Meet this month’s newcomer, Alan Zagier
Welcome to the Observer's monthly Newcomer Column! Every month, we will be featuring one of our Nashville Jewish Newcomers so you can get to know them and their dynamic, engaging stories. One of my favorite parts of my job as the Federation's Newcomer Engagement Associate is connecting with the newcomers and bringing them into Nashville's Jewish community through our Newcomer Shabbat dinners, Newcomer Welcome Receptions, and connecting them with community members and organizations who can help them feel like they belong here. We hope you enjoy reading these and give every newcomer you meet a smile and a warm Nashville welcome!
If you would like to be part of the Federation's work welcoming new Jewish Nashvillians to our community or have an idea of something else we could be doing, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-354-1664.
1. Tell us your story. Where are you from? How did you end up in Nashville?
A child of the ‘70s and ‘80s, I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest of three raised by a single Mom following the death of my father, a Holocaust survivor, when I was still in grade school. Earned an undergraduate degree in government and politics and a master's in journalism at the University of Maryland (go Terps), then migrated south to Chapel Hill, N.C., to be with my-then fiancé/now-wife of 29 years Elle.
Worked for daily newspapers in Raleigh/Durham and Naples, Florida, where we still spend time each winter. That was followed by a one-year faculty appointment teaching journalism at Mizzou in my mid-30s – leading to an 18-year detour as an “accidental” Missourian thanks to a decade-plus run with The Associated Press, the world’s most prominent news organization.
Helped raise three awesome humans (one of whom calls Nashville home) along the way. Switched to my Plan B career in 2016, pivoting to public affairs, i.e., the intersection of PR and public policy. Joined Brentwood-based Cooley Public Strategies as a vice president in August 2022.
2. What has your Jewish story been like up to this point? How did you get involved with Nashville's Jewish community?
My Jewish journey has been a winding one and is ongoing. I spent elementary school in yeshiva by parental mandate and didn’t embrace/appreciate Jewish identity until post-college. I reconnected with faith and familial legacy after starting my own family, highlighted by A Journey Home, a reported memoir in which I retraced my late father Jack’s early life in Belarus and Siberian labor camps.
As a parent of our now 20-something offspring, I’m heartened by the solid foundation of Jewish values and investment in Jewish communal life these young adults have made, from involvement with high school youth groups during our family’s years in St. Louis to Hillel/Chabad gatherings in
college to NowGen and other great programs for young professionals. As a still-new Nashville newcomer, I hope to forge similarly strong community connections here.
3. How has your experience been in Nashville so far? Any notable memories or experiences?
It’s been a whirlwind. We actually came here last summer expecting to stay just two months while I worked as a digital nomad – and then life happened. Looking forward to settling down in ’23 after claiming six addresses (incl. Inglewood, West Meade, Crieve Hall and Brentwood) over the previous year. We truly appreciate the warm welcomes from new neighbors, colleagues, and communities. Take it from this recent Midwesterner (and displaced East Coaster) – southern hospitality is legit!
4. What do you love about being Jewish?
The shared sense of history, struggle, endurance, perseverance, and accomplishment. The familiar, affirming holiday rituals. The comfort of belonging. The expansive – and welcoming – tent of modern Judaism, including here in Nashville.
5. What do you love about being Jewish in Nashville?
Having lived in domestic U.S. Jewish communities both large (Baltimore, D.C. suburbs, St. Louis) and small (Columbia, Missouri, Marco Island, Florida), I find that Jewish life in Nashville offers the best of both worlds – the intimacy and connectivity of a smaller community but with more resources and opportunities than the one-synagogue towns I’ve previously called home.
6. What does the next year look like for you? Is there anything that you are still looking to do or experience in Nashville?
I’m most looking forward to getting further engaged in the community while working to make my new city and the rest of the state a better place to live, work and raise a family. Many more “only-in-Nashville” experiences await, from a ride on the Gen. Jackson showboat (once it gets warm) to a host of unexpected experiences that I can’t possibly foresee.
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