Longstanding contributor Eddna Samuel recently moved to New York. We caught up with her to better understand what took her from Mumbai to Tel Aviv and now to United Nations.
Be’chol Lashon: A new year is about to start, and you are in a new place on a new adventure. Tell us a little about what is happening in your life.
ES: I am a person who likes adventures. I was a young single mom in India, and that was an adventure all of its own. But after my son went to Israel, I thought it was time to go and see what Israel was like. I met so many people from all over the world. I lived in many different neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. I started my own business. I got married. Israel became home.
But then the universe got hold of me and said, you need a new adventure. So now, three years after my Aliyah to Israel and the excitement of building a new life for myself in Tel Aviv, I have the privilege of representing the state of Israel with my husband, Brett Jonathan Miller, in his position as Deputy Permanent Representative at Israel’s mission to the United Nations in New York.
We arrived in New York at the beginning of August, and with Rosh Hashana just around the corner, we are still waiting for our shipping container with our personal things to arrive from Israel. So it looks like the Jewish holidays this year will be a real adventure, a new country, a new home, new friends, and new challenges in the kitchen!
BL: When you went to Israel, you represented India and Indian Jews; now, you are an Indian Jew representing Israel. How does that feel?
ES: Growing up in India, I never imagined that I would one day represent Israel in the United States. I take real pride in being Indian, but I have always taken real pride in being Jewish too. Coming to Israel was like finding a new home, connecting with many different people and all that Israel has to offer. I am so proud to be an Israeli citizen.
I grew up with a strong interest in public service and a passion for connecting people. I am lucky that I am now sharing my life and journey to inspire people and share a personal experience based on my cultural heritage and growing up. When people think of Israel, they do not think of Indian Jews, but we are part of Israel, too, and teaching and sharing about that is terrific.
BL: New York is a new place for you. What do you miss about Israel? What do you miss about India?
ES: When I came to Israel, I came with a full set of Indian spices. I love to cook. Cooking, for me, is an expression of identity. There are so many delicious Indian foods, and you need spices for all of them. When I moved to Israel, I was worried that I would not be able to make the same foods and have the taste of my childhood. But here in New York, you can get all the Indian spices you want. There are so many Indian and Kosher markets here. New York will be an ideal place to combine, mix, and match my traditional dishes.
But after three years in Tel Aviv, I miss Israeli foods, especially Israeli breakfast from Israeli Thali, Bucke Café, our Shabbat challah from Boutique Central, and the high quality of fruits and vegetables in the market. There is nothing like the fresh pomegranates and figs filling the Rosh Hashana market.
BL: What will you do to bring a piece of India and a piece of Israel to your home for Rosh Hashana?
ES: Wherever I go, I always bring a piece of Mumbai and Tel Aviv with me. Going to a synagogue in Mumbai and Tel Aviv is very different from going to a synagogue in New York. First, you don’t need tickets in Mumbai; if you come to the synagogue, we will feed you a full meal. Israelis also have big meals during the holidays. I love to cook, so I will bring my Indian-Israeli foods to my table and begin the New Year with new friends. Because in the end, that is what it is all about, sharing and connecting with each other so that we will have a sweet new year.