Itamar Danziger: From Toronto to Tel Aviv

Danziger's biggest dream is to have one of his compositions played by the Vienna Philharmonic.

Itamar Danziger (photo credit: Meredith Price Levitt)
Itamar Danziger
(photo credit: Meredith Price Levitt)
'We can either take the symbolic walk or the regular walk," says Itamar Danziger as we prepare to leave his downstairs office in the psychiatric ward of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. What he means by the symbolic route is a series of underground tunnels that connect different wings of the sprawling hospital. Painted with colorful comics and dark cartoon figures, the concrete pathway has an eerie feeling that Danziger likens to the way a psychotic patient must feel all the time. "When I say symbolic, I mean the physical tunnels remind me of the mental state of many of my patients," he explains. BEFORE ARRIVAL Born and raised largely in Toronto, Danziger spent several years in Ithaca, New York, two years in Denmark and four years in Israel with his family when he was growing up. He attended the pluralistically religious Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, commonly known as CHAT. "We moved around a lot," says Danziger. This is also one of the reasons why he insists that his process of maturation didn't start until after he made aliya. UPON ARRIVAL "My first year in Israel I went to a yeshiva because that was the thing to do," says Danziger. "During that year, I decided I wanted to stay, partially out of idealism and Zionism but largely to gain my independence and figure out who I am." He studied psychology at Bar-Ilan University and received his BA in 2003, and then served his army duty at the Behavioral Science Center in Tel Hashomer. "It sounded like a good job when I took it, but it turned out to be largely statistics." After working with schizophrenics near Bnei Brak for a year, he decided to get another BA from Bar-Ilan in social work. Scheduled to finish in the spring of 2008, he is currently completing his internship and course work in a fast-track program. "There was a failed marriage in those years too," he says of his short-lived relationship. Luckily, no children were involved and he learned a huge amount from the experience. "It's like the Sting song: 'If you love someone, set them free.' We were great together, but there was no room for me as an individual." FAMILY HISTORY He is the second of four children, all of whom "eloped to Israel." His mother is an opera singer and his father is an economics professor at Ben-Gurion University. "I got my love of music from my mom," he says. His older brother Uri has four children and his younger sister Yisha is studying dentistry in Philadelphia but will return after her degree. Eliav, the baby of the family, is studying math and economics at Tel Aviv University. Danziger's maternal grandparents live in Mikve Yisrael. They fled Denmark during the war and then moved here permanently in 1948. His paternal grandfather has died, and his paternal grandmother still lives in Denmark. "During the war, they both fled to Sweden by boat and that's how they met." Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that his grandfather's company was run by the secretary during his absence and he was able to take it up again upon his return. WORK After he finishes his degree, he hopes to find a full-time position in social work. Nevertheless, he says it is his music that keeps him sane. Working with schizophrenics and the mentally ill all day long is a tiring job. He also spends one day a week composing new music for various people and events. In a recent piece, called "Autumn," he composed a series of four lovely songs, one for each season. This spring, he will finish a composition for a man in North Carolina who is obsessed with <The Wizard of Oz,. LIVING ENVIRONMENT He shares a three-bedroom flat with two roommates in Givat Shmuel close to Bar-Ilan. "I like to brag about my view of the sea," he says. "But in reality it's a little tiny spot of blue." ROUTINE On Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Danziger spends most of his day in the psychological ward of Ichilov. For a break, he either goes out for a cigarette or heads over to the nearby Weizmann Center shopping mall. On Mondays and Wednesdays, he attends classes. "Every evening consists of work, too, because that's when I do my mentorship with schizophrenic patients." On Fridays he composes music, and on Saturdays he rests. "I utterly insist on sleeping until 4 p.m. It's supposed to be a day of rest, so I rest." HOBBIES In his spare moments, which are few and far between, he plays the clarinet and goes hiking. He also enjoys biking. Last summer, he went on a bike trip through Central Europe for a month and a half. "It's a good thing I do what I like," he says. "I have time for little else right now." CIRCLE Most of his friends are either Canadians or Americans whom he met through studies at Bar-Ilan, but Danziger says he does have a few friends from childhood who ended up in the area too. "They're worse than ants taking over the world at Bar-Ilan," he says with a smile. LANGUAGE He speaks English, Danish and Hebrew with almost equal fluency, although he says that his Hebrew wasn't truly good until he served in the army, because most of his friends speak English, and with his family, well, it's a mishmash. "I once heard someone say that with Danish, it's impossible to tell whether you're speaking or chewing gum." RELIGION "Let's just say that I'm working that one out now," he says. Raised in a religious home, Danziger wears a kippa but says that part of his search for personal identity puts religion and beliefs into question. IDENTIFICATION "I was once told by a commanding officer in the army that I am so Canadian because I even swear politely," says Danziger. With close connections to so many different countries, he says he feels somewhere between Canadian and Israeli, but not Danish. "Growing up in so many different places influenced my attempts to understand who I am before I came to Israel and made it difficult," he says. "Now, I'm working on meeting myself and figuring out who I am. It's a very intense process that is difficult but good." PLANS/DREAMS Danziger's biggest dream is to have one of his compositions played by the Vienna Philharmonic. One day, he says he would also like to get married again and have a family. "If love comes now, sure. If not, it will wait. I'm not picky about the timing." To propose an immigrant for an 'Arrivals' profile, please send a one paragraph e-mail to: [email protected]