I Drank the Birthright Kool-Aid, and It Tasted Like Manischewitz

very grape-y

One month ago today I bit the bullet and actually went on the dreaded Birthright trip. I know- I’m about as surprised as you are, given what you could call my original dead-set hesitation to participating in a radically propagandistic venture. It turns out that a mix of guilt tripping from my non-Jewish friends, being able to go with my best friend, and the prospect of riding a camel was enough to get me to call my own bluff.

So I went.

Lina and I spent approximately 48 hours in transit between San Francisco and Tel Aviv, where we were suddenly living on a bus with 38 extremely East Coast Jews (and later eight Israeli soldiers). Talk about a trip.

The next ten days followed my gradual transition from (basically) refusing to participate, to almost entirely giving in and participating (aside from my iron clad distain for dancing in circles). There was an assortment of hiking, shopping, eating, busing, and listening to great tales of history from our tour guide, Ariel. Oh, and the not unexpected, light-hearted doses of propaganda. It does make sense, to be fair. You, an 18-26 year old with a Jewish relative somewhere in the family tree, get to go to Israel and do all sorts of crazy shit for ten days, for free. All they ask in return is that you come back to Israel, marry a fellow Jew, and have Jewish babies so our people don’t die out.

Seems totally legit to me.

In all seriousness, I did have a great time on Birthright. In addition to witnessing an onstage proposal (one of the most joyful, high energy moments I’ve ever experienced), I met some awesome people, I finally got to see a part of the world I’ve spent several years studying, and most importantly I got to do something crazy with my best friend. I’m hesitant to get too into the religious aspect of things, as I’ve always connected more with the cultural side of Judaism, and I think that still holds true. To be honest I like anything that gets everyone together for dinner. Also hesitant to get into the political side of things, except to say that everything looks different on the ground.

If you have the opportunity to go on Birthright I’d say go for it. Whether or not you need to have Jewish babies to repay the debt, well, that part is up to you.

joyful noises

Post-proposal celebrating

The Shuttle Buses Are Not The Problem.


 Most of what’s being reported about the “class warfare” occurring in San Francisco is happening from afar. I’d like to zoom in for a second and point a few things out. First of all, while calling the recent Google shuttle protests “class warfare” sounds exciting and sort of SF does Les Mis-ish, I think this is taking it WAY too far. Let us not forget that the type of people who are drawn to the Bay Area are passionate individuals who love to take up a cause. For the most part the recent protests have seemed reasonable to me if not downright necessary. Gay marriage? Absolutely. Public nudity rights? Not for me, but hey, whatever floats your boat. But protesting companies like Yahoo and Google for running shuttle buses from SF to the peninsula is not the same as protesting for our rights. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Everyone has a right to live in the city. Riding a shuttle, in fact, keeps more cars off the roads.  For everyone who is enraged at the ruling that companies using Muni stops will pay $1 per stop, you need to understand the fact that the city isn’t allowed to make a profit on this, and that it is just a pilot program. It’s a step in the right direction.

What pisses me off the most is that I might be clumped in with the entitled tech startup stereotype because I work at a tech startup, but I’m still living paycheck to paycheck, and my only form of transportation is my bicycle. Housing rates are ridiculously high, but that’s because SF is an awesome city, a lot of people want to live here, and the amount of housing hasn’t increased at anything like the rate that people have been moving here. The shuttles are nothing more than a symptom of the tech boom.

So let’s not waste any more time talking about them, and instead focus our energy on finding ways to increase housing or make housing more affordable.

How I Ended Up On The Beach


There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind of people who enjoy making cold calls, and the kind of people who don’t.

Having worked as a student caller for my college’s annual fund, I can tell you it takes a very special kind of crazy to enjoy cold calling. While some people find steady defamation and rejection to be motivating, I simply do not. My greatest frustration lay in the fact that if I could get someone on the phone, nine times out of ten I could get them to donate. Unfortunately, the chances of getting anyone to (happily) answer their phone between 5PM and 7PM, prime dinner/relaxation/ family time, were slim to none. Alumni were annoyed, even furious, at being disturbed and I in turn was frustrated beyond belief. Our sales manager could not for the life of her understand why we weren’t able to pump cash out of alumni the way students had in the pre-recession years. It was almost as if people suddenly prefered to donate online, on their own time. Shocking.

After a year I threw in the towel. Making a decent commission every once in a while simply wasn’t worth the hours of frustration, which I felt sedimented into my psyche long after work was over. I knew deep down there had to be a better way.

Fast forward three years.

I’m three weeks into a job with an awesome (super early stage) startup called Sales Beach. We’re automating outbounds sales, which means no more horrible cold calling. The opportunity to build a business from the ground up is fantastic, and more fun than I ever could have anticipated. My team is incredible, and I feel lucky to be working in a four person company that allows me the freedom to figure out which skills I want to strengthen, and which I want to gain. Who knows what the future will hold, but for now I’m enjoying working from the beach.


Ps. check out my writing for the Sales Beach blog here.

Why I’m Not Ready To Drink The Birthright Kool-Aid

Whose Birthright is it anyway?

Today I got a text message from Birthright letting me know that registration for winter trips is now available. Registration and assignment for these trips is extremely competitive due to a limited number of spots, yet I took no action.

For those of you who don’t know, Birthright is a program that sends Jews under the age of 25 (who have never been) to Israel for free. Friends of mine who have gone on the trip swear by it, and regale me with stories of adventures and partying. “It was so fun!” they say, “and it’s free!” My non-Jewish friends also harp on this point when birthright comes up. “It’s a free trip to another country!” I’m unsettled by the propagandic spin of the Birthright trip, during which the organization hopes participants will (in the course of ten days) find “nice Jewish partners to have nice Jewish babies with.” When I express my feelings about this friends retort with, “just go on the trip and extend your stay so you can see Israel on your terms.”

Sure a free trip to a foreign country is a sweet opportunity, but to be completely honest, I’m just not ready to drink the Kool-Aid.

As a child I attended Hebrew school twice a week, learning the merits of Reform Judaism and bagels. From ages 5-16 I accepted the explanation that Israel was the rightful home of the Jews, a place we were assigned in a religious housing lottery by (none other than) God, and a mystical faraway land accurately depicted in various Rugrats Jewish holiday specials. My basic viewpoint as a child was thus: Jews and Israel = good, people who oppressed them = bad.

Then I went to college.

I thoroughly studied the history and politics of both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the ground up. Ironically enough, this resulted in my feeling entirely unqualified to form an opinion on the matter. Who am I to decide which group is in the right, and what does being right even mean at this point? From what I understand a vicious cycle of hate has been spiraling out of control (for a very, very long time). The worst part is that the situation seems to be largely perpetuated by government politics (and interests), leaving peaceful Israelis and Palestinians caught (literally) in the crossfire.

If you think you are ‘right’ about one side of this conflict or the other you will never be part of the solution.

Every day Palestinians are forced to wait hours in checkpoints while Israelis (and Birthright participants- ahem Americans) can move freely throughout the country, crossing whatever borders they please. I can’t help feeling like I’m being stared in the face by the sad and sick irony of the Israeli government treating the Palestinians with actions that echo the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust.

Talk about bad karma. (Not to mention breaking the 6th commandment).

I may decide that I want to go to Israel someday, but when I do it will most certainly be on my own terms.

For those of you eagerly applying to the next round of Birthright my hope is not to discourage you from doing so. My aim is simply to encourage you to remove your blinders, to keep an open mind to the interpretation of history, and to stick to something more natural than Kool-Aid,

like water.

A Call To Arms: Unpaid Internshit

via canadiananimationresources.ca

via canadiananimationresources.ca

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, unpaid internships are bullshit. When I say bullshit I mean bullshit for everyone who is currently living life physically and financially independently from their parents (ie. as “adults“). For those individuals who can afford to live at home and continue suckling from the parental teat, unpaid internships are a cup of tea. I hope companies are aware, though, that they are self-selecting for the most pretentious and entitled among the recently (or not so recently) graduated talent pool.

I mean really, who are these companies kidding?

My recent experiences job hunting in the Bay Area have fostered enough frustrations to write about. I spent time and effort applying to two internship opportunities that sounded incredible. Neither of them specified that the internship was unpaid. I made it halfway through a phone interview for one before the interviewer quickly slipped in that the position was unpaid. I was more than a bit surprised. What was even more surprising was that the interviewer suggested we could “use a loophole” by having me enrolled in a class at a community college which I would “never have to attend” in order to obtain a $1000/month stipend. Which would be totally fine, if I could live off of sunshine and never pay taxes. 

Unfortunately, this is reality.

The other internship I’d applied for also turned out to be unpaid (having learned from experience, I inquired about payment via email). Though unpaid the position would offer “oodles of good things including lunches, tickets, breakfasts, and a well-stocked fridge.”

Too bad my roommates wouldn’t be stoked about living in an apartment made of cardboard.

So what’s my moral? I promise this isn’t solely a rant about job hunting. I honestly believe that by offering unpaid internships companies are cheating themselves out of worthy talent. Much more troublingly, they’re teaching us Millenials to undervalue ourselves, and our skills.

Work experience should not come at the cost of self worth.

At the end of the day I might be able to squeak by working an unpaid internship and living off of friends couches. But I’m going to hold out until I find the right company that will value my work with proper compensation, and you should too.

Networking For Twenty Somethings

Background Image CC: Cookies Hq

Networking. Ugh. What an awful word. At this point it seems entirely reminiscent to me of a room full of greedy vultures. However, it must be understood that networking is both important and valuable, and can be fun when carried out with the right technique and motivation.

After having truly lived in SF for one month now, I’ve experienced many sides of the social phenomenon referred to as networking. I’ve attended conferences where individuals whip out business cards before explaining their professions, parties where networking takes place in the form of rounds of shots, and casual, low key, delightful coffee dates. I’m personally a fan of small scale, personal networking, as I find it much less intimidating. Regardless of my preferences for type of networking, here are some tips I’ve garnered and gathered from my experiences networking over the last month (and two years).

1. Make a solid first impression. The most crucial (and difficult) part of networking (or interviewing) is making a solid first impression. A good first impression can make you stand out from 100 other people, or make you stick in the mind of a founder or investor as someone they’d like to employ or invest in. When you’re approaching people you’ve never met keep in mind that they have no idea how shy or nervous you are. Put on a happy face, present a firm handshake, and strike up conversation. You really have nothing to lose! Lead with topics you’re passionate and knowledgable about, and make eye contact.  Bottom line: Demonstrate your strengths as genuinely as possible, and if you aren’t charismatic, fake it! 

2. Demonstrate your ability to listen. Although this goes along with making a solid first impression, it is so important I wanted to stress it separately. Memorable conversations occur when people feel a connection to the person they are talking to. This happens when they feel that their thoughts and words are being valued and respected. Communication is crucial in the workplace, so demonstrating that you are able to communicate will set you apart. Bottom line: Listen to what other people are saying, don’t just wait for your turn to speak. 

3. Seek out the wisdom of successful individuals. Having recently graduated college I’ve been hearing two expressions quite often. The first is, “Find a job that you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” The second is, “Ask for a job, and you’ll receive advice. Ask for advice and you’ll receive a job.” My recent project has been seeking out successful professionals working in fields I’m interested in, and asking them how they got to where they are today. More to the point I’ve been asking, “Where were you when you were 22?” I would recommend this to anyone in the process of job hunting, or even looking for a career change. The smartest thing to do is seek out the wisdom of those who have already gone through it. The even smarter thing to do is to try and learn from their mistakes. Bottom line: The most valuable lessons come from experience, and most people are happy to share what they’ve learned. 

4. Utilize social media, to a degree. I find Linkedin requests from individuals I’ve never met to be one of the great tech etiquette faux paus of our day. Sending a connection request to someone you met at a networking event is great. Be sure to include a personalized message, and even better if you can reference something you spoke about at the event. When heading to a meeting with a specific person, following that individual’s Twitter or checking out their blog is a great way to find out what topics they find most important, and what they are most knowledgable about. There is a clear line, however, between finding out someone’s career history versus where they took their last vacation. Also, wait until the end of the conference or coffee date to add someone on Linkedin. The only loophole (in my opinion) for adding someone you’ve never met in person is if there has been extensive email correspondence or some other channel of online communication. Bottom line: Never do something online that you wouldn’t do offline. 

5. Be appreciative. Regardless of whether you’ve managed to snag five minutes of an investor’s time at a conference, or an hour of a professional’s time for a coffee meeting, it is important to understand one thing: time equals money. Those five minutes or hour of time taken to talk with you is an investment in its own right. Recognizing this fact and genuinely thanking the person who gave you their time is both courteous and respectful. Taking care to adequately thank someone also encourages the continuation of the relationship, and ends the conversation on the right note. Bottom line: Gratitude and respect go hand in hand. 

6. Seek out networking opportunities. Finding the right networks to engage with can be difficult. Conferences, events, and meetups are all great ways to network, and they can be a lot of fun. A great way to start is to pick a topic or cause that you are interested in, and find a local meetup group to meet other interested individuals. Finding these groups and events is as easy as using the internet, literallyBottom line: Only you can position yourself to gain from valuable networking situations.

That’s all for now, folks, so go forth and network!

Ps. Thanks to my sister Emmalie for the idea of this blog post.

Mind Over Matter


I was recently sitting with my friend Lizzie before she went onstage to perform at a student showcase concert. Eyeing the performers onstage I turned to Lizzie and said, “So do you just not have the part of your brain that recognizes this situation as terrifying?” (mentally referring to the concept of being able to switch off one’s inner critic to do something out of the ordinary in public). “No way,” she responded, “Every time I’m about to go up on stage or perform in front of people I get terrified, but I just tell myself, ‘You have no choice. These people came here for something, and you are going to give it to them.’ And then I just do it. I channel my nervous energy into the belief that I can do anything, and the confidence that I will.”

This idea, so simple and eloquent, really hit home with me. I forget sometimes, as I think many people do, that overcoming fears, whether rational or not, is a matter we as individuals are entirely in control of. So the next time you feel afraid, stop for a moment and mentally channel that feeling into the confidence to overcome your fear. Remember that you’re the one in charge.

In the meantime, check out Lizzie and her amazing band, RiverRan, here.