NAME: Jonathan Fonvielle, 26
HEBREW NAME: Nathan Yosef
CURRENTLY LIVING IN: East Boston
ALMA MATERS: Pingree School ‘10, Elon University ‘14
JOB: Guest experience manager at Atlantic Vacation Homes
FAVORITE FOOD: Any type of dessert
FAVORITE MUSIC: Classic rock
FAVORITE BOOKS: “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, “The Alchemist” by Paolo Coelho
FAVORITE MOVIE: “The Departed”
FAVORITE TV SHOWS: “Parts Unknown” with Anthony Bourdain, “Games of Thrones”
FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATIONS: New Zealand, and I’d like to go to South Africa.
FAVORITE JEWISH PEOPLE NOT IN YOUR FAMILY: Nate Ebner and Julian Edelman
FAVORITE JEWISH HOLIDAY: Purim
WHAT WAS YOUR JEWISH BACKGROUND GROWING UP?
I grew up going to Temple Ahavat Achim in Gloucester. I would say it was a pretty major part of my life early on – my grandparents were a big part of that, and my mom, Carole Sharoff, was heavily involved. She was president of the synagogue just after I was bar mitzvahed – so that was a big connection to a lot of the community there.
WHAT IS THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN GLOUCESTER LIKE?
It’s fairly small – there are a lot from some of the other neighboring towns. In my public school in Gloucester there were maybe two other Jewish kids. I think there were a lot of [Jews] who moved here later in life.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP SOMEWHERE WITHOUT A LOT OF JEWS?
My dad’s African-American and not Jewish, and so it’s always been an interesting piece of my identity trying to figure out where I fit in in society in a town where there were one or two other Jewish kids in my whole middle school, or one or two other black kids, so it was an interesting challenge to figure out my place – my race and my religion made me unique in the community.
DO YOU IDENTIFY AS A JEW OF COLOR?
I do and I don’t – it’s a hard one for me to answer personally because it’s something I’ve always tried to figure out where I fit in that regard, as a minority, and as the only African-American family in our synagogue. I think it’s something that’s always changing – as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to embrace it much more, and realized that it’s not something that sets me apart in a bad way – it’s something that makes me unique in a good way, and people are always interested to find out who I am. They see the darker skin and they wonder, ‘Oh, he’s Jewish?’ It’s always an interesting thing, and it’s definitely helped me connect in different ways to different people. I’ve been to Israel now twice – first on Y2I in 2008 and then on Birthright two years ago, and those trips really helped me learn a lot about myself because it was the first time I really totally felt comfortable somewhere, where people looked like me, and everyone was Jewish – I felt really at home there. Going to Israel helped me connect on a deeper level in terms of figuring out who I am.
YOU ALSO PLAYED RUGBY FOR THE PAN-AMERICAN MACCABI GAMES?
Yeah. At some point in college, I read an article about the Maccabi rugby team playing at the Maccabi Games in Israel. They had some well-known players on that team, and it was intriguing to me – I didn’t know anything about the Maccabi Games until I read that article. Soon after that, they started recruiting for the Pan-American Games in Chile. That was amazing – there were a couple thousand athletes from all over the world. We won a silver medal in the 15-a-side competition and a gold medal in the sevens competition. We had a massive opening ceremony that was truly a spectacle – the president of Chile was there and spoke, and I believe Shimon Peres spoke via Skype. There were people from all different Jewish backgrounds – it was a huge melting pot of people and truly incredible.
WHAT’S YOUR CAREER PATH BEEN?
Starting in college, I interned for a minor league baseball team in North Carolina running sales and doing concessions – that got me a full-time job in Augusta, Ga. So I spent a year there – then spent about a month with no plan or nothing. My mom called me and asked if I wanted to come work for her for a little bit. I went home to help my mom and make some money to [participate in the Maccabi Games], and that was three years ago now. I’m full-time at Atlantic Vacation Homes, which is my mom’s company, for 3½ years. We do short-term vacation rentals – I manage our operations, our maintenance reservations, and I work closely with my older sister [Michelle Williams Fonvielle], who’s our general manager. It’s been pretty great – I get to bring people from all over the world to the North Shore and Cape Ann, so it’s really rewarding that I get to create those memories for people.