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Following Jewish path of ‘original Christians’

  • chloe
Chloé Valdary - who was born and raised in New Orleans - was only six when she was introduced to Judaism when her father switched from being a Baptist to a non-denominational faith.
by SUZANNE BELLING | Mar 16, 2017

“We believe the original Christians were Jews, so we followed their path. We go to church on Saturdays, observe Shabbat, eat kosher-style and stay in condos - our temporary dwelling places - on Succoth,” she explains.

They believe Judaism is the true religion from which all monotheistic faiths stem. Valdary is not a convert, but practises the age-old traditions of the Jewish people and is dedicated and passionate in upholding the tenets of Judaism. She is a fierce fighter against apathy and anti-Semitism directed against her “adopted” race. She makes no distinction between the Jews and Israel, saying: “I was raised in this way of life, unlike my friends.”

But Valdary, who was brought to this country by the South African Friends of Israel to be keynote speaker at its conference on Sunday, went several steps further than her family. She is changing the conversation about Israel, both on campuses and in the political sphere “through educational Jewish thought”.

Her aim is “to get our generation to fall in love with Israel in a fashionable way with which they can resonate”.

Valdary served as a Tikvah Fellow under Pultizer prize-winner Bret Stephens on the Wall Street Journal. There she developed an 82-page white paper on Israel advocacy and millennial engagement - and what works, what doesn’t and how to make it better.

She has been named one of Algemeiner’s (a top New York Jewish newspaper) top 100 people positively affecting Jewish life today.

She initially studied film and screenwriting in high school. She then majored in International Studies at the University of New Orleans (UNO) and immersed herself in pro-Israel activity, arranging many events and social media campaigns and was chosen as creative consultant for CAMERA - the Campaign for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting. “I want to change the way Zionists market themselves - away from the paranoia and knee-jerk reactions.”

She says: “Israel should be defined neither exclusively nor primarily by the conflict. Israel gives expression to the sum and substance of peoplehood: the dignity of difference, the challenges of power and the cultural revival that comes with self-rule.”

She is involved with Jerusalem U, an organisation she says shares her vision - “believing we can inspire millennials using the power of film and narrative. We can uplift a generation by telling and sharing stories that connect us all.”

Her philosophy on Israel is threefold:

  • “If we are to instil Jewish pride in my generation, we need to know the language my generation speaks. We must understand its pop culture obsessions, what brings us together as a (young) community and what makes us tick. Once we tap into that and use this language to create Israel programming, we will be unstoppable.”
  • She believes Israel gives expression to the “sum and substance” of peoplehood and the dignity of difference. Israel should be viewed for its achievements.
  • “Make it real,” she says, “create engaging Israel-related content relevant to the lives of our generation. We need enchantment, the process by which one’s audience sees itself and its potential reflected in the content.”

She adopts the catchphrase of the Beatles regarding Israel: “Don’t call it a comeback - we’ve been here for years.”

Regarding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, she feels it is “petty and exaggerating a situation for its own gain. I am not concentrating on all the haters, I am more concerned in giving energy to the apathetic and working together with them.”

This is Valdary’s first visit to the African continent. “As a black American, I sense a familiarity,” she says.

Her visit will include Cape Town and Durban. “Before I talk conflict and challenges, I will first pay honour to the people who accomplished contemporary Jewish life.”

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