everywhere I have gone, and everyone I have met, have motivated me to work hard and to use my expertise to create meaningful connections with Israel in this community. Right now, I’m still just learning and listening to the community and its needs, the congregations, the people, and the culture. So far, it’s been exciting and full of revelations.
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