Creative solutions

Before settling in Israel, Michal Kaye lived in nine other countries, partly because of her father’s work as an emissary to Jewish communities around the world.

(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Four years ago, Michal Kaye opened her business as an event organizer and has never looked back. Weddings, bar and bat mitzvas, pre-wedding Shabbat events for grooms – whenever a celebration is in the cards, she is the person to turn to.
Before she became a party planner, the 38-year-old, who made aliya from Toronto in 2008, had held several other jobs.
“I’d worked mostly in nonprofit organizations,” she says, “but I did spend one year working in hi-tech soon after I made aliya, and I found it great training for working with Israelis.”
Being the only woman working with 20 men opened her eyes to many things about a culture she confesses she did not know well.
“I’d read Start-Up Nation, so I had an idea about the army mentality and the hierarchical set-up, where the top echelons don’t really consult on decision-making, and I saw it in action in the hi-tech world,” she says.
“Everyone had their place, and you were lower and knew it.”
But for her, it was still a great work environment and got her used to long working hours with fellow Israelis.
“By the end of the year, I had gained enough confidence to contribute to discussions at meetings, and it also made me realize that I could live here and survive,” she says.
Before settling in Israel, she had lived in nine other countries, partly because of her father’s work as an emissary to Jewish communities around the world. She was born in England, and the family moved around, even spending some time in Israel until finally relocating to Canada.
After graduating from York University with a degree in history and cinema, she moved to Florida and worked for the Hillel organization. She also worked at the Jewish Agency in New York in the aliya department until she decided that rather than send others to Israel, she would come herself.
After a month in ulpan, she dropped out and began working as a salesgirl at a large store.
“It’s the best ulpan you could find, and it’s free,” she says with a smile. “You have to speak Hebrew with the customers, and you pick up the basics very quickly.”
Back in the nonprofit world, a family friend in Canada asked her to help organize a wedding and later another. She realized this was something she could do professionally, and there was certainly more money to be made.
“I took everything I’d learned my entire life and applied it to the business of event planning,” she says.
“I had always organized conferences and coordinated itineraries for delegates – in nonprofit you do everything yourself – and I realized I’m a professional planner already.”
She notes that “I did not study the subject but figured it out for myself – and soon found it was the same creative approach I’d always used, but now it was to organize life-cycle events.”
Half of her clients are from abroad, and half are local.
She hardly advertises, as new clients arrive all the time through word of mouth. In planning the event, she is responsible for the venue, band, photographer, hair and makeup, schedule, transportation, favors, tours if wanted – everything to ensure the party will be a success.
“You become very connected to each client as you spend so much time together,” she says. “The customers have to feel comfortable with you and be able to trust you to make the right decisions for them.”
And yes, things can go wrong.
“You quickly learn to carry many things with you, including a spare ring for when the groom forgets to bring it,” she says.
Once, the rabbi didn’t turn up – he’d gotten the day wrong and was busy at another function.
“I found a rabbi,” she says, somewhat mysteriously.
It turns out he was among the guests and agreed to perform the ceremony.
Experience has taught her that she should always have certain items with her for emergencies. These include makeup, sewing kit and scissors, stain remover and medications for headaches.
“If anything goes wrong, I can fix it with this bag,” she says.
And it’s not always smooth sailing.
“You have to get used to the idea that you are the punching bag and you are the one who is going to be yelled at if something goes wrong,” she says. “Frankly I prefer it that way to having people yelling at the bride, or the bride at her mother. You have to remember that people are very stressed at an event, and emotions run high.”
With every event she organizes, she learns more.
“I’ve also learned that I have to be a little more tough,” she says.
If she has any spare time, she likes to paint and go to the gym, or just hang out with close friends she has made here and abroad.
And after having experienced life in nine different countries, she can truly say she has found the one in which she wants to stay.