Twenty-first century technology can go a long way toward bridging distances between people thousands of miles apart, but there is no replacement for personal and cross-community connections, says Inbal Shtivi.
Shtivi, 43, who will be Tucson’s new shlicha (Israeli emissary) and director of the Weintraub Israel Center, will arrive with her husband and two children at the end of this month or early in August.
“It will be my first time in the U.S., and I am very excited to know the local community and generally the American way of life. At the moment, we are very much into our preparation — preparing the kids toward the future, preparing ourselves to live away from home, and of course preparing for this new professional adventure,” she told the AJP last week.
“When I applied to be a shlicha, I kept thinking how I can bring and personify current Israel with its vibes and cultures to my future community,” says Shtivi, adding that her first goal is to understand the community’s needs “in all that regards to Israel, and how I can contribute to local Jewish identity.”
“My Israel is diverse, liberal, accepting, multicultural and multi-faceted. I would like to see this richness come to life in Tucson through programs and events,” she says, “and existing partnerships with the communities of Hof Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi enhanced.”
Born and raised in Kfar Mordechai, a small village near Ashdod, Shtivi has lived in Tel Aviv since she was 20. As a soldier, she served in the Israeli Air Force as part of a combat support team. She has a bachelor’s degree in communication and management from College of Management – Academic Studies in Rishon LeZion, and a master’s in gender studies from Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv. She has been working with Israeli NGOs (non-governmental organizations) since 2006.
“As the Second Lebanon War broke, there was a great need for skilled people to meet the needs of families and children in the north. It seems now like ancient history, but with intensive teamwork, and through local partnerships, we managed to deliver fun and recreational activities to hundreds of children in shelters across northern Israel — Jews and Arabs alike. I fell in love with the field of community and educational work, where one can immediately feel and see the results of their work, and potentially have longer term impact,” Shtivi says.
She’s also worked with the International Women’s Film Festival in Rehovot, advancing women in the film industry in Israel.
Shtivi has broad horizons, having worked with multinational teams in both Israel and Europe, says Oshrat Barel, Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona director of community engagement and a former Tucson shlicha.
“Inbal is charming, a deep thinker,” says Barel. “She has worked with teens, she advocates a lot for women, and she’s an entrepreneur. She created something almost from scratch with Gan HaHashmal,” a “business improvement district” in Tel Aviv.
For the past two years, as director of Gan HaHashmal, Shtivi says, “together with a group of 40 small and medium business owners (in fashion, arts, culture, and more), we have created a community that works together toward a shared vision.”
“As a parallel activity, I participated in and led numerous seminars and workshops in the framework of the European Youth Program — fostering partnerships between youth organizations across the Mediterranean Sea Basin. It was a fascinating personal and professional experience.
“But my greatest pride and joy is my voluntary community work. Together with my neighbors, we are creating a local active community in my home neighborhood. We have created a beautiful community garden which serves the entire area, established a dynamic neighborhood basketball team, and shifted municipal priorities. Now that I am leaving, it will be an opportunity for them to develop new ideas and scale our activities and achievements,” she says.
Shtivi’s hobbies include cinema, Iyengar yoga, traveling with her family, and hosting family and friends.
Her daughter, who is 11, “is super excited about arriving to Tucson,” Shtivi says. “We know it won’t be easy at first, but it seems that she is ready for the challenge.” Her 3-year-old son “is too small to figure this out, but we are there for him. My husband, Eran, is working in Israel as a business consultant” and lately has been developing his own startup initiative. “As we get to Tucson, Eran will take more responsibilities around the house and invest more time in his new endeavor.”
“We are very blessed to have another wonderful family coming to join us from Israel later this summer,” says Stuart Mellan, Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona president and CEO. “Inbal Shtivi, who will be our seventh emissary to serve as Weintraub Israel Center director, has a warm and engaging spirit that we know will draw many to our work. Her professional track record prepares her well for this work — and we know that she will help continue the legacy of excellence that her predecessors have established.”
Shtivi “is a community builder, that’s one of the things I love about her,” says Barel. “Did I say charming? She is — I know the community will really fall in love with her.”