Girl of the Week – Madeleine

It sounds like you’ve lived all over. Where have you been?
When I was 16 I decided to get out of Richmond for the year, and I ended up in Galicia, Spain, about an hour north of Portugal. It opened my eyes to how big the world is, and I contracted a fairly serious case of wanderlust. I am now mostly unable to sit still for too long; I spent a summer in Switzerland and France, 7 months in Brazil, and then a year in Israel. And I have some plans coming up!

Where are you going? Will you be back?
Next week I’m heading up to Maine to be a counselor at a beautiful 7-week summer camp for girls; I love the kids and I am so excited to be going back to teach ceramics and get really messy! In August, I leave for Italy. Johns Hopkins SAIS has a campus in Bologna, Italy, where I will be studying hard (and eating all the gelato I can find) during my first year in their international economics and international relations masters program. But next fall, I will back on their DC campus– look for me in Fall 2013, coming to a shul near you.

What brought you to Israel?
My year in Israel was an incredible experience; I was part of OTZMA, which is a year-long volunteering-focused MASA program with ulpan and internship components. There were educational seminars where we met experts and traveled all over the tiny country. I really got to be part of different facets of Israeli culture: I lived in an absorption center in Ashkelon, dorms in Jerusalem, a kibbutz in Emek Hefer, and an apartment in Tel Aviv, and throughout the year the warmest host family invited me into their house to share shabbats and holidays. At the University of Pennsylvania I had not been active in the Jewish community; I felt much more comfortable in the Latino community. I was even the first non-Latina to be inducted into Penn’s Latino honor society, Cipactli. Because of my absence from the Jewish scene, connecting to other Jewish people in our ancient homeland was extremely meaningful. I would recommend OTZMA to any college graduate who wants to do some tikkun olam, see Israel from different points of view, and listen to too much Eyal Golan.

Where can we find you on a Friday night?
I’m a very equal-opportunity Shabbat-er, and I’ve met wonderful people at the Chabad house, Sixth and I, and Adas Israel. But my favorite Shabbats are the small ones at friends’ houses– and I love hosting, too! My best dish is probably tortilla española, thanks to all my friends’ mothers in Galicia. I also make a pretty delicious shakshuka! I have an excessive number of cookbooks. I get way too excited about feeding people. I am my mother.

Who is the coolest DC Jew?
Josh Cohen. I’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from him this year at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. I couldn’t have asked for a better co-worker and mentor. He is good at pretty much everything, and he’s also humble, thoughtful, and hilarious. He can intelligently discuss everything from current events to Emerson’s essay on Solitude. I would like to be him when I grow up. The whole staff at the Center is exceptional, and I can’t believe I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to work with Congressman Wexler, Zvika, Sara, Toni, Yoni, and Josh.

Oh, and let’s start a new rumor since he’s been called every other religion: this guy loves Israel and he runs the world; Barack Obama is the coolest DC Jew.

How many languages do you speak?
I speak English, Spanish, French, Galician, Portuguese, and Hebrew with a heavy French accent. I’ve also taken Turkish classes because that language is one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard and I think it’s great. So many umlauts! And next year, I’ll hopefully get Italian under my belt as well. After that, who knows?