Fashion Designer to Jewish Agency Israel Fellow: Tamar Ishayah’s Story



January 5, 2023

Traveling, fashion design, and Israel have all been a core part of my journey as I’ve explored my own identity and strengths throughout my life. 

I was born in Israel, but I lived in the United States for most of my early childhood, which gave me a taste of different cultures and countries. Israel became my home again when I was eight years old, and I was reintroduced to the warmth and hospitality of the Israeli people. I also quickly fell in love with the Tel Aviv beach! 

After completing my army service, I traveled to India by myself for three months. Traveling so far and relying entirely on myself was exhilarating and empowering, and I gained the confidence to travel and live anywhere. 

In addition to my passion for travel, I’ve always been creative and have wanted to channel that enthusiasm into fashion design, so I studied fashion for four years at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. Shenkar’s program is competitive and intense and gave me exposure to the world of fashion. After Shenkar, I worked for several designers with Israeli offices. When COVID-19 broke out, I started to feel like I was missing a sense of meaning and purpose in my work and like I was just chasing my own tail trying to figure out where I wanted to go in life. 

When my husband and I sat down to explore what would be next for us in life, I drew on the experiences that I had traveling the world and our shared love for Israel. We were drawn to college campuses in America because we wanted to provide positive experiences around Israel and because we both believe in serving our homeland and our people. So we applied to become Jewish Agency Israel Fellows and were accepted to work at campuses in Chicago: Lidor at Metro Chicago Hillel and me at University of Chicago Hillel. 

Offering the Israeli warmth and hospitality that I grew up with to my students on campus is inspiring and exciting. The club that I started at University of Chicago, called Kehillah, introduces students to Israeli food, music, and culture outside of the usual conversations around politics. I see the students who spend time learning about Israel with me becoming more confident in their connection to Israel and in their own Jewish identities. I hope that my work on campus continues to provide students with a snapshot of Israeli people, culture, and pride.