When the stars align

Julie Deutsch, 26, a classic millennial aliya story.

(photo credit: DANIELLE BUTBUL)
Take one part B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, mix in a Conservative synagogue, stir in a bit of afternoon Hebrew school, blend in a Birthright visit, add a liberal dose of Israeli boyfriend, top it off with a Masa internship, and what do you get? Julie Deutsch, 26, a classic millennial aliya story.
On a busy afternoon at Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Center, she recounts her “convoluted” life story, which took her from staid corporate life in New Jersey to the never-ending energy of Tel Aviv.
Deutsch had a comfortable upbringing in Scotch Plains, a central New Jersey suburb. She served as president of her B’nai B’rith chapter in high school and visited Israel for the first time in 2008 on a summer BBYO tour. Though she enjoyed the visit, she confesses that she never thought that she would end up living in Israel.
While attending Syracuse University, Deutsch maintained her Jewish affiliation, attending High Holy Day services at the campus Hillel as well as other programs during the year. After she graduated in 2013, she was hired by Deloitte, where she worked in the company’s technology consulting group, traveling most of the week and returning home to Scotch Plains on the weekends. At that point, her career and life trajectory seemed predictable and steady.
It was during the summer of 2015, she says, “when everything changed.” She decided to take a Birthright tour to Israel and during her visit, began to consider applying to Masa Israel, which offers study, internship and volunteer programs throughout the country. Her potential ties to Israel became even stronger when she fell in love with Asher, the medic and security guard from her Birthright group. Referring to the stereotypical story of a Birthright participant falling in love with a Birthright staff member, she laughs and says, “They always get you, don’t they?” After returning from her Birthright trip, Deutsch requested a temporary leave of absence from Deloitte and applied to Masa. She was accepted and arrived in August 2016, on a five-month program dubbed “Masa Career Israel,” which allows participants to live in Israel and intern at leading Israeli companies to get a feel for real work life in the country.
She interned in marketing, and while the internship helped her determine that she did not want a marketing career, she came to the realization that she wanted to move to Israel permanently. Deutsch, who acknowledges that she is not a real risk taker, says, “Everything was great, but essentially, it was a ‘now or never’ moment. I was 25 – why not?” After returning home, she broke the news to her parents, who, she says, “were in shock.” However, once she explained to them that she had already begun to make plans for permanent employment in Israel, they “came on board.” Shortly before she left Israel, she had interviewed with WalkMe, a Tel Aviv-based company that helps users navigate the features of other Web-based services.
She officially made aliya on May 28, 2017, and began working for WalkMe. While she freely acknowledges that a big reason that she made the move is due to Asher, her Birthright beau with whom she lives in Tel Aviv, she is realistic enough to know that she needs to work.
“Love unfortunately, does not pay my bills, but a good job does,” she chuckles. “And I have a really good job here.”
Deutsch did not move to Israel because she was unhappy with her previous life. Responsible and serious, she had enjoyed her work, loved her parents and her dog and had plenty of friends. Yet somehow she ended up living in Israel, and she is thrilled.
“I love the beach, and the weather’s great. Tel Aviv is alive. I can walk outside my Dizengoff Street apartment and sit at a bar and café.”
She loves her job, and values the warmth and friendliness that she receives from her co-workers, especially since she is the only native English speaker on her team.
For Deutsch, the benefits of Israeli life go beyond its bars and beaches.
“Every other week my friends host a ‘daybreak the grind,’ where we get together before work to eat, drink, catch up and talk about a topic that connects something from Jewish history to things that impact us today. This is something unique that I was never a part of in the US.”
While she misses friends and family, she says that the hardest part of living in Israel is the language.
“In Hebrew school, you learn Hebrew block letters with vowels, and you have no idea what you are saying,” she says. She has been studying Hebrew in ulpan, and while her Hebrew has improved, she is not quite proficient. It is difficult to follow conversations with Asher’s friends and family.
“They try, but I can only force them to speak English so much. Sometimes, I sit silently and have no idea what’s going on.” When it comes to Hebrew communication, she must rely on Asher. “For so many things, like calling the doctor, or buying things, I am completely dependent on him. He is an angel that helps with everyone and everything I need.”
Though her Hebrew may be lacking, Deutsch understands Israeli aggressiveness and says that her Eastern United States upbringing has given her a thick enough skin to keep people from cutting in lines ahead of her.
She has “always loved being Jewish” and appreciates the fact that holidays in Israel follow the Jewish calendar. She recalls that when she lived in the United States, she would have to take days off from work for Rosh Hashana. Here, she says, “it’s easy to be Jewish.” She is also grateful for the Masa program, because “Masa was the chance to actually see what living in Israel was like before jumping the gun and moving here.”
Thousands have traveled with Birthright and interned with Masa and didn’t make aliya. Why did Deutsch return? “Being an only child has taught me be to be independent,” she says. “I have always been close to family and friends, but was always open to meeting new people and trying new things. Moving to Israel was a perfect match for my exploration and ability to be independent, explore and try new things.”
Looking back, Deutsch admits, “I don’t think there was ever a point in time, when I thought that I am going to live in Israel one day.”
How did she end up here? She smiles and shrugs, “All the stars aligned.”