Q: What is your full name, where you are from, University in your home country and the program you are on here?

Hi my name is Rachel Eisenberg, I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I recently graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Art history and came to Israel one month later to begin my Masa Tikkun Olam journey.

Q: Why Israel?

Israel has felt like home long before I ever stepped foot on the land. Each time I traveled to Israel, I left planning the next time I could come back.  After graduating from university I knew I needed to volunteer in Israel with refugees, and I knew that I needed to return to Israel- the search ensued and Tikkun Olam was the perfect fit.

Q: What was your favorite moment this far in your journey?

A few months ago, I found myself sitting on the edge of a mountain, freezing cold, huddled together with friends for body heat watching the sun go down over Petra, Jordan. The immense feeling of gratitude that washed over me was so much more than the view; never in my life could I have imagined that I would find myself in Jordan, packed into a jeep for a week, road tripping with five women I had “just” met in Israel, and yet there we were. Not only was I in awe of the beauty before me, but by the fact that I was literally gathering my heat and my strength from some of the most beautiful, adventurous, and aggressively supportive women I will ever have the privilege of knowing.  I could list endless moments, but the common denominator between all of them is the people whom I’ve shared them with.

Q: What is your program like, what makes it different from working/volunteering at home?

Tikkun Olam is a volunteer based program in south Tel Aviv. For me, one of the biggest differences and draws towards this specific program was the idea that we would live in the areas with which we work.  Within social action programs, there can often be discrepancies between the intention and implementation of core values through the programs foundation and work. I appreciated the fact that Tikkun Olam is community based- we live and work in south Tel Aviv. I’ve crossed paths with children I work with at my volunteer placements in the streets with their families. I’ve seen people I worked with who have now become friends at demonstrations, protests, and celebrations alike. This program enabled me to really immerse myself in the communities with which I volunteered.  As much help as any one of us gave to our volunteer placements, I think we all took so much more with us- stories, perspectives, and so much love.

Q: How do you think you’re time in Israel has helped you on a journey to a meaningful career and future?

My time is Israel has shaken most of my plans up, but I’m learning to find the excitement in the unknown. After graduating university, I would have gone into the predictable path at home (work, go back to school, work, etc.), this time has imparted on me a flexibility and can-do attitude which I think I must thank Israel for. Also, through my volunteer work with asylum seeking women and children, I am now reconsidering my next career/educational moves, as I am more interested in the Social Work field now than before. This time has thrown me off the beaten path, but I’m looking forward to figuring out the next steps in this new light.

Q: You opted in to learn about adaptive leadership as a part of Masa Leadership Academy, taking part in both the summit and change retreat. Can you tell us about what you’ve learned and what your take away is?

Each day of the Masa Leadership Academy and change retreat was overwhelming in the amount of information we absorbed. I came into the Leadership academy expecting concrete skills to take back with me to my volunteer placements, and came out with a lot of time spent in self-reflection. Between actual programming or discussions shared amongst participants, the most important take away for me was when to step back and when to step up. I realized that “leadership” does not look like one single model- we need to be dynamic in each situation, and meet those we’re working with where they are at. Sometimes this entails quiet behind the scenes work, or putting the work back into others control, and sometimes it entails screaming to the world until your cause is heard.  Personally, I have an easier time with the behind the scenes work, and learned that my voice is valuable- I was encouraged to speak up when I have something to say, because sometimes it needs to be heard.

Q: Any advice for incoming Tikkun Olam participants?

Come with an open mind and open arms. This program has the potential to be as great and meaningful as you make it, so take the initiative and make it happen. The best people often enter your life at unexpected times, be authentic and welcome the new relationships. Commit to your work, whatever it may be, but also allot time to explore Israel, and enjoy!

Q: What’s next for you?

I’m looking for apartments as we speak! I plan to live and work in Tel Aviv for the foreseeable future, stay connected with the children I volunteered with through Tikkun Olam, and explore furthering my education at one of the universities nearby.

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