A proac­tive ap­proach

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - ARRIVALS - • SU­SAN DE LA FUENTE

Though Ben Green­berg, his wife Sharon Weiss-Green­berg, and their two chil­dren moved to Is­rael only a short time ago, the cou­ple was for­tu­nate enough to find em­ploy­ment quickly. Af­ter work­ing for a decade as a rabbi in the USA, Green­berg had the fore­sight to hone his com­puter skills and switch ca­reers shortly be­fore aliyah. The pro­gram­ming course he com­pleted en­abled him to merge his so­cial skills with tech­nol­ogy.

“My pre­vi­ous work as a rabbi – com­mu­nity build­ing, teach­ing and public speak­ing – is an in­te­gral part of my work at Von­age as a devel­oper ad­vo­cate,” he ex­plains. “My work in devel­oper re­la­tions brings to­gether the teach­ing and com­mu­nity build­ing with a tech­ni­cal skill set.”

Shortly af­ter ar­rival here, Green­berg was hired by Nexmo, a Bri­tish sub­sidiary of Von­age, to work on the lat­ter’s API (Ap­pli­ca­tion Pro­gram­ming In­ter­face) plat­form. In sim­pler lan­guage, Green­berg is tasked with “en­abling soft­ware across the Web to com­mu­ni­cate, whether it’s tex­ting your Uber driver or talk­ing to the pizza de­liv­ery chat­bot on Face­book.” He trains engi­neer­ing teams on var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools.

“I cre­ate tu­to­ri­als, doc­u­men­ta­tion and soft­ware li­braries to help their pro­duc­tiv­ity. I also speak at pro­gram­ming con­fer­ences through­out the world. I was in Bangkok re­cently, where we spon­sored the first con­fer­ence for the Ruby pro­gram­ming lan­guage in Thai­land, and I will be in San Francisco in Novem­ber speak­ing at the an­nual GitHub (a sub­sidiary of Mi­crosoft) con­fer­ence, GitHub Uni­verse.”

BORN IN San Diego, Green­berg first at­tended a lo­cal Jewish day school in Cal­i­for­nia, fol­lowed by public high school. A self-con­fessed “com­puter nerd,” he grad­u­ated very early at the end of ninth grade, then worked in com­puter se­cu­rity un­til col­lege age. Af­ter a first de­gree in psy­chol­ogy in New York, four years of fur­ther study qual­i­fied him as a com­mu­nity rabbi.

Mean­while, Green­berg met and mar­ried Sharon Weiss, a ma­jor in ed­u­ca­tion and Jewish stud­ies who com­pleted her doc­tor­ate at New York Univer­sity (NYU). Weiss first lived in Cleve­land, Ohio, then Atlanta, Ge­or­gia and at­tended high school in Min­neapo­lis. By the time she made aliyah, she had lived in nine dif­fer­ent US cities. A gifted stu­dent, she at­tended the Univer­sity of Min­nesota at 15 and Stern Col­lege, New York from age 16.

Their old­est son, now eight, was born in Bos­ton while Ben and Sharon were busy en­cour­ag­ing and ed­u­cat­ing the Jewish stu­dent body at Har­vard Univer­sity Hil­lel. They de­scribe those three years as “one of the most pro­found bless­ings in our lives and a true priv­i­lege. Peo­ple in their col­lege years are open to new ideas and chal­leng­ing ex­ist­ing par­a­digms.”

Fol­low­ing that, Green­berg be­came rabbi of an Or­tho­dox con­gre­ga­tion in Den­ver, Colorado, an in­ten­sive full-time po­si­tion. Their youngest son, now five, was born there. When­ever pos­si­ble, the family got out­doors to en­joy their sur­round­ings. “The non-ski sea­son is a great time to ex­plore the Rock­ies,” they com­ment. “We used those times to hike around Vail and Aspen, and see the spec­tac­u­lar and breath­tak­ing sights of Colorado.”

The Green­bergs also had a brief stint in Chicago, where Ben worked for an NGO that pro­moted en­coun­ters be­tween Jews, Mus­lims and other mi­nori­ties. Fi­nally, they re­turned to New York, where Ben worked for the UJA and di­rected adult ed­u­ca­tion for the Cen­tral Syn­a­gogue, a large Re­form con­gre­ga­tion.

Sharon as­sumed var­ied com­mu­nity func­tions and fem­i­nist roles over the years, find­ing her mis­sion in ha­lachic lead­er­ship for women “in the in­ter­sec­tion of Ortho­doxy and women’s em­pow­er­ment.” In New York, she was named by The Jewish Week as a per­son to watch – a 36 un­der 36 hon­oree – and hon­ored by The For­ward as a For­ward 50 Jew of In­flu­ence. Weiss de­scribes her work as “high­light­ing prob­lem ar­eas in Or­tho­dox com­mu­ni­ties as well as vi­able so­lu­tions, with the in­ten­tion of bring­ing change.” Press­ing is­sues in­clude “the treat­ment and pre­ven­tion of abuse, the aguna cri­sis, the era­sure of women

from pub­li­ca­tions, the lack of lead­er­ship roles for women in Jewish com­mu­ni­ties and the need to al­low for healthy dis­agree­ment when we think or in­ter­pret law dif­fer­ently.” Since ar­riv­ing in Is­rael, she works for Kolech, an Or­tho­dox fem­i­nist or­ga­ni­za­tion, and as di­rec­tor of donor re­la­tions for RAISE Non­profit Ad­vi­sors.

AF­TER A decade of com­mu­nity work, Ben de­cided to re­train so they could move to Is­rael and support their family in a vi­able way.

“I al­ways loved com­put­ers and tech­nol­ogy,” he says, “so I de­cided to en­roll in a course to up­grade my knowl­edge of com­puter pro­gram­ming. Fol­low­ing that, I worked in hi-tech for a year in New York to gain ex­pe­ri­ence.”

So far they have ad­justed well, find­ing Modiin to be “a sup­port­ive and wel­com­ing com­mu­nity with ex­cel­lent re­sources for new olim, both in the syn­a­gogues and in the schools,” though “def­i­nitely lan­guage was a bar­rier.”

“We had moved sev­eral times in the States, so we’re used to mov­ing and ad­just­ing to bu­reau­cracy,” Ben says, prais­ing Modiin’s In­te­rior Min­istry of­fice as friendly and help­ful.

Sharon says, “Mov­ing to Is­rael has im­proved our qual­ity of life. The work-life bal­ance is eas­ier to main­tain here.” Their chil­dren are also up­beat.

“They love their lives here. They now en­joy cor­rect­ing our spo­ken He­brew when we are out and about!”

The Green­bergs ad­vise prospec­tive olim, “There is only so much plan­ning one can ac­com­plish from abroad. At some point, you just need to take the plunge and move.”

Se­condly, they sug­gest “do­ing job mar­ket re­search, and be pre­pared to re­align your skill set with the mar­ket here.”

In con­clu­sion, “If you are open to ad­just­ing your pro­fes­sion, then do­ing so in a way that makes you more suc­cess­ful in Is­rael will en­able you to have a more suc­cess­ful im­mi­gra­tion.”



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