Jerusalem to Boston

5 Comments 06 August 2010

Israeli salad spread at my farewell lunch

In three days, my family and I will be moving across continents from Jerusalem to Boston. We moved here three years ago temporarily. We said it “would be fun, would be great for the kids to learn another language, would be for one to two years, max.” It has been so much more.

Before moving to Israel, I had been working at nonprofit organizations for almost 20 years. Most of that time was in and around Boston. I transitioned from community organizing to program development, to becoming an executive director of a start-up nonprofit entity. I transitioned from anti-poverty work to economic development to business development. In the end, I spent a lot of time dreaming about getting an MBA and using that to help others. Israel actually provided a great solution – the International MBA Program at Bar Ilan University.

I spent my first 14 months in Israel at Bar Ilan University, full-time, working towards an MBA. I wanted the technical skills and theoretical frameworks support community work. After graduating, I opened Community Organizer 2.0, a strategic social media consulting firm. For almost two years I have had the privilege of working with the incredible nonprofit and web professional sectors, both within Israel and outside of Israel.

Here are a few of the things that I’ve loved about working in Israel:

We geeks and social media types support each other. In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, there are wonderful social and networking events to support the nonprofit tech and general technology sector. JGeeks (Jerusalem Geeks) is a Facebook Group, where a bunch of us “call” for meetings in real life in Jerusalem to discuss the latest tech issues when there is a need. One day, for example, a few of us met for two hours at a cafe to test and understand the new Facebook Like button. Part of the group description reads: “The goal of this group is to promote camaraderie among the more technically-inclined denizens of Jerusalem. Let’s get together to trade tips, host hackathons, coordinate competitions, meet masters, swap stories and promote projects.”

Additionally, I’ve really enjoyed attending the monthly Jerusaelem Web Professionals meetings. JWP is a group of Jerusalem-based professionals, working in a variety of web-related fields, that communicates online and also meets in-person once a month to share expertise on web trends, marketing and creative solutions.

Social media lovers have fun. Every month in Tel Aviv, Yael Beeri coordinates the Tel Aviv Beer Tweetup at a bar. It’s a blast, and I wish I had gone more often. In Jerusalem, J-Tweets holds tweetups about five times a year.

Networking in Israel is so much more. In Israel, it’s not six-degrees of separation but two-degrees. Everyone here knows each other or someone who knows someone or…you get the picture. The country runs on “protecsia,” which means that who you know is your credibility. Every networking event in Israel includes the “who you know” question but also includes the offer of “who I know that can help you,”

Amazing learning conferences. I attended some great events over the years, Jeff Pulver’s 140 conference, the Techonomy 2010 showcase of Israeli startups, SphinnCon Israel, and the uniquely Israeli Kishor social media conference for professional Jewish women, and the annual Amutot conference for all Israeli nonprofit organizations. We learned from each other and of course helped each other to connect.

The worldview. Israel is a small country of just over seven million people. It may be in the Middle East, but the worldview is global. Most nonprofit organizations have “Friends of” organizations in different parts of the world that support the organization with fundraising, membership development and programming. Most nonprofits here raise the majority of their funds from North America and Europe. Necessarily, the online audience is worldwide. It is refreshing and challenging to work with nonprofit organizations that look beyond their borders to consider the worldwide stakeholders an important part of their ongoing viability.

What is next? More of the same, but stateside! I’ll be taking a few weeks off to do all those necessary household tasks, some traveling, and spending time with family. Then, I’ll be back to blogging, working with nonprofit organizations on engagement strategies, and talking with all of you in my other online spaces.

As it will be difficult to keep up the blog during this transition, I’ve asked friends and colleagues to submit guest posts for the blog. There are some really great ones coming up from Florence Broder, Manny Hernandez, Andy Stitt, John Haydon, and NP Tech Israel, so keep on reading!

I have so many people to thank for supporting me during this time in Israel that I honestly do not know where to begin. A group of my friends here who are in the professional web groups threw a wonderful goodbye lunch for me, captured in the photo below:

My professional colleagues take me out for a farewell lunch

  • Looking forward to having you in the States (and hopefully will get to meet you soon), but bummed that you're not going to be around in the middle of the night Pacific time to tweet with.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Sue Anne – I feel the same way! I think we certainly communicate a lot on Twitter when it’s your night and my day. It would be quite ironic if we tweet less, once I’m on the East Coast, than we did when I was in Israel!


  • Jleigh4

    While your Israeli friends will miss you-your state side ones are excited about homecoming! Good luck with your transitions and safe travels


  • I had no idea you were based in Jerusalem. One of my all-time favorite cities! I lived there for a year when I was 15. I also grew up outside of Boston, another of my favorite cities. Small world. Hope your move goes smoothly and you enjoy your new digs in Boston.


  • Shual

    I’d love to be in touch with you once you get settled in Boston and after High Holidays.



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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