Updated: Sep 15, 2019
FJL: Share with us a bit about yourself...
YL: I was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, to a family of refuseniks from Moscow. When I was three years old, our family moved to Neerharen (a.k.a. "the middle of nowhere"), a small village in Belgium, near the Dutch city of Maastricht, which is in the Dutch-Belgian-German border area. After completing my schooling in Belgium, I studied Economics at the University of Cambridge.
FJL: How did you get connected to FJL, and what have you been up to since then?
In 2017, I joined the FJL USA Summer Internship, and served as an analyst intern at Elara Capital. To be honest, I was mostly interested in the internship experience and not initially motivated or interested by the Jewish aspects of the trip.
I grew up in a secular Jewish home, and while I had access to numerous Shabbat experiences and Jewish classes while at Cambridge, I rarely took advantage of the plethora of Jewish-life opportunities on campus. I attribute the initial spark in my current active Jewish life to the summer I participated in the FJL USA internship:
Exposure to vibrant Jewish communities in New York combined with sophisticated presentations of Jewish ideas throughout the program, provided a sort of shock therapy in my connection to Judaism.
FJL: Fill us in on your recent exciting journeys...
YL: Upon graduation from university, I joined Deloitte... in Myanmar (Burma)! I’d been interested in Myanmar for a while during my time in Cambridge. Myanmar started economic and political reforms just a few years ago, and had properly reentered the international community only recently. The reforms had a huge impact on the country, resulting in rapid economic growth and a democratic transition of government. At the time of exploring opportunities in the country, I was very excited by the ongoing changes and the potential of the country. I also saw potential for me personally to be “a big fish in a small pond” that is rapidly expanding. During my time in Myanmar, I have had significant exposure to clients and numerous opportunities to take on responsibility that I otherwise would not have been able to in more developed markets.
FJL: How has your experience in Myanmar contributed to your unfolding Jewish story?
YL: Moving to Myanmar propelled me into increased Jewish observance and Jewish learning. Through my involvement with the Chabad of Myanmar, daily prayers, and the studying of Jewish law, my Jewish life has flourished in one of the unlikeliest of places:
In Belgium and the UK, I had been very comfortable in my largely secular lifestyle. I never even considered that Judaism could play any role in my life. In Myanmar, however, I found myself in a surrounding very different to what I had been used to. In this new surrounding, I was able to approach the question of who I want to be from a very different perspective. As paradoxical as it may sound, had I been in London, I almost certainly would not have been as engaged in my Judaism as I have been in Myanmar.
FJL: If you could deliver a TedTalk that would be watched by 50 million viewers, what topic would you choose? Why?
YL: Universalism vs. Particularism. My talk would explore the natural tension that exists between viewing our world as one singular entity incorporating all of humanity without the need for geographic, religious, or cultural barriers, and that of our boundness by family, communities, nations, and religious affiliations. How we prioritize our membership in the world is a conversation worth exploring.