Arrivals: A model mover and shaker

Jeremy Dery gets things done. He took on Drew University when it challenged his decision to study in Israel, is involved in numerous projects and has devoted his time to Jewish affairs.

Jeremy Dery 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jeremy Dery 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jeremy Dery, 24 From New Jersey to Tel Aviv, 2010
With his fluent English and French, strong Zionist education and traditional Jewish background, his experience of fighting the authorities in the US on Israel’s behalf and, last but not least, his film-star good looks, Jeremy Dery is the sort of person it’s good to have in Israel’s corner.
About to begin studying at Tel Aviv University for a master’s degree in conflict resolution, he’s been living in Israel since summer of last year, filling in the time until starting his degree course with some very interesting and non-routine activities.
For several months, he worked with Ayoub Kara as an intern in the Druse Knesset member’s office.
“When he visited the US, I worked with his chief of staff Mendi Safadi, preparing the visit,” Dery says. “He’s an interesting man – he made a speech recently in Tel Aviv in which he said he was more Zionist than all the Jews in the world.”
He’s also been involved with the activities of many Israeli advocacy groups and feels he has qualities that could be helpful in Israel’s hasbara (public diplomacy) battle.
DERY WAS born in 1987 in New York. His mother is of Turkish/Romanian origin; his father is Moroccan, originally from Rabat, and moved to Paris as a teenager. His parents met in France and lived both there and in the US.
When Dery was between the ages of six and 10 the family lived in France and he clearly remembers encountering anti-Semitism as a child, being called “sale juif” (dirty Jew) and seeing anti-Jewish graffiti.
“I felt it very much as a child. We would go to synagogue and I remember the guards standing there with big machine guns,” he recalls.
When they moved back to the US and settled in New Jersey, he gained an interest in Jewish history and particularly the Arab/Jewish conflict. As a young teenager, he learned about the spate of horrific suicide bombings in Israel and felt a sense of outrage.
While still in high school, he began to be active in Israeli and Jewish activities, becoming president of the Israel club in his final year at school, and when he joined Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, to study for his first degree, he quickly became president of the Hillel there.
During his second year at Drew, Dery got into his first public fight on behalf of Israel. He had planned to take some time off and spend the spring semester at Tel Aviv University.
Drew rejected his application on safety grounds and even clarified that if he went without their blessing he would not receive any credits for his study in Israel.
He took on the battle, involved the Israeli consulate, Jewish leaders, journalists and even the governor of New Jersey – and eventually won to the extent that the whole university policy was changed.
In the end, he was able to spend two semesters in Tel Aviv and finally earned his first degree in 2009. Always active on campus, he was very involved in the David Project to encourage Israeli hasbara in US colleges and in 2009 was the guest speaker at their Boston convention.
It was a Taglit Birthright trip in 2006, his first visit to Israel, that convinced him he should do his second degree here. He fell in love with the country he had defended for so long.
There was also an Israeli girl somewhere along the line but she is no longer in the picture.
“I decided that since my plan is to do Middle Eastern studies and my passion is Jewish affairs, how could I not return? Everyone told me the best way to have a rounded education is to study abroad,” he says.
So now he is living in Tel Aviv and has become involved in several projects all designed either to help Israel’s image in some way or to help new immigrants. One is World Magshimei Herut, an aliya and support organization founded in 1999. Another is Hadar Israel, a grassroots non-profit organization that encourages international dialogue and a third is the Gloria Center for Global Affairs, based at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. Here, he has helped produce material for its website. Last month he helped organize a China-Israel symposium devoted to security, finding appropriate speakers from his many connections and writing the official review.
He has a pro-Israel Facebook group with 2,500 members called “Peace for Israel; stand against terror,” which he constantly updates.
With so much activity it doesn’t sound like there is much time for a private life and he tells me he doesn’t have a girlfriend at the moment.
THE FUTURE He would like to do something in the Zionist world, since he has so much experience in hasbara, and perhaps even join the Foreign Service to which he feels he could be suited with his fluent French and English, to which he hopes to add Arabic.
Someone told him he would also make a great model but it seems he has more serious ambitions.
“I believe in my heart and soul that I have something to contribute in the cause of the Jewish people,” he says.