08 February 2018
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is thrilled to welcome Tzachi Levy to our community as our senior shaliach (Israeli emissary)! Learn about his background, his love for barbecue and much more.
Hi Tzachi! Welcome to Greater Washington. Can you tell us about your home in Israel?
Hi! Thanks for the warm welcome. In Israel, my family and I live in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, which is down south on the border with Gaza, very close to Sderot.
What’s a kibbutz?
A kibbutz is a place where, in the past, everybody shared everything – it was a truly communal way of living. Today, it’s more of a community-focused place where we celebrate holidays together, we try to have events for the kids and adults every once in a while, and we try to bring Judaism into our lives in a secular way. Culture is very important. For me, the kibbutz lifestyle is ideal for kids to grow up in. It’s an open environment; you don’t lock your door and the kids are always outside.
Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?
Wow! That’s a good question. I will say I prefer the weather in Jerusalem. Culture-wise, I will say Tel Aviv because you find so much diversity. History-wise, Jerusalem completely. I think it is fascinating to walk through the different neighborhoods and learn about the history of those communities and of Israel. Besides, it’s a holy place and every stone has a different story. That’s interesting to me. Tel Aviv is more about the culture, the fact that there are so many kinds of people, the fact that it never sleeps.
Ok, so where’s the food better?
At my mom’s house. This is the best place with the best food!
What’s your favorite thing that she makes?
She makes an excellent salmon. Like amazing, grilled salmon. I think this is something I inherited from my mother—a passion for food. I like to cook; my family barbeques a lot. We like to eat a lot of meat.
Who is your favorite Israeli musician?
When it comes to music, I am an old-fashioned guy. I like the old ones, like Shalom Hanoch, Arik Einstein…this kind of music. If I think about more modern Israeli artists, I like the new bands like cafesh kazo hazak, and other young groups or artists. I like listening to what is behind the lyrics—the ones that have a rebellious spirit.
What is your favorite part about being Israeli?
First of all, I’m very proud of my family history. My family has been in Israel for 500 years.
What I like about being Israeli is that you don’t think twice before you act. You just do, and then think after. Strangely enough, I also like that in America you are forced to think before you act. I like the combination of the two. I think that this is one of many fascinating experiences that shlichim have in being an Israeli in America and bringing America back to Israel.
I’ve traveled a lot in Israel in one of my previous jobs, which gave the opportunity to meet a lot of different people that I would never have had a chance to meet before. It was fascinating.
What are you most looking forward to in your role as our Senior Shaliach?
First of all, to learn. To learn about the Jewish community here, to learn about what the Jewish community here cares about.
I hope to bring my experiences back to Israel and to bring Israel here. I would like to engage more people in the community with Israel through a diversity of platforms and through that, strengthen the conversation between the Jews living here and in Israel, and vice versa.
If we look at Zionism, the roots of Zionism were about establishing the Jewish state. We needed people to move to Israel, and those in the diaspora to support Israel. I think today, the challenge we are facing is different. Israel is strong. The Jewish community around the world is strong. The question is not of supporting, but rather, of connecting the two communities. My job as a shaliach is to listen to the voice of the American Jews and vocalize that voice back in Israel. On the other side, I think we need to bring what is happening in Israel today over here. And when I say this, I don’t mean news. You don’t need me to hear the news. But you do need me to learn about life in Israel through my eyes, through my friends’ eyes, through my community’s eyes. Seeing Israel through the eyes of others makes it more relatable and easier to comprehend.
If you were to look back in five years, what would you have hoped to have accomplished in Greater Washington?
I would like more and more Jews who live here to feel connected and engaged with Israel. Each one of them will find their own way to do it, and so our task is to find as many ways to bring Israel to them.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
As I said before, I like to cook and bake, but my problem now is that I need to convert everything from Celsius to Fahrenheit, and all those other measurements! I like to read, listen to music and to travel. And I like markets. Any kind of market: farmers markets, flea markets, art markets. Whenever I go to a new place, I always google to see if there is a market nearby. I find that through the markets you find a lot of new flavors and new experiences. You learn about people and their stories through their art or their food or whatever they are selling.
One final and very important question. What do you think of the hummus here?
I think it’s fair and good…however, I would like to invite people to taste Israeli hummus as well.
By the way, this is an unfair question and I’ll tell you why: in the south of Israel, there is a place called “achummus shel tahina,” which is owned by members of my kibbutz, this group of young people who decided to open a hummus place. For a few months, they had all their friends in the kibbutz taste every kind of hummus they could get their hands on until they found the best flavor that everybody liked. They opened the hummus place in Sderot, and today it is probably the best hummus in Israel. They recently opened a branch in Jerusalem and it’s become very famous. Besides that, I encourage everyone to try to make homemade hummus!