Milwaukee Jewish Federation >> David Raz
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Served from 1986 – 1989
Q: How did being an Israeli emissary in Milwaukee impact your life and your career path?
A: When I came as a shaliach, I took leave from the IDF. I knew clearly that at the end of the shlichut, I would return to the army. Not having the burden of worrying what I would do on my return helped me to dive into the world of shlichut – which is mainly the issue of Israel/Diaspora relations,
Jewish education in representing Israel at all levels and aspects. This was the first time for many years that I saw my family almost every day. It brought us closer but also allowed us to broaden our look at the “outside” world and especially understand the Jewish community outside of Israel. We made many close friends, many of who we remain in close contact with, more than 20 years after our return to Israel. Lesley was fortunate in having the opportunity to teach at MJDS although that had not been her profession previously. That opened an additional dimension for all of us.
The shlichut widened my knowledge and love of the Jewish world as a whole. Although I returned to the army, I started getting involved as a volunteer in different areas connected to Israel/Diaspora relations, which led to having a long time involvement in the Jewish world as the director of the Israeli Forum, which was an organization of a people to people connection and programming. This also brought me to a second shlichut which involved representing the Jewish Agency in the Israel Experience organization, which later on became Taglit, and being in charge of the whole informal education shlichut operation in North America, based in New York. On my return to Israel in 2001 I became the director of the long-term shlichut unit, screening and training long term shlichim. As you can see, the shlichut became a lifetime involvement. Even today, as a tour guide, it impacts much of my programming and planning.
Q: What are you doing now?
A: For the last 5 years I have been working as a tour guide. This has been a fulfillment of a personal interest and hobby of mine, loving walking the country, its history, people, sights and smells. It gives me the opportunity to get involved with people and enhance their understanding of and sympathy for our country. In a way it’s a continuation of the shlichut.
Q: What are your fondest memories of your time in Milwaukee?
A: What we knew about Milwaukee before we arrived, was that Golda Meir grew up there, beer and Harley Davidson. We discovered a great place on a Great Lake, which was true not only for the city, but also for the Jewish community specifically, and also for the broader community. A short while after we arrived, the first intifada began, which added a whole wide aspect to my work. Being the only Israeli semi official representative in the area, and with my broad military experience made me deal with a broad range of programs, meetings, and lectures with all parts of the community, both Jewish and other. Beyond the official work, we enjoyed Milwaukee as a city with its treasures – the long winter, shoveling snow, summerfest, fruits and nuts, bingo, Thanksgiving stuffing and the Rocky Horror Show at the Oriental theatre, not to mention Target, Kohls and French Silk Pie at Baker’s Square. Above all was our interaction with people and acquiring lifetime friendships.
David and Lesley Raz