By Deb Silverthorn
Shaliach translates to emissary. In Rotem Machlev, a shaliach of Israel through the Jewish Agency, the Dallas-area community has received the greatest. Working with the Tzofim Scouts, the Jewish community-at-large and teaching at Congregation Anshai Torah, Machlev leaves her fingerprints wherever she goes. This month, Machlev and the scouts will be stepping out.
“I’ve always loved education and being with kids. I remembered the shaliach, counselor, I had when I was in California and I wanted to be that person. I interviewed and tested with the Jewish Agency and the last six months or so that I have been here have been great. This is a wonderful community with students and their parents very committed to having a connection to Israel,” said Machlev.
This month, the Tzofim will honor and celebrate the core of Israel. Starting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 24, they will participate in the community memorial of Yom HaZikaron, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas (JFGD) and hosted at Congregation Anshai Torah. The troop will lead a color guard and sing, with Machlev joining other Israelis, to remember fallen Israeli soldiers, victims of terror and others who gave their lives defending the state of Israel.
Beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, April 28, the Tzofim will join at Temple Emanu-El as the congregation, as part of its own 150th anniversary, celebrates Israel’s 75th birthday with a Shabbat service and concert by the Israeli-founded band Yemen Blues.
From 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, April 30, at the Aaron Family JCC, the Tzofim are participating with the JFGD and the JCC to make the community’s Israel 75th Independence Day Celebration, with Israeli musical sensation Itay Levi, a success.
Machlev was born in Kfar Yonah, near Netanya. She is the daughter of Sary and Guy and sister of Adi, Noam and Tal. She and her family lived in California’s Silicon Valley during her high school years, after which they returned to Ra’anana in time for her to participate in a pre-army service year, Shnat Sheirut, working with low-income children in Be’er Sheva. She then served in the IDF and worked as a counselor for the Tzofim in Ra’anana, with a chapter of more than 1,000 participants.
Founded in Israel in 1919, the Israeli Tzofim, the co-ed Hebrew Scouts Movement of Scouting and Guiding, has nearly 80,000 members, fourth through 12th graders, secular and religious. Dallas’ chapter of the Friends of Israel Scouts, Inc., Tzofim, encompasses programs which develop and maintain a connection between the Tzofim movement in Israel and North American Jewry.
“Rotem is creative and innovative. She has enthusiasm. The kids are learning so much and becoming more engaged,” said Liat Maimon, the mother of Tzofim scouts Etai, Roei and Jonathan. “They learn how to be a leader, how to teach, how to face difficult situations and how to really connect to their identity — each at appropriate age levels — and Rotem is just right for this.
“We’re blessed to have her here. Her extensive experience and love for the Tzofim is obvious,” said Maimon.
Part of Machlev’s assignment, by the Jewish Agency, is fulfilled by her teaching in the religious school program at Congregation Anshai Torah.
“Rotem has been a great addition to our Hebrew program and by instituting fun learning about Israel. High school just had a wonderful program learning about current Israeli musicians and she created an Israel-themed escape room for our students in grades three to six,” said Anshai Torah’s Rabbi Michael Kushnick.
Machlev’s love for Israel is contagious. She’s brought the Tzofim to senior living communities in the area for Hanukkah with food and ruach (spirit), dancing and dreidels and for Tu B’Shevat with flowers to plant. There are weekly meetings, activities, competitions and more.
The Tzofim’s counselors begin training in 10th grade and help lead programs for the younger children. Having Machlev here, only a few years between them, has her building close ties with the local scouts.
“Tzofim has always been a huge part in keeping me and other Israeli American youths connected to Israel,” said Danna Shrem, a junior at Plano West Senior High and the daughter of Vered and Eli Shrem. Shrem has been in the local Tzofim since she was in the fourth grade. “Rotem is a dedicated leader who has taken us as individual counselors and connected us more to Israel but also with each other as a united group to lead our local shevet (chapter).
“Rotem has brought new content and perspective about Israeli current events and culture, but she also allows us to truly feel comfortable enough to talk to her about Tzofim-related topics, opinions about different things and also what’s going on in our personal lives,” said Shrem, whose sister Meeka is now serving in the Israeli Defense Forces while younger sister Maya joins her in the local Tzofim.
The 24 local high school Tzofim have been to URJ Greene Family Camp for a leadership camp and visited peers of a newly formed Tzofim chapter in Austin. Nine freshmen met in Florida for training for their responsibilities in the coming year. Between the sessions, members met others from 17 of the 27 chapters in North America.
While Machlev has been training, teaching and setting an example, these months — the first of her two year-assignment — have also been learning ones for her.
“I’ve learned to live alone, to make a community for myself and to trust my instincts,” she said. “New styles, new approaches and more but the people of Anshai and the Tzofim family here have been wonderful. Everyone here, them and in general in the other organizations, but even in the stores and restaurants — wherever I am here I feel people are warm and friendly.
“I didn’t really know what to expect before I got here but it’s better than any imagination,” said Machlev, a fan of Dallas’ coffee shops and malls.
She added, “I feel now like I have some control, like I’m really giving the best of Israel and myself. I’m looking forward to the next year-and-a-half. I’m so proud of my land and people and the chance to bring it here.”
For information on the Dallas-area Tzofim, programming and more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.