It was fitting that when The Jewish Week met up with Efraim Chalamish, he had just returned from teaching a two-week international investment law seminar in Switzerland. Currently a Global Fellow at New York University, Chalamish, who holds a doctorate in international economic law, spends half of his time traveling to speaking engagements nearby and as far-flung as Australia, Singapore, Tokyo and Austria. “I was always interested in a global, multicultural life,” he says.
Though he moved to the U.S. eight years ago, and now lives in the West Village with his wife and young daughter, Chalamish grew up in Bat Yam, in Israel.
He practiced law in Israel for two years before embarking on an academic career. In 2005, he moved to Paris for a year, while pursuing his doctorate, where he practiced international arbitration.
“Where is home for me?” he asks aloud. “New York is home to me. Israel is home to me. But I feel very European.”
His experiences in Paris “made me realize how important the rest of the world is to the U.S. and to the Jewish people.”
Chalamish’s passion is for Jewish diplomacy. He was elected six years ago to serve as a representative to the United Nations of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers, a position he still holds. He is one of the founding members of the American Jewish Committee’s new generation program, known as ACCESS, which strives to form a coalition of emerging Jewish leaders in global affairs. “I don’t think we live in a post-Jewish organizational era,” he says. “But many mainstream organizations need to refresh themselves to make them more relevant to our lives and bring new voices within the mainstream.”
He is also involved in Parallel Lives, an Israeli nonprofit that brings together Israel Defense Force soldiers with rabbinical students from Hebrew Union College, with the goal of creating dialogue and long-lasting bonds. He also started a think tank called the Global Center for Economic Development and Security. “I strongly believe in bridging one’s professional experience with community leadership,” he says.
Art aficionado: Chalamish is a “big art fan”; his wife operates the Chalamish Gallery in Chelsea.
Piano man: Chalamish used to perform piano jazz when he lived in Israel.
Film buff: He travels all over the world to attend film festivals.
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