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  • Writer's pictureJodi Samuels

Making a Jewish connection

As seen in the Jerusalem Post on June 13, 2019 by Alan Rosenbaum

“I realized that there was a need for a Jewish ‘home away from home.’ The Jewish International Connection, better known as JIC, was born.

‘My husband and I had been wandering Jews,” explains Jodi Samuels. By the fall of 2000, Samuels and her husband, both natives of South Africa, had lived in numerous countries and cities, and had recently moved to New York. Asked by friends to host a Rosh Hashanah meal for foreign MBA students, Samuels ended up hosting 36 guests from 30 different countries for their holiday meal. “I realized that there was a need for a Jewish ‘home away from home.’ The Jewish International Connection, better known as JIC, was born.

Today, this highly successful organization hosts over 10,000 people annually in New York, and operates 200 different programs throughout the year, including Shabbat dinners and social, cultural and networking events. JIC’s tagline on its web page is “Community, Continuity, Connectivity.” Samuels, by day, is a successful online marketing consultant who runs JIC on a volunteer basis. “We needed to create an environment that would give people an ‘on-ramp,’ to connect them to the community” she explains, “and give them a sense of connectivity to other Jews, so that ultimately they will marry Jews and lead an inspired Jewish life.”

Samuels notes that while most people will not go to a Torah class for their first program, “They will come to networking, cultural or social events. At networking events, we have successful international Jews who speak about their success. We want them to talk about their Jewish journey with a specific Jewish message.”

JIC is an independent organization, and while all dinners and events are strictly kosher and follow Orthodox standards, the audience is diverse. “You will feel comfortable whether it is your first time at a Shabbat meal, or if you are religious. No one is ‘put in a box’ at our events, so everyone feels comfortable regardless of where they are coming from,” says Samuels.

In addition to JIC’s events for 25 to 40-year-olds, the organization has launched programs for older singles in New York in their 40s and 50s, and has initiated a couples group for the 123 couples who met at JIC events and later married.

Samuels explains that a great part of the appeal of the organization lies in its ability to create separate events for different nationalities and interests. “Shabbat dinners are very successful,” she says. “We frequently run them by country. We will have an Israeli Shabbat dinner for Israelis, a Shabbat dinner for French Jews, a separate dinner for Latino Jews, and occasionally a dinner for all internationals.” Sometimes, JIC runs specialty, “boutique” dinners for smaller groups, based on their specific interests. Samuels reports that large Shabbat dinners can number 150 guests, and the smallest boutique events host 25 people.


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