Nathan Altshuler gets around.
Born in Brooklyn, the 27-year-old grew up in North Miami Beach, Fla., where he got partially through high school when his parents moved to Baltimore for his father’s job.
Once here, he finished up his last two years of high school at Ner Israel Rabbinical College. The oldest of nine children of Russian immigrants who became Orthodox, Altshuler said theirs is “an interesting story.”
During his gap year in Israel in 2009 he fell in love with Israel, but felt obligated to come home and take the expected route: go to college, get a job. He went to BCCC, applied to Towson University, worked at the JCC and saved his money.
The problem was — or maybe it wasn’t a problem — he missed Israel.
“So, I just went back,” he said.
Today, as mid-Atlantic high school coordinator at StandWithUs, an international nonprofit Israel education organization, Altshuler works around the region getting young people interested in and excited about Israel. He hopes to inspire that same enthusiasm for Israel that he had after that first trip.
What drew you back to Israel after that gap-year trip?
Honestly, the people and the culture and really everything. It’s just it’s a different mindset. It’s a really young country, the greatest place for a young person to be. And the opportunities are endless.
What happened when you got back to Israel in 2012?
I got very lucky. As I got there, the Minister of Defense opened up a new pilot program called Olim L’Tavor [Leadership Academy]. It was an opportunity to do a social leadership program before the army. I said, “Why not?”
How was that?
It was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. They taught me Hebrew. They taught me everything about the military, they taught about Israeli culture and society. I got educated on levels that I didn’t even know I needed to be. [So I decided] to do more time in the army. I tried out for the paratroopers [and] I got in. I did my full service in the paratroopers and then the plan was, again, to go home. But, again, I got lucky. I got offered a job to run the pilot program that I just finished. I took the job and did it about a year.
You were pretty busy working, getting a degree, why come back?
During the degree, [our professor] discussed a five-year and a 10-year plan. And I had this thought for a while to come back to Pikesville. I missed my family; I missed Pikesville. She gave me the opportunity to think about the fact that I have all these experiences and a journey. I have so much incredible experiences that young teens in our community, stateside, could learn from. And that I have the ability to really give them career training and skills development that could push them forward in a community that’s extremely important to me.
Tell me about StandWithUs.
It’s an international nonprofit and it’s Israel education. Everyone who works with StandWithUs has a love for the State of Israel and that education is most important. StandWithUs is dedicated to educating all people, all ages, all backgrounds, from all over the world. I’m the mid-Atlantic high school coordinator. Starting in September, I’ll be running a high school internship. The students were nominated by student leaders, by rabbis, by professors, by teachers, by mentors. And they spend the entire year learning with me. I teach them, obviously, Israel education, but also networking skills and
public speaking skills and communication skills. Because in order to build a future, we can’t just give them information, we have to teach them how to hand it on to the next person.
How about fun?
I work out at the JCC. That’s my stomping ground. I also like to go out. I read. Watch TV as well. But I like what I do. Talking about Israel is enjoyable and meeting other teen leaders in the community is enjoyable. And getting to know the future teen leaders in the community is enjoyable. So, pretty much all I do is enjoyable.
Susan Ingram is a reporter for the Baltimore Jewish Times, an affiliated publication of Washington Jewish Week.