MOVER & SHAKER
Connecting the tribe
Solving community problems
Learning through travel
Making a difference
Tackling limiting mindsets
Jodi Samuels is on a mission to change the world, even if it means just moving the needle in her corner of the world. She wears many hats in any given day as a speaker, non-profit leader, world traveler, community activist, special needs advocate, wife and mom.
Originally from South Africa, Jodi and her husband Gavin have lived in five countries and nine cities, making an impact in each community. They were featured in the New York Post for their successful integration as immigrants. Jodi was named one of the 70 extraordinary female immigrants in Israel in 2018 by Times of Israel; received the Nefesh B’Nefesh Initiative for Zionist Innovation prize in 2019; and on Yom HaAliyah in 2019, Jerusalem’s Zionist pluralist party, Hitorerut, recognized Jodi for her contribution to Israel, Jerusalem and to other immigrants.
In 2000, Jodi founded Jewish International Connection in order to provide community for foreign Jews in New York. The organization expanded operations to Israel in 2014 and has grown to 15,000 members from more than 40 countries. 128 couples have married from events. Jodi still works in a purely volunteer capacity for JIC, running more than 300 events a year in both New York and Israel.
On the for-profit front, Jodi started her first business at age 14 and has been a serial-entrepreneur ever since, starting successful companies in diverse segments from financial training services to online group coupon purchasing.
Jodi is also a passionate speaker, writer and advocate in the special needs world, especially for her own daughter. She writes on her Metroimma blog about special needs, Torah wisdom in a modern world, moving to Israel, traveling to nearly 90 countries and the challenges of being an entrepreneur-mom on Jodi’s Voice.
Jodi, Gavin and their three children live in Jerusalem where the family hosts hundreds of people every month for Shabbat meals and events in their home.
Fun Facts About Jodi
Q. How did you meet your husband?
A. Believe it or not, I met Gavin on street corner in Jerusalem when I was 18 years old — the day after he prayed at the Western Wall to find his wife! We got married less than two years later.
Q. You got married young! So how did that work out?
We didn’t have a fight for our first seven years! And we are still married 27 years later.
Q. What is the key to a happy marriage?
A. Aside from the usual, in our case we are both obsessed with travel. I’ve been to 87 countries and counting (if coronavirus ever ends). Oh and we share an appreciation for a good bottle of wine.
Q. How did you manage to get to so many places?
A. There is no luxury involved in our trips. We travel on an extremely low budget, take lots of public transportation and stay in the oddest accommodations. We also keep kosher, observe Shabbat and drag our kids with us everywhere we go.
Q. Where were you born?
Q. Where have you lived since then?
A. How much time do you have? I’ve lived in nine cities and 27 apartments before “settling” in Jerusalem in 2014.
Q. What was your favorite place to live?
A. I hated New York when I first got there, but I quickly fell in love with the city and left kicking and screaming 15 years later.
Q. What is the worst place you ever lived?
A. Believe it or not, though I am a firm believer in aliyah, I am still a reluctant immigrant to Israel. I spent my first year here crying about the move.
Q. How have you managed to survive?
A. First of all I must fake it well: I managed to receive awards and other accolades for my community service and volunteering in Israel. And secondly, it’s all about love. Everyone else in my family loves living here, and since I love them, I cope for their sake.
Q. How do you spend your Shabbats in Jerusalem?
A. Just like we spent our Shabbats everywhere else we have lived: We host dozens of guests a week (thousands a year) at our home and at our events from our friends and neighbors to somewhat celebrities to Chinese businessmen, evangelical Christians, students and political delegations.
Q. What compelled you to start your organization, Jewish International Connection?
A. My hamster. I realized I didn’t want to spend my whole life spinning my wheels and getting nowhere like a hamster. I wanted to change the world — or at least my portion of it.
Q. When did you know what you wanted to do for a living?
A. I became an entrepreneur at age 14 when I started up my first two businesses: tutoring other kids and reselling products I bought from street vendors. I knew from the beginning that starting up companies is what I wanted to do.
Q. What is your main takeaway from your business experiences?
A. There are no failures, simply opportunities to learn.
Q. What are your greatest assets as a businesswoman?
A. I have 28,000 contacts on my phone and I only sleep four hours a night.
Q. What is the most unbelievable thing you could tell someone about yourself?
A. Despite having three children, I have never changed a diaper.
Q. What do you consider your greatest success in life?
A. A happy marriage and three beautiful kids.