Over 400 philanthropic community leaders and business professionals attended The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s 2018 Network Event at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C., on the evening of March 6. Lior Raz, star of the hit Israeli TV show, “Fauda,” headlined the event after the attendees had a chance to network while enjoying delicious food and drink catered by the Grand Hyatt’s kosher kitchen.
“Federation amazes me with the breadth of what the organization does in terms of support for our community organizations and direct programming for our community,” said attendee Andrew Friedson, a candidate for Montgomery County Council. “What I love about Federation most is that its efforts are dedicated not only in supporting Jewish people, but in advancing Jewish values.”
Friedson attended in support of his brother, Matthew Friedson, who co-chaired the event. “The best part of the night was the nachas [pride] I felt for my brother Matthew,” he said.
Following the networking reception, welcoming remarks were made by Matthew Friedson and co-chair Dave Pollin, as well as Federation CEO Gil Preuss.
Pollin joked that while there was no shortage of financial advisers in the room, he was proud that Federation serves as his philanthropic adviser. Friedson talked about the crucial role the institution plays in the local Jewish community.
“While there are many ways for philanthropists to channel their talents, passions, and generosity, no other non-profit can do as much with our philanthropic gifts as The Jewish Federation,” he said. “Every year, donations to Federation’s Annual Campaign go directly to meeting the critical needs of our Jewish community — here in Greater Washington, in Israel, and in more than 70 countries overseas.”
Attendees were then introduced by video to four-year-old Max Lasko, a young resident of the local community who attends preschool at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington via a telepresence robot. Max’s mother expressed her appreciation to Federation and its donors for making an inclusive preschool a reality in our community, allowing Max and his peers to learn from and interact with each other.
After the video, Preuss referenced the recent community study, funded by The Morningstar Foundation, which shows that the Greater Washington community is “one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in North America.” He also pointed out that, contrary to popular perception, this is a community in which people settle down. To demonstrate the point, he asked those that did not grow up in the area to raise their hands: Nearly 70 percent of the crowd had an arm raised.
Preuss invited those in the room and the community as a whole to participate in Federation’s upcoming strategic planning process, as the organization strives to learn how it can best meet the diverse needs of the Greater Washington Jewish community.
Next, event co-chair Robin Taub introduced special guest Lior Raz, star of Netflix’s “Fauda.” Raz spoke about his experience in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and how making a show that offers perspectives from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a healing process for his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Raz’s story was both thrilling and compelling. He talked about his experiences as an undercover agent for the Israeli army, which are part of the basis for the show. Part of his grueling training included him being brutally beaten by four people every night before he went to sleep,which he said contributed to his PTSD. He explained that as an undercover agent, he needed to be an amazing actor: an Israeli soldier one night, then an Arab citizen the next day, and an assassin at the drop of a hat. The difference between his previous acting role and his current one is that if he made a mistake in his previous role, people’s lives — including his own — were at stake.
A big reason for the show’s popularity is its focus on both Israeli and Arab culture, according to Raz. It was controversial at first, he said: “Those on the right think it’s for them, those on the left think it’s for them, and Arabs think it’s for them too.” Raz talked about his love for Arab culture as the reason he used the Arabic word fauda, or chaos, as the name of the show, and the series’ intentional focus on Arabic. Raz said he was thankful for the attention the show was receiving, and that the show was therapeutic for him in handling difficult emotions stemming from his PTSD from his military service and the murder of his girlfriend in a terrorist attack when he was 19. He was also glad to hear feedback that the show helped viewers on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict understand the other’s perspective a bit more.
The night “was a huge success,” said Neil Gurvitch, chair of Federation’s The Network. “We had a large turnout and everyone seemed to enjoy the networking and guest speaker.”
This was the first Federation event for Silver Spring resident Ellie Kagan, a pediatric nurse practitioner and diabetes educator at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. She was impressed by the turnout, the level of organization, and the great ambiance, she said. “I learned so much about the great work Federation does for our community, and I look forward to getting more involved.”