Jewish Guy of the Week – Lazar

New Question:  Why do you deserve to be Jewish Guy of the Year?

Click here to see Lazar’s response (YouTube).

Is Lazar your real name or is it a nickname?  What’s the story behind it?
Lazar is the Yiddish version of Eleazar, my given name. It is pronounced like the surgery, the beam, the pointer. People are always asking me if my parents are American gladiators (they’re not). And if you look it up in the dictionary, the definition of lazar is “A person afflicted with a repulsive disease; specifically: LEPER”.

So there ya go.

You voluntarily joined the Israel Defense Forces, correct?  How long did you serve?  What did you do?
I moved to Israel after I graduated college and was drafted into the Givati Brigade. I ended up serving for three and a half years because I became an officer. Most of my time was spent in the Gaza area, before, during and after the disengagement. While Israelis still lived in Gush Katif, we guarded Ganei Tal and its greenhouses, and facilitated the entrance of 500 Palestinian employees every morning. I participated in the disengagement itself as a cadet, obviously a very emotionally and morally difficult operation, but one we carried out very professionally. My final post as an officer was on the Gaza-Israel border, trying to deal with the Qassam launchings.

I also spent 8 months as an officer in a unit made up entirely of Bedouins and Israeli Arabs. Quite the cultural immersion, to say the least.

All in all, it was a very rewarding, often frustrating experience, filled with situations in which the proper professional and ethical course is not at all clear. But I believe I managed to do a good job most of the time.

Rumor has it that you’re quite the utility defensive baseball player — everything from third base to pitcher to center field.  But I’m told that your batting skills are even better.  How did you hone your heroic strength and unnaturally good hand eye coordination?  Time in the IDF?
I’ve played baseball as long as I can remember, but reached my ceiling at Boston University, where I was a very light-hitting second baseman. Somewhere around the low .200s. I even tried out for that short-lived Israel baseball league while I was still serving, and Dan Duquette cut me. And the whole humiliating affair is recorded for posterity in the documentary about the league.

Hmm… I might have to suggest you get cut from the AEI softball team now… Just so we can keep pace with the Israeli league.

But moving forward:  You’re a semi-professional Jew, right?  Tell us about your role at Georgetown.
Sure, one could say. I’ve been a lay Chaplain-in-Residence at Georgetown for three years now.  Georgetown has a nice program in which every residence hall has apartments for resident chaplains. We minister to the spiritual and personal needs of students from across the religious spectrum, and serve as an in-house resource for them as they navigate the academic, personal, and romantic challenges and (mis)adventures of college.

What about your think tank job — what’s your position there?  Can you link us to the last three articles you wrote?
I work at the American Enterprise Institute’s foreign and defense policy department, where I serve as the research manager for the department. I work with the VP for Foreign Policy Dany Pletka, and manage the day-to-day operations of the department. It’s a fascinating place to work, and I’ve been very fortunate.

I usually write on Israel and Middle Eastern militaries, but try to tackle everything that interests me.

Here are a few recent ones (Commentary, The American, AEI)  if you need something to help you sleep:

Complete the sentence (or two sentences):  “The thing that bothers me most about the DC Jewish community is __________”
Our inability to refrain from speaking lashon hara and holding baseless hatred against our fellow Jews. This is a problem across the Jewish world, but every time two Jewish groups, or especially individuals, refuse to treat each other in a way that befits our people and God’s expectations of us, and cling to old grudges and perceived insults, it breaks my heart.

You keep kosher right?  Where do you eat?  Or do you make all your own stuff?
I do. I eat at Eli’s, naturally, about once a week. Otherwise, I cook for myself with limited skill and success.

Favorite Eli’s dish = ?
The melty Running Chocolate Chip Cookie & Ice cream dessert.  Nom nom nom.

“I make a great dinner companion because:”
I am a vigorous eater, and I will regale you with tales of Scotland, big cats, and Israelis doing weird things.

What animal would your patronus be?
I had to look this up, since I never got into Harry Potter.  I guess it would be a leopard because I love big cats.  I didn’t really get what a patronus is, so maybe that’s a weird answer.  Moral is, I like leopards.

Ok.  That’s two big cat references… What’s the deal?  
Oh, shoot. This is a little awkward. Umm, I have a deep interest in big cats: leopards, lions, cheetahs, jaguars, snow leopards, etc. Tigers are ok, too. I’m that weird guy at the zoo without any kids watching the lions, trying to engage people in big cat conversation till security escorts me out. When I’m in Israel, I try to find leopard tracks in the desert. I watch Big Cat Diary on Animal Planet while I eat breakfast. I follow mountain lion sightings in the area. There was one spotted in DC a couple of months ago. I’m planning on drenching myself in mountain lion musk and going out to try and find it.

Want to say hi to Lazar?  Email info@gatherthejews.com