You Should Know … Joshua Rosenthal


Joshua Rosenthal, 35, has been doing Israeli dance for about 16 years.

(Courtesy of Joshua Rosenthal)

He grew up in Baltimore and followed both of his parent’s footsteps to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. There, he majored in English literature. Rosenthal continued his education at the University of Baltimore where he received a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in health care policy. Now, Rosenthal works for a government contractor while also serving as the co-founder of Rikud Baltimore, an Israeli dance organization.

Rosenthal lives in Baltimore and belongs to Beth El Congregation.

What do you do for work?
Currently, I work for a company called Leidos. We are a government contractor, so I work as a capture manager to help the company win government contracts. We are working to build the IT systems that make Medicare and Medicaid function. That is where my expertise is.

When did you begin Israeli dancing?
I’ve been running Israeli dance sessions in Baltimore for the last six years. I co-run the sessions with Carol Rubin. [Israeli dancing] is a type of folk dancing in Israel where many different people come from different places. You have Yemenite dances from Yemen, more dances influenced from Arabic countries, and they are all coming together in this one place.

It is a new dance form where people would choreograph different steps to specific songs, and you would do that dance to that song. It is a beautiful celebration of culture and music and Hebrew. It has evolved, and in the very beginning, it was very simple. It was just like horas around the campfire. But then over time, as it evolved, people started choreographing dances to Israeli pop songs and things like that. They use the structure of the steps from all of those dances that came before them to build the art form that we have today.

I’ve been Israeli dancing for a long time. I want to say I’ve been dancing for 16 years, so since I was 19. The way I got into it was that I was at school at UMBC, and my Hebrew professor at the time and her husband were large members of the community. She told me that she would give me extra credit if I went to D.C. to support this Israeli dance session for young students. At the time, I was interested in ballroom dancing and swing dancing. I liked swing dancing a lot. I even taught a swing class briefly. But I went to this downtown session, fell in love with it, made a ton of friends, and have been doing it ever since. At the time, I was still in school, so I started a session at UMBC. This was where people came together to learn different Israeli dances and listen to the music and dance together.

What do you think the future is for Rikud Baltimore?
Hopefully, it will grow. Right now, it’s a smaller session. I think the largest session we ever had was 40 people at Beth Tfiloh. I would love to see it grow to be a huge session.

How would you describe your relationship with Judaism?
I am Jewish by culture. I grew up in an interfaith home. I did not grow up religiously Jewish. I connected with the culture when I was 18. My aunt died, and I went to shul with my zeide. Then, I wanted to get more involved in the community and learn more. I bounced around to a lot of different shuls and I love to attend Torah service on Saturdays. I feel like belief in God is personal and I struggle with understanding that.

What are some things that you do for fun?
Israeli dancing. [During a recent weekend,] I went to an Israeli dance camp event in San Diego. I fly out to go Israeli dancing. When I travel, I always look to see which dance sessions are there. Outside of Israeli dancing, I am interested in sailing. I have sailed in races. When I was younger in my career, I was a teacher. After that, I took a job as a sailmaker. That was a lot of fun. Now, I sail when I can.

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