The conclusion of the Jewish holiday season often comes along with a collective sigh of relief. In Israel, people even greet one another by saying “חזרה לשגרה שמחה” – “Happy Return to Routine.”
I tend to thrive on tight schedules and patterns. In previous years, I anxiously anticipated the end of the holiday season and the return of my beloved routine. This year, however, I’m returning to a new reality.
If you had asked me what I was planning to do with my life when I was a junior at Yale University, I would have shrugged and given the default Yale answer: “Maybe I’ll try consulting for a few years and then go to business school.” . Although Jewish extracurricular activities were central to my college experience, I never considered that Jewish life and community could be a career path in addition.
That changed when I spent a semester studying abroad in Jerusalem on The Nachshon Project fellowship. The Nachshon Project offers college students a tuition-free semester abroad at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Throughout the program my peers and I engaged with Jewish ideas about leadership and learned about exciting career opportunities serving the Jewish world. We also spent a large portion of our semester talking about our futures, asking questions about how to choose a meaningful path forward, and setting visions of how to reach our goals. By the end of the semester, I had changed.
Since my semester abroad junior year, I moved ahead and got my MBA as originally planned, but instead of a corporate focus, I chose to study at Brandeis as a graduate student in the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership program. And because I did this as a Nachshon Project Graduate Fellow, I received the blessing of $30,000 per year of graduate studies, thus lowering the stress of paying for graduate school before working for a Jewish nonprofit.
I also benefited from participating in conferences which provided me with a significant professional network and additional opportunities to build skill sets beyond what I learned in my graduate studies. Together with my cohort, I researched how to effectively use data in decision-making for educational institutions, learned how to better navigate conflict management, discovered the world of Emotional Intelligence, and explored ways to get new ideas off the ground.
Last month, I was privileged to begin my career as a Program Associate at UJA-Federation of New York. In this role, I am involved in creating, developing, and implementing various community initiatives of the Federation and helping to develop strategic responses to the emerging needs of day schools and synagogues.
So this year, the holiday season felt less like a break from reality and more like a deep dive into the start of my Jewish professional career. I’m excited to see where this journey leads.