Hello! My name is Nathalie Fuhrman, and I am a seventeen-year-old from Miami, Florida. As a student at Scheck Hillel Community School and a member of the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center, I have grown up in a very active and very Zionist Jewish community. These strong influences in my life have led me to do my part in strengthening the community and advocating for Israel.
For thousands of years, the Jewish People have ensured the survival of their religion through education. Judaism emphasizes the importance of teaching each new generation the Torah, Jewish values, and Jewish traditions. For me, a critical factor of modern Israel advocacy is educating the younger generations of Jews about Israel’s rich culture and heritage, so that they can form a strong connection with the country and continue the advocacy efforts of previous generations.
My current form of Israel advocacy, therefore, is teaching young children Israeli folk dancing through the Bamachol Dance Program. For the past six years, I have worked as a dance teacher, teaching girls between the ages of four and ten about Israeli culture through dance, and helping them develop a connection to the State of Israel. Many see it as a simple dance class, but for the girls who are not able to attend a Jewish day school, it is their first exposure to Israel. It is also their first experience with Israeli music, the initial taste of the different cultures within Israel, and their first connection to the idea of a Jewish homeland. Through song and dance, the girls are able to learn more about the country and begin to formulate an excitement for it. With this emotional bond, many go on to build a meaningful relationship with Israel and develop a desire to help defend it.
In addition to being a teacher, I am also a dancer for the program, which has allowed me to strengthen my connection to Israel in many different ways. With my dance group, I have traveled to Israel to learn more about the country. I have also used dance to meet with Palestinian children and connect with them through a common love for music and dance, disarming negative attitudes about Israel. In addition, our group has traveled to various countries, to visit both Jewish and non-Jewish communities, where we are given the opportunity to represent the State of Israel and educate others. By focusing on the positive, I have been able to shape people’s first impressions of Israel, creating a strong positive influence that is difficult to overturn.
Through my dancing and my travels to Israel, I have been able to develop a very personal definition of Zionism. To me, Zionism is the love and support of the State of Israel that I have seen in my home, my school, and my community. More than that, however, Zionism is a feeling of security, comfort, and belonging to the State of Israel. It is a love for its culture and a desire to spread that culture both within and outside of the Jewish community.
In addition to my participation in the Bamachol dance program and the Jewish community, I also work as a swim instructor. I trained to be a lifeguard and then certified myself through the American Red Cross as a Water Safety Instructor. With this certification, I have been able to teach private classes as well as in summer camps and help keep kids safe in the water.
I wanted to take this opportunity to how excited and grateful I am to have been given this opportunity to be a ZOA fellow. Having grown up in a Jewish community and attended a Jewish day school since a young age, I have, for good or for bad, not yet been exposed to an anti-Semitic environment. However, I have heard from college students about the harsh presence of anti-Semitism on college campuses and, through their stories, have realized the importance of educating young Jews on how to properly defend the State of Israel. As a soon-to-be college student myself, I hope to gain through the ZOA fellowship more tools to educate people on and defend the State of Israel on college campuses. Those strategies that I will take with me from the fellowship will then be passed on not only to fellow Scheck Hillel students but also to fellow Israel advocates who may not have been given such an incredible opportunity during their high school years.