Inviting Israeli emissaries, or shlichim, into the community is not a novel idea for the Greater Baltimore area. But usually these young adults are unfamiliar with the state of Maryland.
Stav Gottesgnade, 23, is no stranger to Maryland. Before moving to Israel at 12 months old, she was born close by in Rockville.
Last month, Gottesgnade moved to Howard County to work for the Jewish community there. After working for the Jewish Federation of Howard County for the next two years, she hopes to start her premed education in Israel. Her family lives on a moshav in Avihayil, Israel.
What are you doing in Howard County?
I work for the Jewish Federation in Howard County. I’m kind of an emissary here from Israel. My work here is to connect the community to Israel. I have different ways that I’m supposed to do that. I just moved here a month ago, and I’m supposed to be here for two years.
What inspired you to do this program?
I discharged from my army service after four years last November. I was wondering if I could do something for Israel. How else can I serve Israel but still do something for me?
Then, I found out about this program. The Jewish Agency [for Israel] sends you to a lot of communities in the United States, and you bring your Israel with you, and you learn about the Jewish communities in the United States. Israelis don’t know a lot about Judaism in the United States.
Don’t people usually do this before the army?
We have people that do it before the army. They do it for one year, and it’s kind of a gap year before the army. We also have other programs like mine where we do it after our army service when we are more mature. We’ve experienced more things in life, and we can bring some different things to the community. The program that people do before the army is mostly working with kids, and here I also work with adults, young adults, teenagers and kids.
I work with the whole community, which is something that not all the younger emissaries do.
How do you like living in Howard County?
So far, it is great. Everybody here is so nice and welcoming. I really feel at home. I already did my first lecture about Israel. I come to the office in the morning and plan the events. I’m supposed to lecture once a month. … I also work for Sunday schools in congregations around Howard County.
I also plan what I’m going to do with the kids and meet a lot of people from the community. I can show the community my Israel unlike anybody else. This is why they chose me to be here.
Did you choose to serve a community in Maryland specifically?
I asked to be in the Maryland community. I’m very connected to the area because I was born here, and we have friends of the family here. My family history is here. Then I had an interview with this community in Howard County, and it was a good match.
What is something people would be surprised to hear about you?
I really like extreme sports, but most of the community already knows that because I tell everybody the first time I meet them. I really like skydiving and playing tennis. I used to be a professional [tennis player] eight years ago, and then I stopped playing.
What’s something you’re excited to try that’s different in Maryland?
Every day is different so I’m just excited to be here and travel around. I want to get to know the people and culture, which is so different than the culture in Israel. I’m so excited to get to know the community.