Though Maya Kadar, 32, has lived most of her life in America, she was born in Israel. So perhaps not surprisingly, her foreign-born roots have always defined her life in the States. But she has few qualms with this bifurcated identity. In fact, she’s become a crucial link between young New York professionals and the Israeli nonprofit ELEM, founded in 1981, which helps at-risk Israeli youth get back on their feet.
“It provides a safe place to talk about their feelings and work through them,” said Kadar. “It’s a really worthy cause.”
Kadar graduated from Barnard College in 2000, and then spent a few years in Israel getting her master’s in filmmaking from Tel Aviv University. Because of her strong connections to the Jewish state, a friend of hers on the American board of ELEM, Oren Heiman, contacted Kadar about three years ago.
“He wanted to have the younger generation give their take on how to raise money” for ELEM, Kadar said. Kadar, along with a few other New York-based young professionals, was then asked to lead that project.
These young fundraisers are now at the vanguard of the organization in America, bringing ELEM — which hosts programs in more than 30 Israeli towns preventing homeless children from being sent to shelters and counseling girls who have been sexually abused — into the 21st century. Kadar has taken a particularly active leadership role in the organization’s annual fundraising dinner. Last fall, she helped bring high-profile Israel artists like Ron Agam and Aliza Olmert (Ehud’s wife) to a reception at a fashionable Soho gallery.
Despite a full-time job at BrainPop.com, an educational Web site for children, and the rigors of family life — she’s married with a newborn daughter — Kadar says that ELEM and Israel are still essential commitments. “I’m very happy with my career right now,” she says. “But first and foremost, I’m an Israeli. And Israel has always been central to my life.”
Favorite filmmaker: Ernst Lubitsch.
Favorite Jew: Golda Meir.
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