NY group invites Israelis to the dance floor

Dor Hadash uses social and cultural events to bring together Israelis in the US and American Jews.

dor shalom 298 (photo credit: )
dor shalom 298
(photo credit: )
Featuring a bar stocked with Israeli wines and tables topped with the Manhattanite's ubiquitous designer cupcakes, Dor Hadash celebrated its second anniversary at GLOW, a dance club in lower Manhattan last week. Dor Hadash is a New York-based organization committed to using social, cultural and educational activities to bring together post-college age Israelis living in the US and Jewish Americans. The group saw the event as an opportunity to thank its nascent constituency, now nearly 5,000. Beneath the flash of a disco ball and the glow of wrap-around movie screens, the evening commenced with an 8 p.m. showing of a short, satiric film created by Dor Hadash. The film, which opened with Sex and the City's trademark theme song, caricatured an Israeli, "Beni," and Long Island-raised "Sari" talking on the phone. The comedic spoof served as an ironic reminder of the group's more serious messages: building bridges and breaking stereotypes. But beyond the basic idea of connecting American Jews with Israelis, just what these lofty concepts entail is a nuanced question with seemingly different, though compatible answers. For Atara Dzikowski, Dor Hadash's director of marketing, the bridge between these two cultures is largely tied to Jewish "hybrids" - a term used by the group to denote any person who, through birth or personal connection, has strong ties to Israel and America. "We really are a dor chadash [new generation,]" says Dzikowski. "We are not a single commitment generation. Nowadays, people move around a lot, going back and forth between Israel and America. Israel is still part of the big agenda, but the path to aliya is no longer clear cut." Instead, the journey takes place as if on a busy thoroughfare, traffic repeatedly moving back and forth in two directions. Others see the bridge not as a bypass between two cultures, but a meshing of both. For Moshe Bellows, the group's vice chairman, the primary draw of Dor Hadash is that it allows him to foster relationships that he would otherwise not have with Israelis living in America. "By sponsoring events," Bellows explains, "Dor Hadash creates a new baseline of shared experiences, which is really what building any relationship is about." David Borowich, the charismatic chairman and founder of Dor Hadash, highlights the group's more global mission. "There's a bigger issue here," he says. "If you think back two centuries ago, our grandparents were siblings in Europe, keeping Judaism in their hearts and Israel in their minds. "Today, however, American Jews and Israelis are more like second cousins. So the question becomes 'How do we stay connected?'" The issue is complicated further, explains Borowich, by virtue of today's young wanderlust. For the first time since the Holocaust, many Israelis are choosing to live outside of Israel. Further, there are no major influxes to Israel. "The focus used to be on getting a state. Fifty-seven years later we need to look at how to keep it populated," he says. Dor Hadash is Borowich's powerful solution to bridging the gaps between American-Israeli populations and within Israel's own population. For those like Tzameret Fuerst, an Israeli-American hybrid who is also a vice chairperson at Dor Hadash, the way these gaps are narrowed is through education. Born in Israel and raised in part there and in part in California, Fuerst is now married to an Israeli and living in America. "On the one hand, Israelis who are raised with a Jewish calendar often take Judaism for granted. They can, therefore, learn from American Jews how to form an identity outside of Israel," explains Fuerst. "On the other hand, American Jews, who are passionate about Israel but have no immediate access to its culture, can learn from Israelis about what's going on in that culture." Like most members of Dor Hadash, Fuerst says her "right ear is Israeli and her left, American." Animated with a passion that is the trademark of Dor Hadash, Fuerst signals the change in the background music at the anniversary event. As the tunes shift from Shotei Hanevua, an Israeli rap group, to Emminem, an American rapper, she comments: "See, both are the same rhythm - the music of convergence."