Tali Herskowitz is passionate about building a better Israel. Thee 36-year-old Beersheva native is the development and program officer at the New Israel Fund in Washington, a nonprofit organization working to advance social justice, democracy, equality and human rights in Israel.
But for Herskowitz, music is her No. 1 love. While she doesn’t perform as much these days, she used to play folk music in venues from New York City to Canada to Europe.
We recently visited Herskowitz in her downtown office to discuss growing up in southern Israel, the challenge of getting music gigs and enjoying nature in D.C.
What was it like growing up in the south of Israel?
I grew up during a time when the peace movement was very strong in Israel. I remember when the Oslo Accords were being signed  and it was a very inspiring time. I participated in rallies. I was involved in movements that were all very uplifting. There seemed to be a real chance for peace.
In Beersheva, there are a lot of Bedouins. There are also communities that are in low socioeconomic stature. I was exposed to that, and at the same time taught to be proud of my country and to love my country, it being the home of the Jewish people. Those values that the country was founded on make me believe that promoting peace, promoting equality in the country, promoting democratic values is the way to make Israel successful, prosperous and make me proud of my country.
Tell us about being a singer-songwriter.
I had a band, had a CD out. I was never famous. I was a music teacher in New York and writing, performing. So when I have free time, I dabble with that.
How did you get involved with music?
I played piano since I was 6 years old. I’ve always kind of been a performer on the side, in family gatherings. I think, however, it took courage to actually decide I’m going to do this. I’m going to invest time, and I’m going to go on stage, and I’m going to write my material. So that was something that I did after I finished my undergrad. And I came to New York and really decided that I’m going to try it and I’ll see how it goes. I was young enough to take that chance and happy I did it. I decided that it’s not going to be a life career, but it’s something that you feel. With certain things — with art — when you do something, when it feels right, it feels right, and you want to do it again.
What kind of music are you involved in?
Not indie-folk, but folkish. But not ‘60s folk.
Where have you performed?
I played around New York. Played some in Canada. Really small venues when I traveled through Europe.
It was me for a while. Then I had a band, so I collaborated with another singer-songwriter. And then it was me again.
What was the name of the band?
The Never Beens. Don’t underestimate the time that musicians have to spend to get gigs. It’s really consuming. It’s work to get gigs until your name is recognized.
What was it like teaching kids how to play the keyboard?
Kids are cute. It was a lot of fun. It’s also a humbling experience working with children.
What’s your favorite kind of music?
I listen to a lot. There are actually such amazing artists coming out of Israel now. There’s a lot of reviving Middle Eastern music that I love because it’s just fun. I like music that feels like someone really put their soul into it. I’m not a big fan of pop music.
What is your favorite thing about living in D.C.?
I think the city has a lot to offer. I moved here a year ago from New York, so it’s a bit different. But I think it’s a great city, especially this time of year when the weather is starting to get better and suddenly everyone is outside. I like the nature here. I love Rock Creek Park. I love the National Mall. I like the fact that it’s so easy to kind of get away from the city and still be in it.