Graduating with a Masters degree in architecture from Tulane University in 2008, Jesse Zryb entered a terrible economy. After losing his job in New York City, he decided to enroll in Masa Israel’s Career Israel. “I could have stayed at home and experienced five months of uncertainty. But instead, I decided to participate in a program that would allow me to gain valuable work experience and further explore Israel,” says Jesse.
Since his Birthright trip to Israel during college, Jesse had wanted to return. “I was really impressed by the modernity of Israel, and the mix of the old and the new,” says Jesse.
Through Career Israel, Jesse interned at Stav Architecture, a midsized firm in Ramat Gan. “I lack a native speaker’s Hebrew skills, but I was able communicate through mathematics and design,” says Jesse. “The work pushed me in the direction I wanted my career to take.”
When not at work, Jesse spent much of his time outdoors. “In Tel Aviv, we lived a block away from the beach and I was often walking or running along the Mediterranean. Tel Aviv is a bustling metropolis with tons of energy and a very easy place to immerse oneself,” says Jesse.
Jesse also sought out different music events, often finding that he and a friend were the only Americans in a crowd of Israelis. When his parents visited from New York, Jesse invited them to a jazz festival in Caesarea. “We spent the whole day in the heat, not knowing whether it was going to happen or not. Then the sun set over the ruins and all of a sudden, it started,” says Jesse. “It was my dad’s birthday, which made it really special.”
A few weeks after Jesse returned from Israel, he landed a job at Pink Inc., a Manhattan-based design firm with a focus on events. “My Career Israel experience definitely gave me more employable qualities,” says Jesse. “Being able to work in an international office shows a level of independence and initiative. In a field like architecture, it’s a great thing to get different perspectives.”
Since his return to the U.S., Jesse feels much more connected to Israel. “I’m much more aware of the realities of the country and I stay up-to-date through my friends who still live there,” he says.
Jesse is looking forward to becoming more involved in Jewish life in New York. Before Sukkot, he will be leading tours around Sukkah City in Union Square, an international design competition to re-imagine sukkot.
“My experience in Israel definitely helped me grow personally and professionally,” says Jesse. “I look forward to returning.”