Mentors and Help are everywhere….


The thing about Israel is you must be flexible to make it here.  Before I came to Israel, the shaliach [representative] from Nefesh B’Nefesh came to Baltimore to interview me in response to my aliyah application.  She told me that it was probably a good thing that I had more than a few skills, rather than being “the foremost expert in exotic South American butterflies”.  She assured me that this multi-skill approach would serve me well in my resettlement process.

In reality, I have relied on my doula, catering, childcare and marketing skills to make a few shekels. In the process I have evolved. What I came here hoping to do is not what I am ending up doing. The Israeli government recognizes this and is very good about, in some circumstances, reimbursing people with money for retraining programs.

Every month I make an effort to attend the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum (JBNF) which has both a Facebook presence and a group.  Presenters talk about marketing, sales, personal development, time management, start-ups, funding and so much more. I can honestly say, I have met the best and the most dynamic people at this networking event (that is entirely staffed by volunteers). There is always time both before and after for networking and business card exchanges.

I have also attend workshops at a Haredi women’s start-up “business incubator” hub with training and support for women entrepreneurs. The workshops given by Estie Rand and Leah Aharoni  at Temech/Jerusalem Hub have given me tools presented in a fast-paced and interesting format. The best part is that the class is located conveniently in the center of the city just one block from the Central Bus Station.

In addition, I studied personal development and business training with Lesley Josman Kaplan, owner of LAK Creations and Consulting. During that class we worked with other classmates and were encouraged to support and critique our businesses. The class was given in cooperation with Emunah Jerusalem. Lesley has recently taken the reins of the AACI’s Professional Women’s Network which meets once a month for learning and networking in Talpiot.  This is a whole new chapter for businesswomen in Israel.

Over the past two years I have attended business classes in Talpiot at MATI Jerusalem.  MATI which is sort of the equivalent of the American Small Business Administration. This was a fantastic course led and staffed by very generous and professional leaders in their fields.  Now, I am taking advantage of the 20 hours of business mentoring offered to new immigrants to refine my business approach. MATI worked hard to find me the just the right MATI mentor. I am working with Chaya Ben-Dor. Chaya has a background in marketing, sales and coaching. Each week I am to meet with her, I have an assignment to turn in. This week, for example, I had to do a SWOT analysis on my program and one for my personality.

Through Nefesh b’Nefesh in Givat Shaul I went to several career workshops, most memorably one given on Marketing Tools by Mike Mintz, Esq.  I learned so much from him in one half-hour lecture. Last week,  I read that he was offering a 16 part class on “Internet Marketing: SEO, Social Media and Analytics”. I knew that I had found the program for me, at John Bryce Hi-tech College in the Malcha neighborhood of Jerusalem in the Industrial Park. It looks like it will be a challenge and I am looking forward to it.

So, I ended up interested in the program because three of my mentors and teachers opened my eyes to the fit between my personality and marketing. Imagine that.


Jenny Sassoon to My Rescue


I am in that strange place in my Aliyah process. I was getting a little nervous about what comes next. I needed some help to sort things out. I have done the initial Ulpan and I can function in society on a rudimentary level. I am hoping for more formal education in the spring so I can advance in my Hebrew literacy. I am currently a very happy seminary girl, at least 3 days a week.

I have started to think about getting a job- just something to help pay the bills.  What kind of a job?  I have always been successful with the ones that you actually have to do something. I need to be active and engaged.In Israel that probably needs more Hebrew than I feel confident with. Please correct me if I am wrong. Really, please….

I have been thinking about working from home, but I really love being with people. I would sell a product if I was really passionate about it. My doula work is soul satisfying but it is a lot of waiting- so I do have time to do other things. My kallah class training won’t be until Fall and I am working on my Childbirth Education certification. All good in the pipeline, but not going to be rolling in the shekels.

Today I had  a meeting with Jenny Sassoon. She offered her time through a program Shelly Brinn offered at the Iriya (City Hall) in Maaleh Adumim aimed at soon to be employed new Olim. Jenny is a trained social worker and a certified Coach. Last Rosh Hodesh Jenny did a short workshop on self-esteem. I was so impressed with her group work skills and her sensitivity; I knew I had to jump at the chance to pick her brain about my existential crisis issues. There I said it” I have issues”….

Jenny walked me through her “inside/outside” approach to getting a handle on the issues many women face when starting a business or a new career. We talked about getting paid for what you used to give away- making the leap to being a professional.  She told me that all of the thank you notes and recommendations I have carefully collected shouldn’t affect how I feel about myself. I have to take pride in what I do and offer it in the marketplace with no caveats. Funny, Chassiduit teaches that also. Hmmm…

She told me how to hold my body to feel more confident. She gave me daily homework in front of the mirror aimed at strengthening and owning my qualities that make me who I am. She told me to be proud and upright about who I am. It was on the surface a business problem I handed her- and she handed me back soul work.

I think I like Jenny’s approach to business and life- know who you are. She says the answers are in me!  If is one thing that I have learned from Chassiduit studies this year is that she is right – we know what we have to do to be aligned with our values.  I got a little scared and shaky about what is coming next. I really needed Jenny to walk me through the fear and lack of self-confidence. I have a lot of emmunah about parnassah, but every so often it slips. Jenny was there to catch me.

If you need Jenny’s help she is available on Facebook and she can Skype if you live far from Jerusalem. Just don’t go it alone- it takes a guide and a coach to kick your compass into gear. Look for her at and tell her I sent you.

This is Eerily Familiar

B”H In the summer of 2011 just before we made Aliyah to Israel we got hit with everything or so we thought. I now know that it could have been worst. Looking back we can joke about the Baltimore “Earthquake” and Hurricane Irene cancelling our farewell trip to New England. We can even sigh over our flooded elevator shafts that prevented us from leaving Strathmore Towers for a week. We lived without a fridge, electricity and furniture. We got on the plane feeling like we had survived something significant.

By the time we arrived in Israel- a dirty apartment, nasty furniture and a tiny fridge made our day. We were so emotionally worn out from just trying to get out of town. We had the mindset of political refugees that Hashem had blurted out, with the help of Nefesh b’ Nefesh, on the shores of Israel.

I am very curious how many Jews will now look forward to making Aliyah now that the material world has floated away. How many will gladly board planes since rebuilding looks to be a tremendous effort? How many will look at their lives and realize that we are all here waiting to welcome them home? Or will they wait to be rescued by the American government?  A lot of good that did the diplomatic crew in Libya  Will they not read the parasha this week and draw the conclusion that Hashem runs the world?

I will leave it for others to draw conclusions about the reason for the damage. I think I am just going to go get the guest room ready I think we may be having company.

What Does Olive Picking Have to do With Aliyah?

Image                                                                                Image This morning I rolled out of bed and decided to go out to pick some more olives. I wanted to make this a time to do my lehitbodeduit/to be alone to talk to G-d .  I wanted to be in into nature and to talk with G-d about all that my family needs.As I surveyed my neighborhood olive trees I noticed several things.

1. You have to be willing to go where most people won’t – to be successful   Most of the best fruit  trees are surrounded by 5 foot bushes and vines with prickers. The Middle East is a difficult neighborhood to live in  with hostile murderous neighbors on all sides and the stakes are great.  If you don’t know what you would die for then what are you living for? I see a living Torah and I see the fulfillment of Torah prophesies everyday. We are miracles! Everyday that we are here is a miracle.

2. The best fruit is always on the tops of the tree in the full sun. Somethings are just meant to be out of reach- but you have to try. Aliyah is so easy today relative to our ancestor’s time and there is so much help and encouragement available, but you have to make the effort. It is  lot of effort to learn a new language and make a new life, but it is doable.

3.  Where there is no water there is no decent fruit, just shriveled and small  green fruits- not even the birds want.  I bless, Rabbi Lazer Brody, and the other innovators of the drip irrigation system.  It is a chaval/a waste to see shrunken and withered fruit for lack of water. In Judaism Torah is water and water is life- hence, “mayyim hayyim/living waters”. Outside of the land the connection is not the same quality.  As they say, G-d here is a local call.  Everyday you can walk the land and open the Tanach and feel the Torah alive.  The same can not be said for Lakewood, or Baltimore etc.. . these are pale imitations of what a rich Jewish life we are supposed to be living.  We are in sync with the Torah seasons and the rhythm of Jewish life.

4. There is more than enough olives in this country for every family who wants to have olives on their table if they want it. There is more than enough land in this country for the return of all of the exiles to come home and live off the land. There is no excuse for a life outside of Israel. We have a blessing for this land- we need to be worthy of it and step up and claim our inheritance.

5.  You have to want something very badly to be willing to crawl through the mud and prickers to get at the best olives. Life here is not always easy, but this is our family. Every family has a crazy uncle or two. It is no different here.  To live here you have to develop a tolerance for the diversity of your fellow Jews. It is good for your soul.

6.  There were fences that prevented me from getting to the best olive trees. Those fences were put there to prevent people from falling down the hill into the 200 feet deep wadi. In life sometimes we need fences.  Torah is our protection in this life. You may not always agree with the fences, but it is there to guard your soul.

So as I stood under the thick canopies of the olive trees and I asked G-d/Hashem to send me more grandchildren, jobs for my children, raises for my sons in law,  health for the sick ones, a quick aliyah for them all- most of all I asked Hashem for Moshiach.  It seems that the world is so perilous and this is a crossroads- we need Moshiach most of all. There I stood in hot Israeli sun I thank G-d that I am home and on my land eating the fruits of the gift G-d gave to all of us.