Shalem College
January 19, 2020

You Can Do It, Too: Life After Shalem, From Those Who Know It Best

You Can Do It, Too: Life After Shalem, From Those Who Know It Best
Ori Isaac '17, journalist and anchor for the highest-rated news program in Israel, encouraged alumni just starting out the in the world to "give yourselves deadlines" when determining whether a position is the right fit.

“It usually happens around the second semester of their third year,” explains Ron Toledano, Shalem’s coordinator of alumni affairs, one night this past November. “No matter how absorbed the students are in that Virginia Woolf novel, or how engaged in their community-service project—the Big Question starts to creep in.”

The “Big Question” to which Toledano refers is the age-old, “What next?” asked of graduating college seniors the world over. For students of the humanities, the question has by design no clear-cut answer. And for students at Shalem, who seek to influence the future of their country and people, it can feel especially loaded. Fortunately, the challenge of turning the open-endedness into an opportunity for professional success and meaningful contribution is one that Shalem grads, fresh off the battlefield, are more than happy to help current Shalem students meet. Especially when they can do so in the context of a reunion at their alma mater.

“The Day After” brought graduates and current students together for a dynamic panel discussion featuring grads from across the professional spectrum. The event was organized by Toledano and Odelia Yatzkan, director of Shalem’s Impact Office, an initiative sfunded by The Paul E. Singer Foundation, Each of the panel’s participants had insight and advice to share with the Shalem community—a “lifelong community,” Yatzkan is quick to add. “Shalem graduates see themselves as part of a network. Individual members may be pursuing their own path, but at the same time, they see themselves as working on larger, shared goals. That’s why,” she concludes, “when we asked them to share their experiences with the next cohort, they were more than happy to do so.”

And experiences were far from lacking: With three full classes of graduates now making their way in the world, the range of professions covered by the panel’s speakers alone was impressively wide. Shalem grads work in politics, in hi-tech, in government, in leading nonprofits, and as entrepreneurs—and those were just the first few speakers.

Tal Eitan ‘17, for example, a graduate of Shalem’s inaugural class, explained how the very same model of critical thinking she learned in her studies helped her find a fulfilling professional path as a director at Acharei, one of Israel’s elite teen leadership programs. “At Shalem, we were taught to look beyond surface issues to the ideas at their core. I felt that this approach was missing from the many programs that try to help young people find their place in Israeli society, especially before they go on to devote three years to army service. So I decided to find a way to bring that approach to this audience.”

Shai Orr ’18, who works in a venture-capital firm for Israeli start-ups, pushed students to find opportunities for civic engagement from within any profession.

She added that, much like her professors used to say, it’s not so much the answer as the right question. “Instead of just trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I asked, what are the big problems in Israeli society, and how can my particular skills and talents address them?”

Omri Segev, Eitan’s fellow classmate and husband, also emphasized the importance of self-realization, albeit in an entrepreneurial way. “If you don’t see the job you want out there, create the position yourself,” he said. After first getting his feet wet as the head of a Jerusalem political party, Segev went on post-graduation to found Like a Local, a hospitality company that offers both short-term accommodations and authentic neighborhood-based experiences to help fuel the local tourism industry.

Echoing a common theme among panelists, Mordy Miller ’18 urged students not to settle. “Look in every direction when it comes to what you want to do,” he said. As a Master’s student in Jewish thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Miller worked with professors across disciplines to create a course of study that suited his interests and aspirations—and received the prestigious Mandel Scholarship in the process. “There is no one path to get to where you want to be, so go ahead and come at it from different angles. Most of all, don’t tire until you find what works for you,” he said, advice that applies equally well to those students planning to pursue a career in academia or in what he jokingly called “the real world.”

Rounding out the panel was Ori Issac, journalist and anchor for the Channel 12 news, the highest-rated news program in Israel. Students laughed when he recounted that the lesson of deadlines—which he had learned the hard way with all those essays he wrote at Shalem—turned out to be a huge help in finding his professional fit. “If the situation isn’t working out for you, give yourself a deadline. If it’s still not working by then, get up and go. You’ve got too much to contribute to your community and to the world,” he insisted, “to waste time somewhere that isn’t right.”

“We’re always telling our students that their broad education will serve as a strong foundation for whatever they want to be, but our alumni prove it,” says Toledano at the end of the evening, when the panel had broken up for socializing and catching up—or, as he only half-jokingly put it, “networking.” Indeed, with so many professions, so much energy and drive, and such a deep commitment to helping fellow community members together in one room, there was arguably no better place that night for Shalem students to start thinking about that Big Question—and to be inspired by the range of possible big answers.