NJP (Nice Jewish Person) Moshe Givental
Each month, The Well highlights an amazing (and eligible!) individual.
This month, we have a conversation with NJP Moshe Givental!
TW: How did you decide to make your adult life in Metro Detroit?
MG: Two reasons, family and Detroit itself. I've been away from Metro Detroit for about 15 years, my parents are getting older, and I have the most rambunctiously beautiful little nieces here, so it was time to return. I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't for Detroit itself too. I spent the summer here two years ago and got to really know Detroit, the city itself, for the first time. I was really blown away by how native Detroiters are rebuilding their city from the ruins, growing their own food, making found-art out of their neighborhoods, and in general finding "a way out of no way"! I am deeply inspired, and I want to support that.
TW: How do you spend your days?
MG: I spend most of my time listening. I meet with Jewish communal leaders, community organizers and activists in Detroit, do research, teach, and write. These things often have to do with understanding environmental and climate destruction, and what wisdom Judaism might have for a more sane relationship with "nature". I'm also thinking a lot about how generational trauma and internalized anti-semitism (on both the Right and Left) effect our relationships with each other.
TW: What is your favorite book and what about it moves you?
MG: "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. When I'm overwhelmed by all that needs to be done in the world, I remember Dr. Frankel's reflections after surviving the Holocaust. It's something along the lines of - There is no ultimate meaning in life in the same way that there is no ultimately best move in chess. It all depends on circumstance. So too in life, look for what the people around you need, right now, and what you can do in response.
TW: If you could travel anywhere in time, when would you visit?
MG: I'd visit Medieval Japan, and go hang out with the Samurais. In my imagination, which might be quite divorced from historical reality, they'are fearless and honorable. We need more of that in the world today.
TW: Who is your favorite fictional character and why?
MG: Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek, The Next Generation. Who doesn't want to be the captain for a Star Ship?
TW: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
MG: I spent the summer walking a Pilgrimage, reconnecting with the Earth, and preparing for whatever I would do here in Detroit. I walked from Boston (where I lived before) to Detroit. It was, by far, the hardest thing I've ever done, in every way.
TW: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?
MG: I like Shabbat, because it's every week. I grew up with no Jewish holidays at all, but this forces me to pause and reflect every week, whatever I do or don't do religiously.
TW: When you've had a bad day, what do you do to feel better?
MG: Play with my dog or my nieces.
TW: Favorite restaurant in Metro Detroit?
MG: Still looking.
TW: Fun fact about you?
MG: I speak Hebrew with a Russian accent, even though I can't even fake a decent Russian accent in English. I moved here from the Soviet Union when I was 9.
TW: How do you like to give back to the community/others?
MG: I try to be kind.
TW: Finish this sentence: When I go to The Well....
MG: I look for people who are as curious as I am, community, and good friends.