It takes 30 minutes for the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest's newest diplomat, Daniel Aschheim, to retell his world-encompassing work history, and he's only 32.
Most recently, Aschheim, who recently earned his Ph.D. in European Studies, served for two years in Dakar, Senegal as Deputy Chief of Mission for the Israeli Embassy; his district covered five West African countries.
Just out of college, he held internships with the Knesset and the British embassy in Israel. At the same time, he served as a concierge at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, attending to the needs of heads of state, celebrities, and other VIPs.
Now, as Israel's Consul for Public Diplomacy to the Midwest, Aschheim covers nine states- from Michigan and Indiana west to Nebraska and the Dakotas. It takes up more space on the map than his African territory did.
Q. When did you know you wanted a career in foreign service?
A. I visited Austria as part of the "Young Ambassadors" program when I was 17; my dream of reaching the Foreign Ministry began then.
But at the King David Hotel, the world came to you.
I started there with a summer job and stayed for five years during my studies. I dealt with VIPs and with people from all backgrounds and beliefs. I learned more there than at any other job I have had. Later, when I worked as a consultant on interpersonal communications and conflict resolution for leaders, I used many of the skills I acquired at the hotel.
How did you come to work in Africa?
I completed the Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs "Cadet Course." Senegal was my first assignment. While the region is one of the most underprivileged in the world, Senegal itself is stable and a model of democracy.
Our embassy's goal was to replicate Israel's "start-up nation" infrastructure in Senegal and The Gambia. We brought in Israeli experts and developed leadership programs. We hope to support a West African "Silicon Valley" by 2030.
Is there Jewish life in the region?
Senegal itself is 95 percent Muslim with no organized Jewish community. But there is an island off the African coast- Cabo Verde, the western most part of Africa-with a population of 500,000. And they have an interesting Jewish connection! Long ago, Moroccan Jews came there. Many of the island's leaders today speak proudly of their Jewish heritage.
What will you do in your new position at the Consulate?
My vision is to build bridges between Israel and the Jewish community here, through culture, academics, and media. I want to connect people here to the diverse, pluralistic, innovative, creative, and exciting Israel which I love.
I want to say to our [American] Jewish friends: Please be involved, not indifferent. Whether you agree or disagree with certain Israeli policies, we would love you to engage with Israelis, visit Israel, and meet Israelis. And most importantly-know that Israel will always be there for you."
Aschheim can be reached at PublicDiplomacy@chicago.mfa.gov.il.