Joanna Lieberman

Career Israel
As a senior in college, I wasn’t yet ready for the work world because I was not exactly sure what I wanted to do. Though enrolled in Cornell’s School of Human Ecology, I had begun to take many more courses in the School of Hotel Administration. I knew it was a path I needed to further explore professionally and I decided to do so in Israel, a country with a large and successful tourism industry.
Through Masa Israel’s Career Israel, I was placed in an internship at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv, one of Israel’s premiere hotels. Two weeks into my internship, I was working in reception like any other full-time employee. Though my father is Israeli, I grew up in Los Angeles and speak very little Hebrew. In the hospitality industry, where English is the main language, this did not put me at a disadvantage.
Still, the work was definitely challenging. Before Career Israel, I was a pretty shy person but working in hospitality in a foreign country forced me to leave my comfort zone. Working with Israelis and being expected to fulfill the same tasks as full-time employees was not easy but these experiences taught me to persevere. When I made a mistake—and I certainly made a few—I just had to keep going.
My participation in Masa Israel’s Building Future Leaders seminar series helped complement my experience. Aside from taking leadership courses, I was able to meet Diaspora Jews from all over the world, such as South America and Russia, and share my Israel experience with them. As a North American Jew with an Israeli father, I never considered the similarities I may have with Jews around the world—and it was wonderful to learn about our shared cultural traditions and discover our new connection to Israel together.
So many important outcomes came from my Masa Israel experience. Not only did I realize that the hectic lifestyle of hospitality—though enjoyable for a few months—was ultimately not for me, I did find my professional place in the Jewish world. Returning with a stronger commitment to Israel and a desire to be involved in Jewish life back home, I became the Leadership & Board Services Coordinator at the American Jewish Committee. I also serve as co-chair of the Cornell Hillel young alumni group and am involved with Masa Israel’s New York alumni group.
Following my Masa Israel experience, I took part in a WZO-sponsored trip, which followed Herzl’s footsteps. In 10 days, we traveled from Brussels to Vienna to Budapest to Israel. We were delayed in Budapest and created our own Yom Hazikaron ceremony there, which was very moving.
Beyond feeling personally impacted by my Masa Israel experience, I am proud that my experience has affected others. Apparently, constantly rehashing memories from those five months in Israel made a mark on one of my good friends, who participated in Masa Israel’s WUJS internship program. I was excited for her to experience Israel and to hear all about it.