By age 30, Melissa Groisman had two advanced degrees and was on the path to becoming an established attorney at a Miami-based firm when she decided to take a sabbatical and head to Israel. “I missed the long, meaningful Israel trips from my youth,” said Groisman. “I wanted to volunteer in Israel and work on my Hebrew, and I had faith that it would be good for my career.”
Groisman said goodbye to the Latin Jewish community of Aventura and registered for Masa Israel’s WUJS Social Justice program, which provided Groisman with volunteer and travel opportunities, Hebrew classes, and housing in Jerusalem for six months. Groisman, who had previously traveled to Israel with the Friends of the IDF’s Young Leadership, chose to volunteer at the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center.
“I knew I wanted to work with chayalim (soldiers), and I was happy to help them with everything they needed—dealing with Israeli bureaucracy, understanding their legal rights, finding furniture, and planning Shabbat dinners,” said Groisman. She also became good friends with the mother of Michael Levin, an American-Israeli soldier who died in the Second Lebanon War, for whom the Center was named.
During her six months in Israel, Groisman’s Hebrew improved and she immersed herself in Jerusalem life. “Living in Jerusalem was like living in the center of the universe. It added a spiritual component to my journey and helped me figure out my next steps in my career and life,” said Groisman.
Soon after returning to Miami, Groisman changed her specialty and became an international trade lawyer, joining a firm where she often works with Israeli clients. “My Masa experience gave me the opportunity to try something new—to step off the fast-track and reevaluate what I wanted for myself. Removed from distractions, I had time for introspection,” said Groisman. “Also, my new Hebrew language skills—in addition to my existing Spanish skills—were big selling points in the workplace.”
Back in Miami, Groisman soon met her future husband, whose father is Israeli. She is currently an active board member of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and serves as co-chair of the Young Attorneys Network.