Isaac Samuel Flegel-Mishlove

"As we say in IfNotNow, we’re in a moment of the whirlwind… There's chaos right now in the world, in America and in the Jewish community, and it’s a scramble to figure out where we stand as a community. It's our job in this whirlwind to organize so that when it settles down, we land the right way. We don't want to land on our head; we don't want to land on our shoulders; or on our side. We want to land standing up. It's INN’s job to organize, to get the American Jewish community landing after all this standing on the right feet."

Peace Activism
2016 - present
IfNotNow

Interview Date
March 25, 2017

Interviewer
Grace Gleason

The Interview

Isaac Samuel Flegel-Mishlove grew up in a Jewish home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with little connection to Israel. His first exposure was a synagogue-sponsored trip to Israel with his family when he was in seventh grade. And that was it until college.

At Georgetown University, Flegel-Mishlove “started getting really interested and invested in Jewish life, the Jewish story, Jewish peoplehood, and Jewish community.” He took some classes on Israel and ended up studying abroad at Tel Aviv University in his junior year. “As a young gay man I thought it would be very cool to be in Tel Aviv.”

Flegel-Mishlove had an incredible time in Tel Aviv including a short but serious relationship with an Israeli. However, he found it frightening to recognize that someone he loved so much had been involved in warfare as a soldier. He was also horrified to know that his two young Israeli cousins would need to serve in the Israeli military.

After returning home, Flegel-Mishlove became absorbed in reading about Israel and the movement for Palestinian justice. He was hesitant to get involved in Israeli-related activism without a strong knowledge base.

Flegel-Mishlove first got involved with IfNotNow (INN) after a friend recommended that he attend their mid-March 2016 training. It was life changing. He liked the group’s understanding of intersectionality.  “Working to end the occupation is tied up with anti-Semitism and is tied up with the liberation of gay people and trans people and black people and indigenous people and undocumented people.” He was also moved by a visioning discussion of what an alternative, joyous, liberated Jewish community could look like. 

Biography

Isaac Flegel-Mishlove was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1993 and raised in the suburbs of Milwaukee in a Jewish home with politically progressive parents who rarely spoke about Israel. He believes that his grandparents “probably identified as Zionists if you had asked them, but it wasn't a big part of our family life.” In fact, other than a family trip to Israel, Israel had no presence in his life until he went to college.  

He attended college at Georgetown University where he studied Israel in several classes, including a class on the conflict with Ambassador Dennis Ross, and subsequently spent a semester at Tel Aviv University in 2014. He graduated in 2015 with a B.S.-Foreign Service in in Regional and Comparative Studies with a minor in Jewish Civilization. and has worked at HIAS, “the Global Jewish Nonprofit that Protects Refugees,” since May 2015.

In March 2016, he joined IfNotNow where he went on to become a leader in the Washington, D.C. hive. His activism has included leading, organizing, or participating in over a dozen mass protests and small actions, including at the 2016 and 2017 AIPAC conferences. He also serves as a “Strategy Coach” for the Washington, D.C. hive.

Flegel-Mishlove considers IfNotNow to be the at the center of his current activism and Jewish community.

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