From Paris to Perth, A Happy Family of Jewish Immigrants

June 18, 2012 3:07 pm 0 comments

Creative approach: actresses pose as flight attendants at JICNY Gala

New York City has no shortage of Jewish organizations for young singles and couples. Some catalyze support for Israel, or stress attendee self-improvement, offering lectures on everything from finding love to managing time. Still others go the hedonistic route and throw massive blowout parties on Christmas Eve. Some even cultivate a mystique, purposely keeping secret the locations of their events to all but a select few.

One, however, makes attendees feel like members of one big happy, if somewhat eccentric, family. Last week I was fortunate to attend the yearly gala for Jewish International Connection New York (JICNY). Founded by Gavin and Jodi Samuels and Steve Eisenberg, the organization holds over 200 free and low-cost events a year for young Jewish individuals and couples who have come to New York City from around the world. At JICNY’s events, which include Shabbat dinners in private homes and a regular Upper West Side Torah study and discussion with Eisenberg, attendees who hail from Paris to Perth dine with those of us from Pikesville to Pittsburgh.

The theme of the evening was JICNY Air, and the Prince George ballroom on East 27th Street was festooned with decorations of faraway locales and studded with food stations offering traditional Eastern European Jewish favorites like perogis as well as burritos and sushi.  A Gipsy Kings cover band played festive flamenco-style tunes and, in perhaps the most unique part of the evening, faux “flight attendants,” circulated among attendees asking stuff like, “Excuse me, where is gate B20?” –  wearing crisp white shirts and blue scarves, 60′s style.

Gavin and Jodi Samuels, whom I was privileged to interview several years ago for the New York Daily News, are a true power couple, as both work, raise three beautiful and sweet children, (one with special needs), and still find the time to man this organization, which has facilitated the meeting of 89 married couples.

In remarks to the attendees, Jodi stressed her experience as a young woman, having immigrated to New York from Johannesburg, South Africa, in shaping her vision for JICNY.

“I know what it’s like to be an immigrant in New York,” she said. “My vision for JICNY was to be a home away from home. To achieve my vision, I needed two things: an amazing, supportive husband, Gavin Samuels, and an amazing partner in Steve Eisenberg.”

The event raised half of JICNY’s yearly budget for its events to host over 10,000 people.

Sivan Hadari, 31, an off-Broadway actress and producer who chaired the event, stressed its warmth. She also spoke of how JICNY is inspiring her efforts to run Isramerica, her recently founded non-profit that supports Israeli and Jewish artists promoting positive images of Israel and Judaism.

“I felt like I was at somebody’s wedding or bar mitzvah—it’s not just, ‘Oh hi hi,’ but like you’re reconnecting with family members,” she said. “For people  … to feel part of the community and a true connection to one another –that’s what JICNY has done in the past 11 years.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →
  • Analysis Arts and Culture Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    JNS.org – One of the most controversial operas in recent memory, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” debuted Oct. 20 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Met has scheduled seven more performances through November. The first staging did not occur without protest, as about 400 demonstrators—including Jewish communal and nationally recognized leaders—came to Lincoln Center to denounce the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel opera. “Klinghoffer,” the creation of composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, premiered in 1991—with few additional stagings. The opera is based [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    JNS.org – Less than five months after leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to its sixth European basketball title, David Blatt, now the head coach of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, routed his former team in an exhibition game on Sunday, with the Cavaliers dominating Maccabi 107-80 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The 20,562 fans in attendance witnessed Lebron James’s first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform since he left the club in free agency for the Miami Heat four years ago. [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.