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First emissary couple shows different ‘faces of Israel’
July 1st, 2011
When a delegation from Milwaukee went to Israel this past winter to select the successor to the community’s current Israel emissary Paz Goldschmidt, they intended to hire just one person for the post.
Michal Makov-Peled and Ro’ee Peled
But then the delegates met Michal Makov-Peled and Ro’ee Peled, and a new idea dawned on them: a wife-husband emissary team.
Said delegate Moshe Katz, Milwaukee Jewish activist, Partnership 2000 cluster chair, and new chair of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center: “They were great as individuals, but they were even better together. They are a charming couple and their working relationship is practically symbiotic.”
Therefore, beginning in late August, Milwaukee will have its first ever married-to-each-other pair of Israel emissaries (in Hebrew shlichim). Until now, individual shlichim brought their families with them, and the spouse has worked in some other field.
But this couple will bring to the community more than just the fact of being spouses — which at this writing they have been for more than a year.
In an interview at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation offices during their pre-moving-in visit to Milwaukee in early June, they pointed out that they represent “different faces of Israel.” And that fact, said Peled, can “help us touch and reach to more people” in the Milwaukee community.
Michal Makov-Peled, 29, could be described as a “townie.” She was born and raised in Kfar Adumim, a village near Jerusalem; and she grew up in what she called “a religious, traditional family” to parents who were Revisionist Zionists.
She earned her undergraduate degree in Jewish history at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and she worked during that time at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum, and later at a Jerusalem rape crisis center.
Makov-Peled has most recently worked as director of College for All, a program that seeks intelligent children from low socio-economic scale families and “gives them a push toward an academic future,” she said.
For his part, Ro’ee Peled, 36, is a kibbutznik — that is, a native of one of Israel’s once-celebrated collective farms (kibbutzim in Hebrew) whose residents are most often secular Jews and socialists or Labor Zionists.
Peled was born and raised on Kibbutz Ma’anit, located near Hadera in northern Israel. The kibbutz was founded in 1935; and Peled was the third generation of his family to live there.
After completing his army service, Peled directed a boarding school that his kibbutz shared with three other kibbutzim; then he attended Tel Aviv University to major in sociology and political science.
He, too, worked in a humanitarian organization after graduation: Mutat Alon, which he said tries to “narrow social-economic gaps through educational programs,” he said.
Both have previously lived in North America. In fact, their positive memories of those times were among the reasons they decided to apply to the Jewish Agency for Israel to become community shlichim, they said.
From ages 11 to 13, Makov-Peled lived in Montreal, where her father was working as “the central shaliach of North America,” and where she acquired ability to speak English and French.
Peled as an adult spent two years as a shaliach for the Habonim Labor Zionist Youth Movement in California; and he said that experience “changed my Jewish identity and the way I see Judaism and the relation between Israel and Jewish communities outside.”
Peled returned to Israel to work for JAFI and to work on a master’s degree at The Hebrew University in the sociology of organizations. At the same time, Makov-Peled attended the same university to obtain a master’s degree in research and resolution of conflict.
They met when they took the same class on negotiation, and the instructor randomly chose them to negotiate with each other for a learning exercise. That exercise may not have been a successful educational experience — “I agreed to everything he said,” said Makov-Peled — but the relationship seed was planted, and he proposed to her a year-and-a-half later.
In their positions as Israel emissaries and directors of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Israel Center, Makov-Peled said their goals will be “first of all [to] make Israel accessible and really bring Israel to the people — the complexity [of the country], the tastes, the smells, the vital life of Israel.”
Peled added that they also want to “continue the dialogue that happens between Israel and the Jewish community here. I think [Israeli and Diaspora Jews] can help the other, can challenge the other, can raise questions about where we can improve.”
And Peled expects not only to give to the Milwaukee community, but also to bring something back to Israel when the couple’s shlichut term expires (two years, with an option for a third).
“By learning and knowing what it means to be Jewish here, it can give a stronger sense of Jewish peoplehood in Israel as well,” he said.