December 22, 2015

Doting Over Dotan

Doting Over Dotan
Sam Russo ‘18

A 2013 trip to a Houston public school demonstrated to Israeli Dotan Miller the widespread ignorance about Israel that has taken hold in the United States. He believes that this is a result of unfamiliarity with Israel and is also perpetuated by a media bias. After spending a summer at a Jewish camp in Minnesota, Miller began to fully understand the importance for young Americans of having “an Israeli person surrounding” them to really take in Israel and her depth.
These experiences pushed Miller to realize his goal of educating Americans and the world at large about Israel. Because of this, he decided to apply last year to become a Rishon, or a young Israeli emissary, in our community.
His supervisor, Community Shaliach Moshe Levi described the selection process as being, quite simply, “long.” He said the nearly year­-long selection process includes a pool of about 100 applicants who go through group interviews, meet with a psychologist, have personal interviews and are finally put through a video conference with community leaders, including GOA’s own Rabbi Kallush. These 100 applicants are finally narrowed down to just six who come to MetroWest; Levi describes as “the best of the best.”
Nevertheless, there are always challenges in joining a new environment. In order to minimize them, though, Levi acts as “their mom and dad.” In this position, he is responsible for ensuring that the Rishonim have a comfortable transition into this community by working closely with families, schools and synagogues.
As expected, cultural gaps needed to be bridged and Miller has had his share of funny experiences.
“The fact that I’m saying ‘Yeah, sure, let’s go and grab a coffee, it’s close 20 minutes driving,” he said. “I’ve never driven so much in my life.”
On the positive side, Miller was impressed with and also greatly appreciated the warmth of this community and how welcoming it is. Miller discusses the family that hosted him and the other Rishonim for their first week in the United States, Debbie and Scott Rovner, as one of his most meaningful experiences here. He described them as being “like our family,” even though he said that he didn’t expect to build such relationships from the onset.
Because of this openness, Miller felt like there was no need to try to fit into the community but rather, he was welcomed with open arms.
In addition to the Rovners, Miller has another host family here in the MetroWest and GOA communities, the Gleaners. Seth Gleaner, a senior at GOA, describes the experience as “a lot of fun.”
“[Miller] definitely cares… [he] puts in the effort… to present Israel in the right light,” added Gleaner.

As Miller joins us in celebrating Thanksgiving for his first time, here is one more thing to be thankful for: strong communal ties with the land of Israel sustained by individuals as passionate and caring as Dotan Miller.
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