“Being the grandchild of Holocaust survivors is what drives me to search for my truth,” declares Rebecca Steiner, a versatile outgoing young woman with a strong will to succeed. “I have every opportunity that they didn’t have, so I want to maximize it.”
“Being the grandchild of Holocaust survivors is what drives me to search for my truth. I have every opportunity that they didn’t have, so I want to maximize it.”Rebecca Steiner
All four of Steiner’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors, originating in Hungary, Romania and Transylvania. “My paternal grandmother survived Auschwitz and came to Israel after recovering her health in Sweden. There she reunited with my grandfather, whom she had dated before the war,” she recounts. “My father was actually born in Israel.” Both of Steiner’s grandfathers endured labor camps, while her maternal grandmother survived in a Red Cross refugee camp for orphans with Aryan papers.
Steiner grew up in Woodmere, Long Island, with two brothers – one older and one younger. Her father is an attorney, while her mother is a therapist with a social work background. The family is close and usually gets together twice a year.
Though Steiner attended suburban Jewish day schools, she confides that she “always felt a little bit different” from others. “I went to HAFTR my whole life, a modox [Modern Orthodox] school,” she says.
Despite serious involvement with studies and dance classes, becoming a dynamic youth leader in Yachad with special needs kids, and a charismatic counselor at camp Ramah, her strong creative urges were always a challenge. This trend continued when she later interned in prestigious workplaces and had responsible hi-tech jobs.
After high school, Steiner chose to study technology. “I got my BSI [bachelor of science in information science] from the University of Michigan, focusing on human-computer interaction and UX (user experience) design,” she relates. She describes the college as “an amazing school with lots of Jews, with both pro- and anti-Israel currents. I learned art, coding, how to be a leader and have big dreams.”
An outstanding student, she graduated magna cum laude in 2015 and found her first job. She worked as a senior digital product consultant for IBM in their Manhattan office until her aliyah in 2018.
Making aliyah and being introduced to Chabad
When she moved to Crown Heights in 2017, Steiner found herself across the street from Lubavitch at 770. She developed an interest in Hassidism and briefly attended a class in Tanya (the fundamental, classic work upon which all concepts of Chabad are based). “Very organic, chill” is how she describes it.
“Very organic, chill.”Rebecca Steiner on the Tanya
Her first station in Israel was Safed to study in a Chabad seminary for six months, then she moved to Tel Aviv.
Steiner landed her next hi-tech assignment as global product manager for SodaStream in Kfar Saba starting in summer 2019.
How did Steiner, the hi-tech professional, wind up in Kadita, a small ecological village in central Galilee after over two years in Tel Aviv?
This occurred because she hit a crisis. “I wanted to figure out how to pursue my dream of changing my life,” she explains.
“Could I ever just do what I want? I decided I was going to try. But as challenging as my product management job was, and as much as I learned, I was looking for a different kind of fulfillment.
“What actually broke the camel’s back was the war with [over 3,000] rockets falling two years ago [during Operation Guardian of the Walls, May 2021]. I had to move out of my apartment, not sure where I was going. I went to visit Kadita, close to Safed and Meron – such a beautiful natural place filled with musicians. I lived in a little cabin at a slower pace, made olive oil, was writing poetry, meditating and dreaming. I stayed there for a year, savoring the rest and quiet and planning my future,” she recounts.
FOLLOWING THAT, Steiner moved to Jerusalem and is now evolving by adding more teaching to her schedule. Two days a week she studies to be a teacher of Tanach at the Matan Bellows Eshkolot Educators Institute:
“While I loved my major and even working in tech, I felt that I was ignoring a huge part of myself – the part that wants to be immersed in Torah. I have also been on a journey of really asking myself, ‘Who am I?’ That’s what led me to art. I currently share a rented studio, where I run workshops on expressing oneself through different lenses and exploring improvisation. That’s what led me to study at Matan and launch my teaching career.
“I was looking for something bigger than myself, and I found it after so many places – the journey of finding myself and discovering what it feels like to listen to my heart.”
As for teaching, “I’m just jumping in, trying to find formal teaching jobs. Recently I started giving a course at a girls’ seminary on the stories of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in English. I’m doing what I love now.”
Recently Steiner held her first photography show, “a life-long dream,” and sold over 10 photos. Though she holds events such as art classes and open mic nights, she has not abandoned hi-tech as a reliable source of income and plans to do freelance projects in that field.
“I’m only just beginning with the goal of finding my unique vision and sharing it with others, bringing some of my world through sharing and receiving.
“I totally want to get married and am actively looking. I want to build a home, have my own home in Israel.”
Sometimes Steiner is conflicted about city life. “I miss nature and I miss the North, so I sometimes go to Safed for Shabbat. But here in Jerusalem, the city of shleimut, or wholeness, I’m finally living more of my truth, producing, and aligned with who I am. Whereas formerly I was dreaming and imagining, here I am creating and sharing.” ■
Rebecca Steiner, 30 From New York to Safed, 2018