A Houstonian is spending the next half-year in Israel promoting Israeli-Palestinian coexistence through the medium of music.
Shoshana Gottesman arrived in Jerusalem in early March, as a participant in the WUJS Israel Hadassah program for young adults. For the next five months, she'll be interning some 30 hours a week with the nonprofit Heartbeat Jerusalem, as part of the WUJS Arts specialty tract.
"I've found that I have two loves: One is music, and the other is conflict resolution. The question is, how do I combine the two?" said Gottesman, a violist who graduated from the University of Miami's Frost School of Music this past December.
Gottesman will try her hand at combining her two loves at Heartbeat Jerusalem.
Founded in 2007, the nonprofit brings together an international community of musicians, educators and students who use music to build mutual understanding and transform conflict. Heartbeat Jerusalem programs seek to empower Israelis and Palestinians by creating opportunities for young musicians from opposing sides to work together and foster peaceful coexistence.
"I'm interested in using music as a tool for social activism between Jews, Muslims and Christians," said Gottesman. "Through music, trust can be created, I believe, and from there, you can have conversations."
Gottesman is a graduate of I. Weiner Middle School and Bellaire High School. Besides music, she concentrated on public relations and international studies in college.
Between graduation and the start of her WUJS Israel Hadassah program, she worked in Houston on a Fullbright scholarship to aid in the production of a one-of-a-kind music manual.
"I'm compiling an instruction manual that teaches the techniques and styles of both Western and Middle Eastern music, so that Israeli and Palestinian youth can make music together," Gottesman said.
In college, she helped foster interfaith relations on campus. She co-founded a student organization called JAM (Jews and Muslims), which uses music to bridge the divide between Jewish and Muslim students. She organized music programs and a national conference at UM that promoted interfaith dialogue and peace activism.
Last year, she helped run a music festival in Tunisia through the international nonprofit, Cultures in Harmony, which forges connections between peoples across cultural and national barriers, via music.
Gottesman arrives in Israel as an award-winning musician who has performed in the United States, France and Israel. She's a published writer and an experienced music PR intern.
WUJS Arts is an ideal post-graduate program for Gottesman.
"The WUJS program provides just enough structure to build a foundation. And, it also offers the right amount of flexibility so that you can take the experience in whatever direction you choose," she said.
Through this specialty tract, Gottesman will combine studies in Hebrew language (ulpan), Israeli culture and arts and her music. As with all Hadassah and Young Judaea programming, curriculum is pluralistic and holistic, combining in- and-outside-the-classroom educational experiences.
There are two WUJS sections: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In the capital city, participants live in apartments near the scenic Promenade and get around the city on the bus system.
In most instances, WUJS helps pair participants up with internships in fields of interest. In Gottesman's case, she pre-selected Heartbeat Jerusalem, and WUJS helped facilitate the internship arrangement.
"I'm not just looking to do an internship for work experience – I've already done several internships like that. This is actually the type of thing that I want to do with my life," Gottesman said.
Gottesman plans to find a master's degree program and future career that combine her passions for music and conflict resolution.
According to Gil Yaari, the Young Judaea shaliach in Houston, there are about 100 participants doing WUJS programs this year. On average, year to year, some 20 choose the Jerusalem Arts tract. A quarter of all WUJS participants end up making aliyah.
Gottesman said she plans to extend her stay in Israel after her five-month program concludes.
"WUJS is a great program for people who want to make aliyah, because it helps you establish connections, social and professional networks," she said.
"Israel is the place I always want to be," she said.
For information about WUJS, visit wujsisrael.org.