Written by Fray Hochstein, on behalf of Team ROI
Noam has learned to turn even the most complex hybridities into something to laugh about. Growing up in Neve Shalom/ Wahat al Salam, a village located midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and the only community in Israel where Jews and Palestinians live together by choice, Noam experienced firsthand just how complicated issues of identity and relationship can become.
Her parents moved to the village in the first blush of optimism that followed the Oslo Accords, but Noam and her generation grew up in a reality in which the hoped-for peace never materialized. After high school Noam opted to do civil service at a boarding school for youth-at-risk, and then traveled to the U.S. to study international relations and theater at Brandeis University. Noam spent a year volunteering with HIV-positive children in Kigali, Rwanda, and then returned to Israel to work with the U.N.’s Interpeace: Basis for Discussion, a program that sought to work with people in Israel who are disengaged from the peace process, such as the ultra-Orthodox and Russianspeaking Israelis, as well as the religious Zionist community. After five years of extremely hard political fieldwork, during which Noam rose to the position of coordinator, the program closed.
Photo credit: Ilya Melnikov
It was at this point that a friend suggested that she apply to ROI. For Noam this came at a crossroads both professionally and personally. And the question asked on the form – “Do you have any talents?” – hit her hard. She remembers yelling: “Of course I have talents!” Noam signed up for the ROI Summit’s talent show, writing that she was going to do stand-up. “It was one of the best things I ever did – to give myself the opportunity to show people this side of myself. So frightening but so amazing. I’ve had hundreds of shows since then but that show I will never forget.”
ROI was a revelation to Noam in other ways as well. “I didn’t fully understand how big the network is, or the potential that you have when you join such a network. What I also found incredible is that when I got to the Summit I realized that I was in an environment that had my back. I felt that I had the freedom to say what I thought without anyone accusing me of being too radical, too extreme.” The experience also enabled Noam to expand her sense of Jewish identity. “Before ROI I had always thought of my identity in a more general, universal way, beyond the limitations of Israel, and not particularly from a Jewish perspective. And then at ROI I was finally much more exposed to other global Jewish perspectives and what young Jews were doing all over the world.”
As a result of her experience on stage at the ROI Summit, Noam decided to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. She sees comedy as a way to share her voice, tell her story, and influence people. For her ROI is: “this space to be yourself, to breathe, a platform that believes in you for who you are.”
Photo credit of hero image: Noa Magger Photography