Naama Kadosh, 26, grew up on Moshav Kfar Harif, Israel. When she was three, her mother signed her up for dance lessons. After her army service, she attended the Orde Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports in Netanya and then got a degree in communication and education from Ben Gurion University.
Last September, Kadosh brought her skill and passion for dance to the Washington area as a shlichah (Israeli cultural ambassador) to the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. There she teaches dance classes to help women and girls overcome their struggles and promote body positivity.
How did you get started in dance?
Since I was three, actually, my mom signed me up for dance classes. It stopped when I was about 15 or 16 years old. I lost interest of course, I was a teenager.
When I finished the army, I actually had my hip broken. So I went through a huge physical therapy session and I needed to heal, I couldn’t even walk. That whole experience makes me appreciate my body even more and actually makes my opinion about always working with my body and treating my body as a working tool, even stronger.
I went to a training school, which is called Wingate and it’s in Netanya, in Israel. They basically teach you how to lead a variety of classes. So I finished my diploma there, and then started to lead my own classes. And I still do it today.
Do you have a favorite memory from your years of dancing?
I used to have a lot of anxiety in my third year of university. I had a really hard time managing myself. I don’t know why the anxiety just attacked me and I was afraid to wake up in the morning and eat and do normal stuff that people do. I remember that my own relief at that time was to come to the studio and be with my girls. It was like a tiny dot of relief in my day where I knew that at least there, I’m able to manage myself and even manage them.
Why did you want to become a shlichah?
I thought it would be a good experience for me to learn about the Jewish community here. It’s a completely different mentality from Israel, and it’s also an opportunity for me to bring my own opinion, my own perspective to the Jewish community from Israel.
Has your Jewish identity changed at all since you left Israel?
When you’re not in Israel, you feel the need to be connected to your heritage way more. When you’re in Israel, you don’t feel the need to celebrate holidays. It’s so obvious that we have Memorial Day or Independence Day and here you really need to work to remember it. So I definitely think that it makes me even closer to my heritage.
And let me tell you, I’m not coming from a religious background. We’re not a religious family. But here I actually felt I appreciate it more, where I come from, and I felt the need to actually announce it.
What was your upbringing like?
My education was very open. My parents were very open about religion. I actually went to school with Arab people. It was a mixed school. So my whole perspective about the world is not divided by religions.
However, this is something that I actually separate: religion and tradition. Because my tradition is Israeli, like celebrating holidays, even saying “Shabbat Shalom.” I consider that as a tradition, not religion.
All those things that people here immediately relate to Judaism, I actually immediately related to my identity as an Israeli. So all those things for me are just a reminder of home. I mean, I do believe in God. I am proud that I’m Jewish. But I don’t pray in synagogues. I don’t read the Bible. But it makes me appreciate it much more.
Do you have a favorite tradition?
I always like Friday, Shabbat meals. When we welcome in Shabbat, it feels like home. I used to do it with my family all the time. And I’m missing it so much, being here. But there are still families that invite me for Shabbat. So definitely the vibe of Friday night, being together, eating together, that’s something that I found very homey.
Do you have any future plans?
Yeah, so I am planning to continue ambassador work and learn more about cultures. Not just in the U.S., but in the entire world. It’s something that I find very interesting. South Africa, France, there’s a lot of countries where I’m very curious about the Jewish community there. And also, my own private dream is to open my own studio and teach dance.