Lorin Maugery, 43, appointed to the role this month by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, grew up in Provence in southeastern France. He trained as a lawyer in France and at Fordham University, and earned a certificate in hotel real estate investments and asset management from Cornell University.
When he visited Israel for the first time at the age of 14, Maugery was overwhelmed when he first touched the Western Wall in Jerusalem, he told JNS. At 29, he made aliyah with his wife, Anna. In 2014, he began as a marketing department desk manager in the tourism ministry, responsible for France, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands.
In recent years, Maugery established and headed the ministry’s foreign investor-relations department, assisting developers hoping to invest in Israeli hotels. One of his most proud accomplishments was organizing a conference in Dubai on investment in the Israeli hotel industry.
“Having Israelis seated next to Emirati delegates at our event was really moving,” he said. “The Abraham Accords opened many opportunities, and we were honored to enable people from both countries to explore business opportunities in the hotel industry.”
He is now headed to Atlanta, where the Israeli tourism office is responsible for 11 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
“I hope to expose as many people as possible within the southern region of the U.S. to Israel as a prime travel destination,” he said.
Maugery, who is excited to meet “interesting people” in the United States, including those in the travel industry and religious leaders, said that he anticipates his biggest challenge will be conveying “the true and genuine Israel to our friends from the South.”
He aims to do so by speaking at events and to the media, and through organizing and attending conferences.
“Israel has so much to offer travelers,” he said. “Everything from history and religion to diverse cultures and amazing food. We have beautiful beaches and friendly people, hiking and scuba-diving.”
Those in the South may think of Israel as far away and out-of-reach as a feasible travel destination. But, he said, “Israel is closer than you think,” noting direct flights to Tel Aviv from Atlanta, Miami, and soon, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Since colonial times, Jews have been a part of the South and have made “significant contributions to the region’s history and culture,” according to Kenneth Hoffman, executive director of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in New Orleans.
“In turn, the South has had a significant influence on us. It’s a unique relationship that has given the world Jewish Mardi Gras parades, fried matzah balls and the phrase, ‘Shalom Y’all,’” he said.
Hoffman, who invited the new Israeli consul to visit the museum, recommended that Maugery explore Jewish historical sites in Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Galveston, Texas; Natchez, Miss.; Vicksburg, Miss.; and Memphis, Tenn. And, of course, in the Big Easy.
“Sharing our culture and history with the wider non-Jewish population gives us opportunities for education, conversation and fellowship, leading to more awareness and acceptance,” he said. “In this time of growing antisemitism, these kinds of interactions can help make our communities stronger, safer and more secure.”