But four years at Boston University changed all that–introducing her to lots of Jewish and Israeli students. She quickly became a regular at Hillel.

After graduation, she decided to take her exploration one step further. She joined Otzma, a 10-month community service program in Israel.

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“I thought I’d get it out of my system,” Kassandra said. “I’d meet cool people, feel more worldly, and then go back to my normal life in America.”

But it didn’t quite work out that way. Midway through the program, somewhere between volunteering in Haifa and interning in Tel Aviv, Kassandra knew she wasn’t done with Israel. In 2008, two months after returning to the States, she was back on a flight to Israel with Nefesh B’Nefesh.

But Kassandra still had to get settled. Next up was learning Hebrew and finding a job. Though Kassandra initially signed up for an Ulpan course, she realized that she would improve her Hebrew more by spending time with Israelis while doing the things she enjoyed. She rock-climbed in Park Hayarkon, went to concerts, and painted ceramics in Tel Aviv–all while learning Hebrew. Attracted by Israel’s reputation as the start-up nation, she dove into the tech scene and began freelancing in web design.

“What you put in is what you get out,” Kassandra said. “It takes time to get to know a city and to get to know the people and to decide where you belong in all of that. You just have to find things that you’re interested in and put yourself out there. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

As part of her decision to make Israel her home, Kassandra bought a puppy. She took Kalla everywhere, but with bi-annual trips back to the US to see her family, it wasn’t always easy finding her half husky/half saluki a place to stay. In the US, Kassandra noticed, there were a few social networking sites that enabled dog owners to pay community members to house their dogs. Kassandra was sure a similar company would enter the Israeli marketplace. Then, she realized, she could be that person.

While working at another startup, Kassandra and two partners, both whom she met through friends, set the groundwork for Petbnb. Since the site launched six months ago, a few thousand people have already joined.

“Israelis love dogs and they love helping each other,” Kassandra explained. “It’s a small community, word travels fast, and people like making matches.”


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