What will keep young, professional olim in Israel? Brad Bernstein has the answer.
"You can't stay in Israel
if you don't have a job," Brad Bernstein
says. He takes a sip of his beer and surveys the small but growing crowd in Armadillo, a popular neighborhood bar on Dizengoff. Though his words sound a bit like a royal decree, Bernstein isn't suggesting that the unemployed should hop off their bar stools and onto the next El Al
flight - he's discussing the impetus behind the blog he created.
Simply titled "Jobs
in Israel," the blog, which receives a couple hundred hits a day, is exactly that - a listing of jobs that would be of interest to white-collar English-speakers like Bernstein himself. "The goal is to help people," Bernstein explains.
He began the blog in 2008. He'd been living in Israel for seven years and had built up an extensive network of colleagues, acquaintances and friends. Bernstein was receiving a handful of inquiries every day from various e-mail lists and professionals who were looking for young, career-minded Anglos. On the other end, he kept meeting people who had made aliya and were looking for work. "I was connecting people in a casual way," he says. "I really wanted to help olim find work as that is one of the major factors in keeping them in Israel. So I decided to consolidate everything into this blog."
When Bernstein speaks of the important role that work plays in successful aliya, he is speaking from experience - he credits the job he got with a high-tech company as something that "helped solidify my aliya and kept me in Israel." But that job didn't come easy, nor did it come fast - Bernstein was in Israel for almost three years before he landed on the career path that helped anchor him here. When he speaks of his early days in Israel, he smiles and shakes his head, "I had grand illusions of being a bartender in Tel Aviv
and of living the beach bum life." Bernstein laughs. "And that's what I did from 2001 until 2004."
Bernstein, who hails from San Diego
, didn't land in Israel with plans to stay. Fresh out of UC Davis
where he'd studied economics and English literature, he'd set out on what he intended to be a trip around the world. "I figured I'd spend six months to a year in Israel," he recalls.
When he arrived in Israel, three weeks before 9/11, Bernstein knew no one save for a family friend. But he knew some Hebrew
and made a point of making friends with Israelis. "I wanted to assimilate," he says, "I shunned Anglos."
Not that there were so many Anglos around, as Bernstein recalls. "It was during the intifada and there were no tourists or immigrants here. Everyone kept asking me 'Why are you here? What are you doing here?'"
But he stayed. And a year and a half into what was planned as a temporary visit, Bernstein made aliya. Shortly thereafter, he served six months in the IDF.
Bernstein's early experiences in Israel, however, stand in contrast to those of the new immigrants he has been meeting recently and those targeted by his blog. "They're in their late 20s, early 30s. They come with savings," he comments. As they adjust to their new surroundings, they run out of money - and then they need a job.
The "Jobs in Israel" blog, which is culled from sources ranging from Bernstein's personal network to headhunters to e-mail lists, includes a variety of employment opportunities. Though many of the listings are for marketing and high-tech, a fairly wide variety of other professions and industries are represented, including sales and finance. "The jobs are professional, white collar. There are no caretaker jobs," Bernstein says, explaining that occasionally he receives inquiries from Filipinos in search of employment in that field. That is not what his blog is for, he says. "I'm putting postings that are targeted to olim," he says.
The time and effort Bernstein has donated to the blog has paid off. "I've gotten some feedback from people who have found jobs on it, which really makes it worthwhile to maintain."
Finding work is just one aspect of successful aliya. Bernstein, who has seen many an oleh come and go, feels that a strong local support system is also crucial. He points out that olim who come to Israel after their mid-20s lack the structured settings of university or army service, both of which help younger olim integrate socially. So Bernstein took it upon himself to create a frame, of sorts - edged by the "Jobs in Israel" blog and weekly parties - in an attempt to help immigrants assimilate holistically.
The weekly parties, which have recently ended, were intentionally trendy... complete with a guest list. "The parties were exclusive," Bernstein says. "Purposefully so."
He explains that he was trying to cultivate a scene in which people with similar backgrounds could come together - Anglo and Israeli alike. "The parties had a reputation of being Anglo," he says, "and they started that way. But they became really well-mixed." That the parties eventually reflected, according to Bernstein, a wider swath of the country was thanks to the fact that he partnered with Israelis.
THOUGH BERNSTEIN has recently married and is now moving in a new direction, he, along with Israeli colleague Gilad Komorov, continues to bring young professionals together via their joint venture, AfterWork Events. "We're building on the parties and moving to the next stage. We're focusing now on more professional, networking-oriented get-togethers."
Bernstein explains that the events remain social at their core but are tamer and less focused on partying - they're more in step with Bernstein's life, personal and professional.
Despite the fact that these events include a mix of Anglos and Israelis, Bernstein acknowledges that there remains something of an Anglo bubble. "I'm a part of it," he says. But that doesn't trouble him. "My goal is to help olim stay in Israel."
But is floating in an Anglo bubble rather than rooting oneself in Israeli society the best path to lasting aliya? Bernstein, the epitome of an oleh success story himself, admits, "I did it differently than how these people are doing it. While I think it's better to assimilate and make Israeli friends, the 'Jobs in Israel' blog and the social events are a good launching pad for people when they first make aliya. It helps them make an easier landing. But hopefully they'll move on and get assimilated."
The interview ends and we step out onto Rehov
Dizengoff. Immediately, we bump into two Anglos - young women Bernstein knows. One says that she's heard about a closed party she wants to go to. "Hey, can you get me on the list?" she asks.
"Sure thing," he says. He mentions then that I'm writing a story about him and the so-called "Anglo bubble."
"There are no perforations," quips one of the women.
We part ways and Brad Bernstein - accidental headhunter, intentional socialite, King of the Anglos - walks down Dizengoff, that artery of the city center in the heart of Tel Aviv.
"Jobs in Israel" can be found at jobsinisrael.blogspot.com.