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Boaz Ozery

Israeli American: Navigating Dual Identity

Two cultures and identities
Two cultures and identities

I am an American citizen of Israeli descent, or maybe I am an Israeli with American citizenship, or maybe I am both. Whatever I am, the answer is complicated and multi-layered.

While attending the IAC 2023 Summit in Austin, Texas, I wish to share my thoughts concerning individuals across the globe who share the dual identity of two nationalities. I am constantly asked about (and asking myself) what my identity is and my place in the Jewish world. I am often confused by the disconnect between my personal experiences and perceptions of Israeli culture and the general consensus that exists in the media and in the communities in which I live in the US.

I was born in a small Moshav in the center of Israel. My parents are an immigrant family from two different parts of the world and thereby represent different cultures and opportunities. My Mom made Aliyah from the USA, and my Dad and his family came to Israel from Yemen. From my personal story, I have experienced first-hand the unique relationship that exists between Israel and the United States.

As I attended the IAC Summit, I was struck by the discussions around the challenges of integrating the Israeli American community. One of the biggest obstacles mentioned was the growing divide between the different segments of the community. This divide can manifest itself in various ways, whether it be religious, political or cultural.

One of the key points brought up at the conference was the need for more dialogue and conversation. It is through open and honest communication that we can begin to bridge the divide. We must develop empathy and emotional maturity to understand the different perspectives and experiences within the two communities.

Another key point brought up was the need for more education and resources. We need to provide more opportunities for individuals to learn about the history and culture of both Israel and America. This can be achieved by developing educational materials, lectures, and workshops. Additionally, we need to provide more opportunities for young people to engage with their peers from different backgrounds and cultures.

One tangible suggestion that was brought up was the focus on local community initiatives. This means working on a community level and engaging with the leaders of the Israeli American community. We must intentionally bring Israelis and Americans together through programs and events.

Another suggestion presented at the Summit was the idea of “one more thing” – encouraging individuals to do one more thing to connect with the community and Judaism, whether it be hosting a Shabbat dinner to talk about Israel with friends or bringing to the table discussions about Jewish moral values.

Lastly, the concept of mutual understanding inspired me. As individuals have different ways of expressing and receiving love, different cultures and communities have different ways of expressing and receiving connection. It is essential to understand and speak the language of the community we are trying to connect with.

As an Israeli American, I understand the complexities of the relationship between Israel and the United States. The divide between communities is a real challenge that we need to address. Still, I believe that by focusing on understanding and speaking the language of the other, we can bridge the divide and strengthen our community. We are all one family, and as a family, we need to love and support each other, no matter where we come from.

While we highlighted the complex and nuanced nature of the Israeli American community, it is clear that there is a need for more dialogue, education, and opportunities for connection. And we all can and should participate in taking necessary, meaningful, intentional action.

We have a moral obligation as a family to bridge the divide and build a stronger and more united community. We need to take both formal and informal steps to ensure that we blend properly into our communities. Through mutual respect and understanding, we can grow as a united local Jewish community infused with the valuable resources of our two cultures and history. The sharing of our two cultures will enrich ourselves as well as the Jewish community living in America at large.

I personally pledge to take on this challenge and hope that a new trend of openness and mutual understanding will be the new spirit that will be infused into the Jewish Community of America and allow it to flourish and strengthen its historic ties to Israel.

About the Author
CEO of American Friends of Atid, a U.S.-based non-profit supporting the Atid education network in Israel, renowned for fostering remarkable achievements in children from diverse backgrounds. Over 17 years of experience working in philanthropic nonprofit marketing, communications, and public relations.
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