Deborah, searching for the meaning of Jewish life, here and now
It’s pretty safe to say that Deborah Fishman is passionate about Jewish life and Israel. As the Managing Editor of PresenTense Magazine, a grassroots, volunteer effort by hundreds of young Jews spread across four continents, she and her staff are dedicated to tackling the question of what it mean to be Jewish, and how being Jewish can add value to our lives. She is also currently pursuing a Masters in Jewish Professional Studies at the Spertus Institute and a mentor in the Write On for Israel program. She previously served as Program Director for the American Zionist Movement, developing educational materials to promote dialogue on the meaning of Zionism today. A 2006 graduate of Princeton University, Deborah now lives with her husband in Chicago.
So whether you’re interested in finding ways to express your Jewish creativity, have a relative who collects Israeli stamps or you too were seduced by the humanities, Deborah Fishman is a Jew You Should Know!
1. What is your favorite blog or website?
That would have to be www.presentense.org, of course. I also love to check out recipes at www.recipezaar.com or www.epicurious.com.
2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel?
I would travel back and forth to Israel on a regular basis to visit the PresenTense Jerusalem Hub, as well as my family and friends in Israel. Though Skype and modern technology can do wonders, it’s never the same as being there in person. Besides, El Al flights are pretty much like being in Israel anyway, so you barely lose any time. I might also travel to meet with PresenTense’s contributors in some of the more exotic locales – Kazakhstan, Beijing, London and Budapest. It would definitely bring breakthroughs to the editing process.
3. If a movie was made about your life, who would play you?
I might write an autobiography someday – and the movie is never as good as the original book. If the movie were made anyway, Catherine Zeta-Jones could play me. It’d be an action movie.
4. If you could have a meal with any two people, living or dead, famous or not, who would they be? Where would you eat or what would you serve?
My maternal grandfather, Grandpa Burt, and my husband’s paternal grandfather, Saba Ami. Both had passions for Israeli stamps – Grandpa Burt as an American collector, and Saba Ami as an Israeli stamp dealer. Each passed away long before my husband and I ever met, but I nevertheless feel a special bond unites them, and by extension us. I sometimes dream about what it would have been like if they could have met, and would have very much liked to meet Saba Ami. I’d cook, of course. While I do miss the dishes Grandpa Burt used to prepare, I think it’d be unfair to make him do the work – though perhaps I’d incorporate some of the foods I most remember him for: beets, brisket and potato latkes.
5. What's your idea of the perfect day?
I wake up in my apartment in Jerusalem. I walk over to the PresenTense hub, picking up some borekas for breakfast on my way. There I meet with writers, editors and other Jewish innovators sharing a common workspace. Lots of creative ideas are flowing as I’m immersed in a creative and stimulating intellectual environment. In the afternoon I go to Mahane Yehuda and pick out an assortment of exciting and delectably fresh fruits and vegetables for an upcoming Shabbat meal I’m hosting. In the evening my husband and I meet for dinner at a cute little kosher restaurant we have just discovered (and no one else has). Afterwards we go for a romantic walk down to the Kotel.
6. What do you love about what you do?
I love the exchange of ideas with all the people with whom I have the opportunity to work. PresenTense is an open-source network, which means that young Jews from all over the world and all religious/ideological backgrounds can pitch their ideas concerning new trends that affect Jewish life and its meaning in the here and now. Though we are a diverse group, each individual is extraordinarily passionate about his or her unique vision for the Jewish future. Together, we seek to express young Jewish creativity and these cutting-edge ideas, thus working to change the future of the Jewish People. What could be better than that?
7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
I entered college as a pre-med physics major. My destined path in life was probably evident when I spent a summer at the Weizmann Institute and, instead of finding the Higgs boson, I founded a literary magazine. However, if I hadn’t been seduced by the humanities, I might have become a doctor.
8. What's your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago? In other words, how do you Jew?
I love hanging out with the PresenTense community in Chicago – whether it be our Creative Zionist Circle meetings, where we work to solve the problems facing the Jewish world; “drunken” brainstorms, where we use our creativity and collective energy to come up with amazing ideas that we then use for the magazine; or cooking together for Shabbat dinners. While it’s incredible to be connected to an international network of people, I don’t believe there’s any technological means of communication that can surpass the support and potential for growth that can be realized in person, in the local community right here in Chicago.