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A Conversation with Naama Haviv

Naama Haviv interview with author, Sarah Hays Coomer

Naama Haviv is Director of Development and Community Relations at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. She also worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo to end sexual violence against women and provide healing services to survivors. Before that, she was Assistant Director at Jewish World Watch, working to prevent genocide worldwide. The list of her contributions to our planet and well-being is LONG. Basically she's dedicated her life and energy to saving the world. Naama will be moderating the conversation at the Los Angeles release of Physical Disobedience!

If you could have any three, living women over for dinner, who would they be and why?

No fair, because Aretha Franklin just died, and she is still my everything, forever. Can I still have her? Can the other three women and I have a seance and still somehow get Aretha to attend? [Sarah here: I'm down for that!] But fine: Ruth Bader Ginsburg because I'm her biggest fan and because if you ask me what shape my Patronus takes, I will tell you it's RBG and refuse to hear arguments to the contrary. Toni Morrison, whose books have cut me to the core and who I go back to over and over again. And JK Rowling if I have to only pick three, I guess, because now I'm thinking about books, and she comes up immediately. But also because she fundamentally understands how to gracefully abandon all tact when necessary and tell it like it is.

What are a few things that currently infuriate you?

Look, it's Trump and his kleptocratic, corrupt, living vulgarity of an administration first. Everything after that is commentary.

And a few that inspire you?

My kid, and this whole coming generation of kids, who are already so much better than us. My mom, and the women in her generation who sacrificed everything to get us here: their bodies, their health, their privilege (such as it was), their sanity, their economic security. They sacrificed EVERYTHING to get us even a little closer to equity. Damn. And the men who are well and truly on our side. Also, real-life trust. Real-life respect. Real-life love.

When anger or frustration builds, do you feel it in your body? If so, how or where?

I have a fight AND flight response when I'm angry. I feel all my muscles tense at once, especially in my neck and back. I brace for a fight. Then I scream at whoever pissed me off. Then I run away and need to be by myself for a WHILE. I have a fairly long fuse, but once it's burned up, take cover.

How do you relieve those symptoms? What are your fail-safe, behavioral release valves?

See above: yelling and running away. None of this is healthy! But I'm self aware, so my go-to is to tell whoever is making me angry that I need to step away from the conversation and go into another room to calm down—which usually means distracting myself until I can think again—reading or messing around on my phone or flipping through my fave cookbooks.

What kind of exercise, alternative therapy, or play have you always wanted to try but never got around to it?

Ugh, none, I hate exercise. HATE IT. I have tried all sorts of exercise and hate most of it. I only do it on the regular when I find a class I like—something active and upbeat, zumba and etc. I need to feel camaraderie with the other people in the room, see them week to week, know that they're going to wonder where I went if I don't show up. Sorry, just not very curious in the realm of exercise. Yuck. [Sarah here: I would like to note that Naama TOTALLY IGNORED the option of alternative therapy or play in this question! Bah!]

Describe something beautiful (or beautifully disobedient) that you saw recently.

My friend Amani has spent his whole life working to build and raise up his small community in South Kivu, D.R. of Congo. He started sewing workshops for women who were rejected by their families after experiencing sexual violence so they could restart their lives on a foundation of economic stability and independence. He hustles to raise money to send kids who can't afford it to school (mostly girls - there's no public, free education in Congo). He's built a women's center which became a whole community center, housing teen girls who had become pregnant from rape (and rejected by their families because of the rape) and offering classes to vulnerable women, men, and children: everything from vocational training to family planning. Two years ago he secured a major grant to begin building his dream—a school of his very own. The project is massive, as Amani envisioned, a boarding school with three healthy meals a day and safe living quarters for South Kivu's most resource-poor children—all in a learning environment based on trauma-centered and nonviolent education and focused on building critical thinking and leadership skills (not Congo's typical education!).

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Naama Haviv interviewed by author, Sarah Hays Coomer

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