Rina Barbut 521.
(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Although she was always seriously involved in Jewish activities in her native
Istanbul and identified as a proud Jew, Rina Barbut found that making aliya
added an important new dimension to her life. She became more observant
religiously, she volunteers her time to help others who are settling here, and
she loves living in a Jewish country. It has not been easy, especially finding
the right job, but after two and a half years here, she feels completely at
We meet in Kfar Saba’s Silicon Valley, a super-modern complex of
tall office buildings dedicated to various hi-tech businesses, set in an
attractive quadrangle not far from the Ra’anana junction. She has been working
here as a solution consultant at Nice Systems for the last four months, for the
most part in Hebrew, but with many of her projects connected to
Barbut studied computer engineering in Istanbul at
the Isik University and gained a BSc. During her studies, she made her first
trip to Israel through Masa, the Jewish Agency organization that enables young
people from abroad to study and work here on a one-year program. She held an
internship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and worked for a time at Intel,
teaching a website-building course for beginners through advanced
She returned to Turkey for another year and a half, but was
looking for a program where she could continue delving into Judaism and increase
her knowledge and commitment. She found what she was looking for at the Paideia
Institute in Sweden, where people from all over Europe, not necessarily Jewish,
come to study.
Established in 2000 with funding from the Swedish
government, the institute is dedicated to the revival of Jewish culture in
“I’d always wanted to study Judaism at a not-too-basic level, and
Paideia fulfilled that need exactly,” she said. “I loved studying there. It was
very intercultural, like Israel, and the people there came from all age groups
and backgrounds. Can you imagine how interesting it is to study in a havruta
[study partnership] with Christians and listen to their perspective? The studies
were so varied, too, touching on Jewish philosophy, but also music and
Returning to Istanbul, she felt she wanted a change and
considered working in London, but would have had to commit to five
“I did consider it,” she says. “I knew Israel would welcome me
whenever I decided to come.”
In the end, she decided it was
too long a period, and she made aliya on December 8, 2008, arriving at the Kfar
Saba Absorption Center and settling down to improve her Hebrew.
told me if I knew English it was enough, especially in hi-tech, but I don’t
agree. If you want to integrate, you have to know the language,” she says. She
was advised by a friend to forget her English and try to speak only in Hebrew,
and she got a part-time job in technical support, using her rather basic
“It helped me a lot to increase my knowledge of Hebrew, and when
I told people I was a new immigrant from Turkey they were nice and
understanding,” she tells me.
LIVING ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIAL CIRCLE
she moved to Tel Aviv after the ulpan, she had to share an apartment with three
other people because rents were so high. She didn’t like it, though, and
couldn’t wait to move out and live alone. She has since done so, and has a huge
circle of friends, other young immigrants from different parts of the world and
people she had previously met at Jewish events all over the globe. She is a
regular at Tel Aviv’s Ihud Olam synagogue, which is geared toward the needs of
young Orthodox people.
The Gvahim organization, founded in 2006 to
help new young immigrants, has become an important part of Barbut’s life. It
helped her to find work, and to this day she is in contact with it and
volunteers there. Because she has no family in Israel, she thinks of the people
at Gvahim as her family; part of the organization’s goal is to help young people
integrate socially as well as professionally.
last year, she has been taking a course at the Seminar Hakibbutzim on becoming a
“My friends all said I should study drama, as I apparently
have a talent for mimicry, but I don’t want to perform on stage. I felt I could
give more by entertaining sick children. The studies are very interesting, as
you have to have some medical knowledge, too,” she says.
“I also love to
play the drums, and I often play in jam sessions with friends.
activities outside work I do for my neshama, my soul,” she adds.
“I want to improve my career, perhaps do another degree and try and do
more volunteering. I’d also like to get involved in interfaith dialogue of some
sort,” she says.