Aug 26, 2019  By Megan E. Turner  Category: Blueprint Negev,

Advice for jump-starting a career in Israel after aliyah

Rachel Gang, living her dream as a therapist in Israel.

It was the need that attracted Rachel Gang to Be'er Sheva. The need and the opportunity to answer it. "I really liked the southern part of the country, and I saw that Be'er Sheva was lacking resources for mental health services," said Gang, 29, a social worker and educator who made aliyah from Baltimore in the summer of 2018. "I’ve always been social justice-oriented, so I didn’t want to go to Tel Aviv or the center -- I wanted to go where there’s a need." And that’s exactly what she did after spending summers and an academic year teaching English in Israel's north and south.

"Even in the U.S. I always worked in 'the frontier,'" Gang said, "usually in an education-related field, whether it was as a teacher or a social worker." When deciding on where to live in the south, community life was an important factor in Gang’s decision, and Be'er Sheva's revival as an attractive, hip city for young people -- thanks to projects spearheaded by Jewish National Fund's Blueprint Negev -- made it the perfect place to call home. "It’s also more affordable than the center," she said.

Jewish National Fund partner Nefesh B'Nefesh played an integral part in helping Gang on her path toward reaching her dream career goal in Israel: opening a private practice where she provides therapy and career coaching in English. "I utilized Nefesh B'Nefesh's employment advisor and she encouraged me to join their Entrepreneur Bootcamp. It’s a group designed for olim living in the south, all of whom had a business idea or a business already in existence. I had an existing business, but I hadn’t launched it … I needed that jump-start," she said.

The six-week intensive program teaches participants about legal issues, accounting, marketing and branding strategies, how to create a social media and business plan, and more. The Bootcamp culminates in a pitch night, during which participants present a 90-second pitch to a panel of industry experts and other successful olim entrepreneurs. Winners receive seed money to help fully implement the business plans they created during the program.

Opening a business is never easy, especially in a new country as a newly minted citizen like Gang. "One career obstacle was finding an affordable, cooperative work space. I was able to network and tap into an existing network of business people at the pitch night," she said. The event landed Gang her first location in a shared work space created by two other olim in Be'er Sheva.

As Gang's private practice expands and grows, she hopes to provide her therapeutic services to Hebrew speakers as well. "My goal is to eventually work in Hebrew as a social worker, so I approached Nefesh B'Nefesh and told them I was interested in developing my Hebrew in the area of mental health, and they were very supportive," she said. "It's great to have your ideas heard and to receive help, whether it's financially or logistical support to make it happen."

Gang’s advice to future olim? "It's important to know that, regardless of your age and at any point in life, you can make aliyah. It's important to not limit yourself to opportunities or possibilities based on what exists. Israel has an entrepreneurial spirit -- there's definitely room to shape Israeli society in a way that brings your ideas and goals into the narrative."

This article originally appeared in the summer 2019 issue of B'Yachad. Click here to read the rest of the issue.