Louisa Kornblatt

In November 2014, Louisa was recognized as a Rhodes Scholar finalist for her undergraduate academic achievements and commitment to social justice. As a women, gender and sexuality studies major, Louisa focused on gender-based violence and worked in the local community to launch The Writing Shelter, a mentoring program designed to empower women and create outlets for their self-expression. Currently, Louisa is one of 10 Dorot Fellows living in Israel, where she constructs a personal learning program and assists African asylum-seekers from Eritrea apply for refugee status. The Dorot Fellowship is designed to assemble and empower a network of young Jewish leaders to enliven the American Jewish landscape.


College major: Women, gender and sexuality studies

Current profession: Dorot Fellow

What work are you doing as a part of your fellowship? I have been living in Tel Aviv, Israel, for the past six, almost seven, months. The fellowship allows me to construct my own learning program, so I have divided my time in a variety of ways. I am studying Hebrew intensely and am writing poetry and short stories in Hebrew. I am working on compiling my different creative pieces into a book, which I will illustrate and hand bind by the end of the year. 

What other cultural activities have you participated in? In addition to writing and drawing, I am studying a dance technique called Gaga. Gaga was created by Ohad Naharin, the artistic director of Israel's premier dance company,  Batsheva Dance Company. I dance four to five times a week at Suzanne Dellal, the center where the company rehearses, and another location called Studio Naim. I have thorougly enjoyed diving into this challenging technique, which revolves around pushing your body to move in new ways, constant motion, experience the five senses, finding pleasure, and much more. I am also part of a women's theater group that we have titled נשים עבדות (Working Women). We are six women who come from six distinctly different backgrounds, some from the world of prostitution, others from the professional worlds of basketball, film, theater; we come from Israel, the former Soviet Union, and with the addition of myself, the U.S. Together we are devising a piece of theater, which we hope to perform for the public as well as a female prison in the area. The performance will include autobiographical monologues in Hebrew that each of us have composed. 

What has been the most challenging and/or rewarding part of your time in Israel? I am working with the Eritrean asylum-seeking population, by assisting individuals in applying for refugee status. This has proven to be an immensely difficult and powerful experience. I either work with Eritreans in Hebrew, broken English or through a Tigrinya translator. I have heard stories from those captured and sent to torture camps in Sinai, Libya and Sudan, and those who were taken out of school and forced into compulsory military service for years before they fled the country. All have been separated from loved ones and all of them are struggling to build a life in Tel Aviv when the reality is that the majority of the country considers them "infiltrators." I am further engaging with this work by doing personal research on the topic of African refugees in Israel. It has been a year full of surprises and transient moments of beauty. I have had the space, time and support to create art, meet fascinating people and build a kind of home for myself.