Masa Israel Featured Internship: Java Applications Development Internship, Citi

Citi is seeking a highly experienced and skilled Java software developer to contribute to the research & development of cutting-edge machine learning systems that interact with real world data in near real time. As an intern one of your responsibilities will include introducing new tools, frameworks and methodologies into the development process and environment.

Citi, the world’s leading financial enterprise, has recently launched its very own Technology Innovation Center here in Israel to capitalize on Israel’s vast technological talent to lead the financial industry into the future of technology.

Mitzvah Maker – Andy

AK half Marathon 1Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Andy: My wife was offered an amazing opportunity with an education company in Bethesda.  It was too good of an offer to pass up, and we both agreed she should take it.  I remember thinking to myself at the time that if it was this good for her, how awesome an opportunity must be waiting for me in DC.  We have been here for over two years and it has worked out wonderfully.

Rachel: Running a marathon is a big feat.  How did you get to this point?
Andy: I started running for exercise when I was still 100 pounds overweight.  I started by running for as long as I could (only about a minute), walking until I caught my breath (usually taking several minutes) and then running again.  It was slow, I got very sweaty, and I felt like an idiot bumbling down the street looking like that.  I would remind myself over and over again that I looked even more idiotic being morbidly obese and doing nothing about it.

Overtime, I would get farther and farther before having to stop.  One block became two, two blocks became a mile, and then multiple miles.  After several months I started training for my first 10K (6.2 miles).  Over the years, I challenged myself to keep going farther and faster.  After more than six years of running, last spring I worked up the nerve to enter my first marathon (26.2 miles).

Running my first marathon coincided with reaching my weight loss goal (over 100 pounds lost).  Crossing the finish line after nearly four and a half hours of running was incredibly emotional.  I reached two great milestones that day, completing the race and putting obesity behind me forever.

Rachel: You’re raising money for PresenTense. What is it?
Andy: PresenTense is where community and entrepreneurship meet.  It is an organization that equips passionate people with the tools and support to address communal challenges in the – well-present tense.  I had the privilege of working with the organization when I was the coordinator of the ConnectGens Fellowship at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.  Since moving on from that role to work as a Weight Watchers leader and life coach, I still work with PresenTense as a Social Start Trainer for their curriculum.

I hope that others will be inspired to get involved with PresenTense because of my campaign.  They can learn more about my efforts and donate at

Rachel: What kind of an impact does Present Tense have on the community?
Andy: PresenTense is one organization that has successfully drawn out the course map for entrepreneurs to take their ideas and run with them. PresenTense programs provide the framework for passionate people to address communal challenges.  Over 1000 people have been touched directly by the organization and the ventures started as a result have exponentially been

Jewish Girl of the Week – Noa

noaWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Noa: I came to DC a year ago as part of a pilot project of the IDF and the Jewish Agency (chosen along with two other IDF officers), and served as the shlicha (emissary) to GW Hillel.

Rachel: So you served as GW Hillel’s Israel Fellow.  What was your favorite experience?
Noa: I learned so much during my year of shlichut.  Working with the incredible Jewish students at GW was truly inspiring.  Their dedication and motivation to search their Jewish identity, all the while juggling studying, internships, fraternities/sororities, and a social life, is remarkable, not to say heartwarming.  I had so many positive experiences – from witnessing the students’ spiritual growth on Birthright, to seeing the Israel group leaders and members struggle to advocate for Israel and improve its image on campus.  But if I’m forced to choose one experience, that stood above all, it would have to be the outstanding initiative and action that the students took during the IDF operation “Pillar of Defense” last November.  Three GW pro-Israel students initiated and planned a support rally for Israel in front of the White House on the second day of the operation, while Israel was enduring heavy rocket fire.  GW Hillel turned into a mini operation center prior to the rally.  Seeing our students in action, passionately standing by Israel, filled my heart with pride as I watched the support and love that poured out of them.

5a Israel support rally November 2012Rachel: What was serving in the IDF like?
Noa: My career in the IDF over the course of the last eight years has been nothing short of fascinating.  I served in a field known as “military diplomacy” – at first as a spokesperson for the North American media and later on as a liaison officer to foreign military attachés.  One of the most interesting positions I held was Head of the North American Desk.  I oversaw the exceptional military cooperation between Israel and the US, including coordinating visits of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the IDF.  Serving as a commanding officer and mentoring young Israeli soldiers was probably the most challenging part of my job, and the most rewarding.

5 Israel support rally November 2012Rachel: What’s next for you?
Noa: I have currently taken some time off the IDF, am living in the DC area, and am looking to find new exciting professional opportunities to continue serving both the Jewish community and Israel.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Noa: The Polish girl within me is rooting for Gefilte fish, but the Israeli within me is yelling louder and stronger: Shakshuka!

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Noa: Without a doubt, Savta Ruti! (My 86 year old grandmother.  She totally rocks!!)

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Noa: Opinions multiply and quadruple!


What North American Schools Have the Largest Jewish Populations?

With Labor Day weekend just around the corner, millions of students in the United States are heading back to class at their respective colleges and universities.

And shortly thereafter, the Jewish students will be interrupting their study sessions, keg parties, football games by attending High Holidays services.

In that spirit, here is a list of which schools in North America have the most Jewish students and largest percentage of the student population that is Jewish.

A few takeaways:

  • University of Florida, University of Central Florida, and University of Maryland have the highest total number of Jewish students, each topping over 5,000.
  • The largest Jewish population at a school west of the Mississippi River is the University of Texas, University of Arizona, and UCLA, each topping over 3,000.
  • The Big Ten Conference is the most Jewish athletic conference represented on the top 60 list, with NorthwesternMaryland (in 2014), Rutgers (in 2014), Penn StateWisconsinMichiganIndianaOhio StateIllinois, and Michigan State, each with over 2,500 Jewish students.

(Facts courtesy of Reform Judaism Magazine and Hillel.

Full lists here:




Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at, and enjoy his late-night jokes at Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

How a Stranger Learned to Welcome the Stranger

Citizenship-Graduates2-1024x719I am a most unlikely representative of the Jewish community. To say the least. I am the child of a Christmas baby. We have five boxes of Santa Claus-esque paraphernalia, gleaned over many decades, that we haul out every year in the same way you probably haul out your great-grandma’s menorah. But of course, we stop short of having a tree… because we’re Jewish. 😉 Once in my student teaching, I was asked to lead a lesson on Hannukah; I turned to the Internet. I never had a Bat Mitzvah. I’m pretty sure I knew more about Ramadan than Yom Kippur growing up…

Yep. Most. Unlikely. Representative.

Needless to say, HIAS did not attract me because it was a Jewish organization. It attracted me because of my shared passion for immigrants, refugees and underrepresented populations who need a voice. And according to the publicity I’d seen for that year’s HIAS Government Advocacy mission, this would provide a new way to explore and express that passion. Could’ve been Catholics, or Baha’i or anyone… just happened to be Jews!

But here I am, more than five years into one of the best—albeit biggest fluke—decisions I’ve ever made: joining HIAS Young Leaders! Five years into retooling my belief of what it means to—and all the different ways one can—be a Jew. Of understanding that it’s social justice, it’s welcoming the stranger, it’s forging friendships with those of my own religion, and it’s the opportunity to stand as one with them in our common ideal that we can, indeed, repair the world. And those beliefs I always held anyway happen to align very naturally with Jewish values in ways I’d never realized. For a basically secular Jew, it’s the first time in my life I’ve discovered such an outlet. (Funny what you find when you’re not even looking for it…)

And thus I have adopted this role as a HIAS Young Leader and embraced it more intensely as time goes on. This has meant opening my mind and taking stock of me. Or, frankly, allowing myself to let go of my own prejudices and perceived alienation from the Judaism I thought I knew and didn’t really like. And my reward has been the kind of inclusion and acceptance of a living, breathing Jewish community that I knew I was supposed to feel allegiance to before, yet never could begin to until now. And for this—my HYL friends and experiences that continue to “evolve” me—I am deeply grateful.

So how exactly does a Christmas-celebrating, disconnected 30-something Jew wander back to her flock?

Largely thanks to some wonderful Latinos. One of the HIAS-inspired activities I’m most proud of is a long-standing relationship with CARECEN (Central American Resource Center), an essentially one-stop-shop for social, legal and educational services for Latinos in DC’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. Our Young Leaders have been tutoring its ESL/Citizenship class bi-weekly for the last 4 years. Our work with CARECEN is primarily conversation exchange. It is informal but serves a crucial need for students hoping to pass their exams and become more confident in English overall. For many, class is their only chance to learn and practice English. We as native speakers (other than their teachers) allow them to put names and faces to “American culture.” Students are native Spanish-speaking adults, most of whom have been in the US for years. They are hard-working and motivated and appreciate everything we do. (“Me encanta when you come!” one woman declared).

For our part, tutors see in the trenches what it is to have to work for citizenship later in life, and appreciate the mere twist of fate that absolves us of this daunting task ourselves. Those students may appreciate us, but I have the utmost respect for them.

What does this have to do with promoting Judaism in particular? By serving immigrants through a HIAS-inspired endeavor, I directly represent the Jewish community. We make it very clear to the CARECEN population that we are a Jewish community who wants to build a bridge with them. We have hosted cultural exchange parties where kugel and falafel take their rightful places next to pupusas and tamales. The bond is not lost on anyone…

In general, I have the sense I’m personally carrying out a core HIAS (and Jewish) mandate to welcome the stranger. Except that somewhere along the way, these are no longer strangers. They become our friends, our extended community… people we care about and check up on in the weeks we’re not there. Whose accomplishments we celebrate first-hand.

The fact that we make the effort also draws other Jewish organizations to partner with us. A local Jewish fraternity has sent brothers to complete their community service requirement by joining us at CARECEN. In addition, a Jewish philanthropic organization funds us to subsidize the often prohibitive cost of citizenship tests for select students. We are supporting today’s new generation of immigrants as someone supported our grandparents or great-grandparents before us, completing a cycle and paying it forward. And we are the catalyst for connecting Jews to each other. And building bridges and educating non-Jews who tutor with us about Jewish core values. It is completely win-win!

So indeed… for this unlikely representative of the Jews, I have found myself in the place I am most likely to be. Yes, I’m keeping my Santa collection, but at least I’ve started to balance the equation of who I am.

Masa Featured Internship: Assistant Chef, Adom Restaurant

As an intern at Adom, you will be responsible for assisting the chef in all relevant work at the restaurant, such as cooking and baking. If you are interested in pursuing a career in culinary arts, this is a great opportunity to learn the ins and outs of running a restaurant! Adom is part of a growing empire of Jerusalem bistros. The restaurant specializes in wines and international cuisine, mixing local ingredients and flavors with a heavy continental influence, particularly French and Italian.

Go Where No Jew Has Ever Gone Before: Up for Grabs…. Jewish Firsts that Have Yet To Happen

10341509_BG1Jews looking to pad their LinkedIn profiles with accomplishments still have a wide field of opportunity to become the first Jew to do something.Here’s a list of ten things you can still be the “first Jew” to do:

  • First Jew to walk on the moon.  (1)
  • First Jew to be President of the University of Notre Dame. (2)
  • First Jew to get stripped of a Grammy.  (3)
  • First Jew to win a gold medal in the equestrian events at the Summer Olympics. (4)
  • First Jew to play bass for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  (5)
  • First Jew to lose five Super Bowls as head coach.  (6)
  • First Jew to play a villain opposite Mel Gibson in a Lethal Weapon movie.  (7)
  • First Jew to defeat Floyd Mayweather in the boxing ring.  (8)
  • First Jew to sleep with Pauly Shore.  (9)
  • First Jew to eat 80 matzo balls in 8 minutes.  (10)


(1)  Although a Jew has yet to walk on the Moon, the first Jewish American in Space was Judith Resnick in 1984.
(2)  Didn’t even bother to fact check this one.  Just assuming.
(3)  Still Rob and Fab from Mili Vanilli are the sole proprietors of this infamous title.
(4)  Although Jews have won gold medals in most Olympic events, no member of the tribe has won gold while on horseback.  Swimmer Dara Torres has the most Olympic medals for a Jew:  12.
(5)  The Red Hot Chili Peppers have had two Jewish guitarists:  The late Hillel Slovak and current Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer.
(6)  Coach Marv Levy is the only Jewish head coach to lose four Super Bowls—consecutively—with the Buffalo Bills (1991-1994).
(7)  Guaranteed to keep Mel Gibson out of show business forever.
(8)  Pretty Boy Mayweather is undefeated.
(9)  We are pretty sure he is still a virgin.
(10)  The current record is held by non-Jew Joey Chestnut:  78.

Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at, and enjoy his late-night jokes at Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

Palestinians Must Agree on Nine Concepts Prior to Creation of Independent State

eightreportThe following is an opinion piece, and it should not be construed to reflect the ideas or position of GTJ as an organization.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel are engaging once again in peace negotiations. Disconcertingly, the Obama Administration pressured Israel to agree to the release of more 104 hardened terrorists as a presage to the commencement of these talks. These prisoners, prevented from harming more innocent people for more than 20 years, will now threaten lives once more. In the hope of peace, Israel agreed to this release. Now, it’s the PA’s turn to make some quite reasonable concessions. Without these 9 simple agreements, an independent Palestinian should not be created.

1. Cease providing moral and financial support to terrorists

The PA continues to celebrate and honor those who engage in terrorist acts. Furthermore, the PA provides payments to imprisoned terrorists in Israeli and PA prisons for engaging in terrorist activity. These policies condone and glamorize violence against Israelis and also financially incentivizes such acts.

2. Abandon on-going efforts to brainwash schoolchildren

Schools operated and controlled by the PA continue to poison the minds of young children with a hatred towards the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. In addition, the media promotes this racism by broadcasting children and personalities who communicate these views. These children are fed a steady diet of hatred and bias overtly sponsored by the government.

3. Recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state

The Palestinian Liberation Organization, of which the PA possesses its governing authority, still refuses to recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish state. In fact, the official charter seeks to eradicate the Jewish state not just from the West Bank but from the entire region:

Article 2: Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.

Prime Minister Abbas recently said, “Don’t order us to recognize a Jewish state. We won’t accept it.” If the PA genuinely desires peace, Abbas must change both his rhetoric and his actions.

4. Recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel

For centuries, the city of Jerusalem served as the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Israel. The focal point of the Jewish religion, the Temple, stood on the Temple Mount within the confines of the city. The importance of this city to the national identity of the Jewish people is paramount. Since obtaining control of the Old City following the Six Day War of 1967, Israel has respected and protected the rights of adherents to all religions within the city. Prior to this time, such religious liberty did not exist. The PA must recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.

5. Accept that no blanket right of return exists

Following the 1947 UN partition resolution, many Arab residents of the soon to be formed Jewish state left the region. Following Israel’s declaration of independence, the exodus increased. This exodus was encouraged by Arab leaders although Israeli leadership repeatedly expressed a willingness to live in peace with Arab citizens. On the other hand, many Jewish people in Arab states were forced to flee regions in which their families lived for hundreds of years. More than 65 years later, neighboring Arab states still refuse to settle the refugees – and their descendants—of this war. Instead, they continue to demand Israel grant these refugees a right to become citizens and residents of Israel. A newly created Palestinian state must accept that this blanket “right of return” does not exist.

6. Accept the legitimacy of the Israeli “settlements”

The region of Judea and Samaria (historic homeland of the Jewish People) is more often referred to as the West Bank. Both Arabs and Jewish people have ancestral ties to this land. In fact, the tombs of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah) are located in the ancient Jewish city of Hebron—within the West Bank. The tomb of Jacob’s son Joseph is also located within the West Bank. The site of the Jewish tabernacle in Shiloh lies in the region as well. The ancient Jewish tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh settled this region thousands of years ago.

In modern times, the number of Jewish residents in the region of Judea and Samaria totals more than 350,000. Demanding that these settlers leave or cease expansion is thoroughly irrational. These are not colonialists or imperialists, as some suggest. Quite simple, these “settlers” are building homes and livelihoods in a region intrinsically connected to the Jewish people for thousands of years. Just as Israel does not seek to expunge Palestinians from this region, so the PA must understand that Jewish people also have a right to build a future in this region.

7. Agree to borders which do not include the entire “pre-1967” lines

The mantra from the PA and even from the Obama Administration often insists that the borders of an independent Palestinian state must adhere close to the “pre-1967” lines. “Land swaps” are suggested as a necessity for any deviations from this border. These demands are untenable.

Let’s recall exactly why the “lines” changed in 1967. Following the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, Arab nations attempted to annihilate Israel. Although Israel had agreed to the 1947 UN Partition proposal of the region, Israel’s Arab neighbors refused to accept the existence of a Jewish state in their midst. After winning this war of survival, the borders of the state of Israel differed somewhat from the original partition plan. In 1967, Israel fought what is known as the Six Day War—yet another war for survival. Following this war, Israel gained possession of the Old City of Jerusalem, its ancient capital. Israel also captured Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula.

Over the last few decades, Israel has relinquished sovereignty over the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. Israel has also expressed a willingness to forfeit a vast majority of the West Bank. A belief that Israel has no right to any portion of these territories captured as a result of the Six Day War is not based on fact. Israel may choose to relinquish a portion of the West Bank for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. However, to assume the “pre-1967 lines” as the standard for a fair outcome is preposterous, even if “land swaps” are factored in to the equation. Israel has a legal and historical right to this region. Israel may choose to concede sovereignty over portions of this area—but the PA has no rational basis under which to demand adherence to the “pre-1967 lines”.

8. Agree to a permanent Israeli military presence on the Jordan/ West Bank border

In order to protect Israel from an influx of arms from Jordan, the PA must allow a permanent Israeli military presence on the border between Jordan and the West Bank. Otherwise, illicit weapons imported into the region could threaten the stability of the PA government and also the lives of Israeli citizens. Keep in mind that Tel Aviv and the Ben Gurion International Airport is just 7.2 miles from Palestinian areas of the West Bank. This is within striking distance of rocket attacks.

9. Agree to being a non-militarized State

The PA must agree to be non-militarized. At its widest point, Israel is just 85 miles across. An agreement with Egypt ensures the Sinai Peninsula remains non-militarized to the south of Israel. The Golan Heights in the north provides a buffer against any invading force from Syria or Lebanon. Presently, the West Bank provides a zone of safety against any invading force from the East. Absent a non-militarization agreement, Israel’s populous regions would be threatened by the possibility of a massive attack carried to completion within hours. Israel’s neighbors attempted such a result in 1948, 1967, and 1973. Because of this threat, the PA must agree to not militarize its territory.

An independent Palestinian state is not a perquisite to peace; other avenues exist. And the world should be aware that Israel is neither morally nor legally obligated to agree to the creation of such a state. A peace negotiation requires BOTH parties working together. It’s time for the PA to make a good faith effort. Agreeing to these nine principles would be a start.

Jewish Girl of the Week – Karen

Thailand 1Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Karen: I’m originally from the DMV area (Rockville, MD), but what made me stay here was a summer internship after my junior year at UMD that turned into a job after graduation.  Also I absolutely love this area, and this city.  There is so much growth and development happening right now and it’s just exciting to witness that transformation.

Rachel: You’re involved in Friends of the IDF.  Can you tell us more about that?
Karen: Yes!  I am involved in the DC Young Leadership chapter of FIDF (Friends of the Israel Defense Forces).  FIDF is an amazing organization that raises money to support the educational and recreational needs of soldiers serving in the IDF. As a matter of fact, our Summer Happy Houris coming up on Wednesday August 21 at Redline (Chinatown) and everyone is welcome! There will be a $5 cover & proceeds go towards providing 10 IDF Soldiers with a week of relaxation and fun through the SPIRIT Program. RSVP here:

bali 1Rachel: You just returned from Thailand.  What were you doing there?
Karen: I have been wanting to travel to that part of the world for years, but actually this trip was spur of the moment for me…my sister was going to Singapore on a work trip so I decided to join her and together we traveled to Thailand and Bali.  Both places are so beautiful and the people are the most hospitable people you’ve ever met.  I definitely want to go back to Southeast Asia at some point since a couple of weeks was not enough time to see everything..not even close!

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Karen: Growing up it was Lag BaOmer because our Kibbutz (Ein Carmel) had a big party around a bonfire every year, and my Dad would make me a bow and arrow out of some tree branches.  I’m told I had wicked aim for a 5 year old.  Now, it’s the high holidays of Rosh Hashana and Passover because that’s when I get to see my extended family all together.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Karen: Larry David…no matter how annoying or ridiculous his antics are on Curb, I can’t help but laugh.  Coolest Jew and Senior Citizen, hands down.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather..
Karen: We work hard and play harder!

Young Jews from the former Soviet Union organize in Washington, DC

ussr_flagAssimilation and disconnection from the Jewish community are, unfortunately, higher in Jews from the Former Soviet Union who have immigrated to the United States than in many other American Jewish communities.  Disconnection from traditional practices due to decades of oppression, differences with the greater American Jewish community about Jewish expression, and a lack of formal structure to address the needs of the community have all played a role in this phenomenon.  As a result, many Jews from the Soviet Union, particularly the younger generation and the children of FSU immigrants, are often alienated from their Jewish identity.  To combat this issue, a new group called Druzya, the Russian word for “friends”, has recently formed in Washington, DC through the use of social media.  Formed by young Jewish professionals, the group aims to reconnect young Jews to their history, their culture, and each other.

Events that have been organized by the group have included Shabbat dinners, Passover seders, and Shavuot parties, as well as many social events.  Members of the group have also attended Limmud FSU, and plan to partner with this organization for future events.

For many members, a recent Shabbat dinner was the first time they heard the Kiddush blessing over wine.  For others, it was a typical Friday night, and they led the blessings in perfect Hebrew.  Some barely spoke Russian, trying out a few phrases they had picked up from their parents while growing up in American suburbia.  Others had, just a few weeks prior, disembarked from a plane out of Moscow.  Each had much to learn from the others, but a common history and culture united them. A community was born.

At a recent house party, Pugachova, the husky Russian songstress, echoed in the background as twenty and thirty-somethings chomped on home-made Plov and discussed everything from current events in Israel, to the uncanny ability of Russian Jews to imbibe gracefully on a weeknight, to the woes of finding a Jewish significant other in the city.  Later, after the obligatory photographs by the Israeli flag on the wall, someone pulled out a guitar and played songs in Russian that some had not heard since childhood, but that were remembered well enough (thanks to the imbibing) for a round of song and dance.  This was followed by another round, but with Birthright songs.

Most recently, the group has partnered with the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ), also located in Washington, DC, to host the former American Ambassador to Ukraine, Steven Pifer, for an evening of conversation.  Topics of discussion included the human rights situation in Russia and Ukraine, particularly how it relates to the Jewish minority still living there, diplomatic strategies, and the potential political future of the region.

In the future, the organization hopes to continue to foster relationships with Jewish organizations, connect the young Russian-speaking Jewish diaspora in the United States and abroad, and foster the strengthening of a Jewish identity among its members.

While the organization is relatively new, there is great excitement and many close friendships have been born of the initiative.  This type of grassroots community building may, in fact, be the key to re-engaging young diaspora Jews, Russian-speaking or otherwise, as assimilation continues to increase among the younger generation.