Israeli emissary Roni Levin wants to show that there is a lot more to the Jewish state than politics
By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor
Roni Levin said she always wanted to work as some type of Israeli emissary and her position as St. Paul’s new shlicha just makes it official.
“This position combines all the things I’ve done so far and adds the Zionism and my love for Israel,” Levin told the AJW. “I can [offer] my feelings and thoughts, and…not feel uncomfortable to say that I’m a Zionist or Jewish.”
Levin’s position is a collaboration between the United Jewish Fund and Council of St. Paul (UJFC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). Over the next year, she will develop Israel programming for a variety of organizations, including the St. Paul JCC, Talmud Torah of St. Paul, Hillel and local synagogues.
- Roni Levin: St. Paul was exactly what I asked for. (Photo: Courtesy of UJFC)
Levin, 26, was born and raised in Tsurit, a small village in northern Israel near Karmiel that her parents helped establish in the 1980s to make the area “more Jewish.” In high school — where she majored in theater and played basketball — she served as a counselor for the Echud Haklai youth movement and tutored teens and at-risk kids in several communities in the northern Negev.
Levin also worked with the Misgav Regional Council and the Karmiel-Misgav-Pittsburgh Partnership, and served three years in the Israel Defense Forces, volunteering for a third year as an officer. She was based in a combat engineering unit as a supervision officer and an instructor for one of the technological systems installed on IDF tanks.
“I don’t know how to drive a tank, but I know how to operate a few of these things,” Levin said.
Prior to coming to Minnesota, Levin worked in one of the government offices in Haifa, while completing her studies in political science and human resources at Haifa University.
Following her army service, Levin traveled around the United States with her brother, and said she found herself explaining things about Israel and the Jewish tradition to those who were curious about it.
So becoming an Israeli emissary seemed like a natural fit — and it even runs in the family.
“I always found myself involved in the connection between Jewish people who live in Israel and people abroad,” Levin said. “My older brother was a shaliach in Omaha, Nebraska… and when he came back I saw what he did and the difference that he made. I decided that I also wanted to do that.”
And when it came to choosing a community with which to work, Levin knew exactly what she wanted: a small community, but not too small, that was warm and “homey,” and placed high value on family. St. Paul was her first choice.
Dan Mogelson, UJFC’s director of Israel programs and young leadership, went to Israel to interview all of the community’s emissary candidates. But he already knew good things about Levin — thanks to a recommendation from St. Paul’s previous shlicha, Alisa Warshavsky.
“Alisa had been in contact with all of the candidates and thought that [Levin] had the most to offer our community,” Mogelson said. “The other shlichim were very nice people, but there was no contest at all as to how Roni stood out from the other candidates.”
And Levin was thrilled to receive Mogelson’s offer.
“For me it was one of the most important things, that the community will become a family to me,” she said. “St. Paul was exactly what I asked for.”
As an older shlicha, Levin said she will use her experience and maturity when developing programming. And though she has a degree in political science and is always willing to talk about politics, she wants to showcase all sides of Israel.
For example, to feature Israeli culture, Levin is directing the Contemporary Israeli Film Series that is taking place on Sunday afternoons through Oct. 30 at the St. Paul JCC. All of the selections are current films from Israel that “examine families, society and universal truths.”
Levin said that Israel knows how to win wars, but often loses the advocacy battle. As a shlicha, she wants to empower Jews in St. Paul to become “shlichim of their own.”
“I came here with all my heart, I’m doing something that I truly believe in,” Levin said. “I chose to come here and I’m happy to be here. And I really want to meet the community.”
St. Paul Shlicha Roni Levin can be reached at 651-690-1707 or: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(American Jewish World, 9.30.11)