Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : September 20, 2010
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.”
Published : September 19, 2010
By Lena Glaser, Career Israel
Rosh Hashana in Israel…definitely not what a normal American Jew is used to. However; due to my secular/hippie take on Judaism upbringing, I was ready for it!
I spent the first night at my friend Adar’s family’s Kibbutz, Kibbutz Ruhama. I have never been to a Kibbutz before, so the experience was doubly exciting. After a tour of the kibbutz by Adar, and a quick history lesson from one of her grandfathers (the Kibbutz was privatized in the early 90′s, so it is not what one would think of as a traditional Kibbutz, it’s more like a gated all-inclusive community), we arrived at her aunt’s house for one of the most amazing meals of my life. I was not prepared, and didn’t have my camera on me to take a picture of the heaps of food on my plate, very reminiscent of holidays at my house as well as at the Nidel-Novick residence.
About 16 of us crowded around a dinner table, yelling in Hebrew and laughing as we started in on the feast: Stewed beef, roasted chicken, fish with lime, rice with almonds, salad with rimon (pomegranate) seeds, cabbage salad (salat kruv – my favorite Israeli side dish), chopped liver (the best I have ever had), and countless other tidbits covered our plates…a real smorgasbord! After the food coma set in, everyone sat in the living room and participated in a tradition I think I’m going to keep from now on. Everyone was asked to write a brucha, or blessing, for the upcoming year. Whether it be for the community as a whole, for the world, or just the family…and then put it into a basket. Everyone then draws a brucha and reads it aloud — and people try to guess who wrote it. Some were funny, some were written by the children, some were very touching…but it was a way to connect with the holiday without involving religion. Next year, I’m beginning this tradition as my own.
After spending the night at Adar’s house in Rehovot, we spent the next day at…THE BEACH! We drove to Rishon L’Tzion, one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to. Who goes to the beach on Rosh Hashana one might ask…well – almost all secular Israelis.
We found a cute little beach cafe and indulged in some breakfast at 12:30pm. I was immediately drawn to the shakshuka. Shakshuka is a spicy tomato and fried egg stew of sorts that is baked in an oven and served wit a variety of other ingredients. It is an amazing breakfast/brunch food, and also for late-night drunk eating. Since Israeli dairy products are the most amazing in the world, I had the Shakshuka with Balkan cheese. Balkan cheese is a sour, goats milk cheese, very similar to goat or feta cheese. It is delicious. it was served with a side of white hard crusted bread that was sprinkled with zatar, a middle eastern spice mix which I put on almost everything because it is so delicious.
Living in Tel Aviv, a secular multicultural modern city has been the most amazing week. I have grown to love this country more and more just from living here, instead of Jerusalem. As much as my father hates to hear this, I really do feel at home here. Especially in Tel Aviv, religiousness hidden away from public view.

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