Where are you from?
What was your childhood like?
Mine was fairly average for a Jewish and middle-class child here, I’d say. I attended Jewish day school, took violin lessons, and played in an orchestra. I was pretty academically competitive as well.
What brought you to study abroad in Israel?
I had actually been to Israel before on a class trip and with Birthright, but this time I wanted to return to immerse myself in its culture and become fluent in modern Hebrew. Given my Jewish day school education, I was already quite close. I was set on studying abroad in general, and I settled on Israel because it offered a language I wanted to hone, was important to my religion and culture, and meshed with my interest in entrepreneurship.
What were your first thoughts about traveling to Israel? Did those change?
I was ecstatic and eager, knowing that I had decided I wanted to study abroad there and having planned the trip for some time. As preparation, I had begun watching Israeli TV, listening to Israeli music, and even practicing my Hebrew with locals who lived in Cleveland. As my departure approached, I became more anxious, but I knew the experience itself would only be temporary no matter what.
What challenges did you face transitioning there?
The biggest challenges I faced were getting used to the parts of Israeli society that clashed with my personality. For example, I had to learn to be more aggressive when standing in line or even shopping at a store. I also grappled with Israeli spontaneity and lack of planning in advance. Above all, I felt uneasy with the way Israelis were not transparent and took time to open up to me. However, once they did they struck me as truly genuine people.
What is your occupation? Are you a member of a sorority, fraternity, or any other civic or social organization?
I’m a graduating senior at Case Western Reserve University, and in September I will start with Deloitte Consulting in Detroit as a Business Technology Analyst. I belong to a fraternity called Pi Kappa Phi.
How did Israelis make you feel welcome?
No matter where I was or who I met, Israelis always made sure I had a place to sleep and a meal to eat. After meeting people on the street and talking to them for a bit, I received more on-the-spot dinner invitations than I can count. In their culture, it is also acceptable to come home with a friend without notice and be treated as a welcome guest. Israelis are by far the most gracious hosts I’ve come across.
What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?
I don’t consider myself a very religious person, only attending temple on the most important of holidays. However, while growing up, my family would always hold a Friday night dinner with everyone together, a tradition known as the Sabbath meal. I try to keep it even while away at college. On occasion I attend my local Hillel, and at other times I’ll cook my own version of the meal with a friend or two.
What do you love about Cleveland?
I love that Cleveland is my home. It has everything I could have asked for growing up as a kid, including good education, quality music, and friendly people. Now that I live here as a college student I realize what else the city has to offer, including an affordable cost of living, inspiring sports teams, and support for the arts.
Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?
I believe it is important to welcome immigrants and refugees because at one point in time, every family began with an immigrant or refugee. People move for different reasons, including fleeing wars, chasing dreams, and more. But wherever they end up, they ultimately support their society at its core. It is those who choose to come to America who appreciate it the most and end up inspiring the ones who grew up here, like myself, who simply take our country for granted.
Why is it important to travel abroad?
Seeing a new place and learning how other people live their lives offers us a sense of perspective. It shows us that others deal with problems we do not have, have solved problems we have not, and also emphasize values different than our own. Travel teaches us to have open minds and to understand that the world is a much bigger place than we imagined.