Many people who are considering a long-term experience in Israel often decide not to participate because of a fear of taking "time off". Marisa Obuchowski's recent experience on WUJS Israel is a reminder that the right blend of internships, learning, and personal growth is only an investment in one's future, not a break from it.
Originally from Baltimore, Marisa, 23, first considered registering for a Masa Israel Journey program in late 2011 before deciding instead to do Taglit-Birthright Israel. She so much enjoyed her trip that the day she got home, she contacted WUJS and told them that she wanted to come right back. Within a few weeks, Marisa had returned to Israel in March of 2012.
As a result of her background in graphic design, Marisa received an internship at a firm called 3FishMedia, a one-stop shop for digital marketing and design. From the first day, she was anything but a "gopher". Her co-workers gave her challenging assignments and let her run with them as she worked on website and mobile application design, for example, creating vitamin labels for an Israeli start-up company in the process of branching out to the United States.
Living in Tel Aviv, Marisa highly valued meeting her fellow participants from around the world. She didn't quite realize beforehand how multi-cultural WUJS would be, uniting people from Hong Kong, Budapest, Spain, and many other places. With her new friends, she explored the country on weekly siyurim (field trips) with tour guides who taught her more about places than she could never learn on her own.
When not interning, Marisa enjoyed her Shabbatot, organizing potluck meals with her friends who felt like family. She would buy groceries at the Carmel shuk or the Levinsky market in South Tel Aviv or sometimes visit her friends' relatives to get a glimpse of how families celebrate Shabbat in Israel.
As for the suggestion that WUJS was just an extension of Birthright, it was disproved quickly. Although she felt like a tourist for the first couple of weeks (mostly during the program's orientation), Marisa quickly became immersed in her surroundings, learning the buses and trains, where to shop, and as is so important in Israel, where to buy the freshest produce. When someone asked her for directions, she could proudly answer them in both English and Hebrew.
While this may not have been "a year off", Marisa did feel ready to return home by the end of the program. Taking her newfound interest in religion and desire for meaning, she decided to pursue a career in the Jewish world, something that would not have happened if not for WUJS. She began to explore jobs related to Israel and in the Jewish community and is pleased to have started a new job in September for the Krieger Schechter Day School in Baltimore. Marisa is the assistant marketing manager and works on special design projects and event planning for the development and admissions department. Her portfolio of design work that helped secure the job was created in her WUJS internship and Marisa is certain that her employer was impressed by the caliber of work she had done both in English and Hebrew. She is happy to say that she loves going to work each day and being part of a Jewish community. And of course, she is practicing her Hebrew with the Israeli teachers.
As for what's next? Marisa will be back in Israel in February leading a Birthright trip and hopes to be able to impact the group as she was impacted on her own trip.