The Jerusalem Post and Nefesh B’Nefesh are pleased to cooperate on the “Moving Up/Meet the Oleh” project. Every month, we will bring you the stories of immigrants, including lone soldiers and families; aliya employment tips; information about the “Go North/Go South” programs and more.
Aryeh Eisenberg, 38, and Lea Grossman, 26, don’t know each other, but they have a few things in common: Both studied at the University of Maryland, made aliya from the US with Nefesh B’Nefesh, got jobs through NBN’s Employment Department – and each has achieved success in Israel.
Eisenberg, a Baltimore native who gained experience as a teacher and educational technology specialist in New Jersey, moved to Modi’in with his wife, Debbie, and two young sons in 2008. After working for a few years as an English teacher in the Beit Shemesh area and as a training developer for a computer company in Kfar Saba, he came up with an educational idea that changed his life, and the lives of many others.
“As a former day-school teacher myself, during my first years living here I met so many former teachers who, for whatever reason, whether it be language or financial or certification issues, had to leave education,” he says. “I said to myself, ‘This is such a shame because these are such talented people.’”
So Eisenberg created a program called Bonim B’Yachad
(Building Together) four and a half years ago to provide a range of online classes, tutoring services and Hebrew lessons to English-speaking Jewish schools and educational institutions around the world.
“The idea is that our service enables schools and students to receive educational programs that may otherwise be missing or lacking, without having to sacrifice on quality or budgetary issues,” Eisenberg explains. “All of our sessions are taught live by qualified, experienced teachers who live here in Israel and are able to really help schools to provide services that otherwise would be very difficult for them.”
With Eisenberg as its founder and CEO, Bonim B’Yachad (bonimbyachad.com) has grown phenomenally over the last four years.
“We have 30 teachers on our staff right now, not including myself, and almost all of our teachers are olim hadashim [new immigrants],” Eisenberg says. “We’re really thankful to Nefesh B’Nefesh for recognizing teachers when they make aliya, and that’s really why I started Bonim B’Yachad. Part of what we do is allow these individuals to maintain their connection to Jewish education, and it’s really been a win-win situation for everybody.
“The students, wherever they are, get qualified teachers, and the teachers here are able to continue to do what they love doing. What we do is provide a much fairer wage to teachers as well as a valuable service to schools abroad.”
Eisenberg says Bonim B’Yachad works today with some 40 Jewish schools, mostly in North America and the UK. As an example of the services it provides, Eisenberg recalls that he was approached last year by a school in the New Jersey area that was initially skeptical about the idea of online classes, but had a group of half a dozen students struggling with math, and particularly algebra.
“The principal heard about our program, and he said, ‘What do I have to lose here?’
“Our teacher was very quickly able to identify how to reach the students and unlock their challenges. They ended up getting 90s for the year, and the school was so amazed by what we did that they decided to do six online courses with us.”
Asked what his vision is for the future, Eisenberg says: “We really view this as a partnership between Jewish educational communities abroad and those here in Israel. Our goal is to continue to expand this partnership to help more students and more schools and cater to their unique needs.”
NEW YORK native Lea Grossman was initially turned down for a position to which she was referred by the Nefesh B’Nefesh Employment Department at the Jerusalem office of Hometalk (www.hometalk.com
), a home-improvement website. She clearly made a good impression, though, because she was later hired for an entry-level job and worked her way up the corporate ladder as the firm expanded.
“I interviewed for an office manager position, and I guess
I wasn’t qualified for it, but
the head of HR [Human Resources] called
me back a few weeks later,” she recalls in an interview near her office in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood. “They were hiring for a manual QA [Quality Assurance] position. I got the job and that was the beginning of my journey.”
On June 1 this year, Grossman was promoted from head of QA to VP of Operations at the company.
“Hometalk is the world’s largest online DIY Home and Gardens community, so we’re basically a platform in which people share their tips and tricks of how to make your home better, usually for more affordable prices,” Grossman says. “Instead of paying someone to redo your house, you can search and find out how to refurbish your couch for the least amount of money, and there are tons of ideas posted by regular home owners and bloggers about how to do a vast amount of projects.”
Asked about her work, Grossman smiles broadly and says, “It’s awesome. My job is to make sure that the development process of the website is working at optimal efficiency, speed and excellence. We have about 80 million page views a month, mostly in North America.”
Since January 2014, when she started working at the company, it has grown from 10 to 40 employees. “I’m still overseeing QA, and assigning the work to our 14 developers,” she says. “In the last six months, we’ve hired six new developers, five of them women, and four of them French. We have employees from all over the world: Brazil, Russia, France, Chile, America, Canada, and a few Israelis… and religious variances also, from people who are not so religious to people who are haredi [ultra-Orthodox]. The common language is English and the website is in English, targeting an American audience.”
Grossman, who turns 27 in July, made aliya in October 2010 after spending her gap year at Jerusalem’s Midreshet Harova while studying at the University of Maryland.
“While I was a student, I was doing a lot of Israel advocacy stuff, and at a certain point I decided it was better to do Israel advocacy from Israel,” she says. “So I left Maryland and started studying at Bar-Ilan University and then I also did a tour-guide course. I finished Bar-Ilan, got married [in November 2013], moved to Jerusalem with my husband, and needed a job.”
Grossman’s husband, Adam, is the advertising manager at mysupermarket.co.uk
, a start-up in Lod. When they decided to live in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem, she turned to Nefesh B’Nefesh for a new job. “When I first came to Israel, I had a Nefesh job counselor, and she sent me tons of work opportunities. I used their Facebook group, and the staff were really helpful. It always made me feel like I had a place to turn to and someone to talk to. Today, I refer NBN all the time to everyone, including my sister, who is now looking for a job.”
The Nefesh B’Nefesh Employment Department works tirelessly to ensure that its immigrants find gainful employment in Israel. The team works with immigrants prior to their aliya to assist with writing résumés, transferring professional licenses and providing guidance about career options in Israel. The department is in contact with more than 2,000 companies, posting and placing immigrants in hundreds of jobs on a monthly basis. It also runs workshops and seminars for immigrants who are interested in building new businesses in their new home. ✡For more information: www.nbn.org.il/employment