From Tel Aviv to CU Anschutz—Masa Israel Journey offers professional and personal opportunities
When Julia Milzer walked across the stage at Folsom Field and picked up her diploma from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2012, her future was filled with certainty and uncertainty.
Certain was her commitment to finding a career that would give her the opportunity to tell stories, a natural progression from her academic work in communications and advertising.
Certain was her desire to travel and meet new people, duplicating the joy she had experienced studying abroad in college and tapping into what she describes as her “adventurous side.”
But how could she develop a career at the same time she explored other countries? About that, she was not certain.
Today, 11 years later, Milzer is the Director of Media Relations at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, telling the stories of life-changing health care innovations and medical research discoveries.
She found her way to this position by having an international adventure—spending six months in Israel with Masa Israel Journey, where an internship with a public relations agency helped launch her successful professional career. About this Milzer is now certain—Masa has made a major difference in her life.
“With Masa, I could marry two worlds, getting work experience and travel,” Milzer says. “It was, hands down, the best decision I could have made.”
Masa opens doors in Israel
Masa is the Hebrew word for journey. Masa Israel Journey sees its mission as a way to “empower a new generation of connected, committed, and inspired young Jewish adults.”
Masa was founded in 2004 as a collaboration between the Jewish Agency, Keren HaYesod, The Jewish Federations of North America, and the Israeli government to bring young Jewish people from around the world to Israel where they could better connect with their Jewish identity.
Fellows between the ages of 16 and 35 participate in a variety of programs including Internships, Gap Years, Teen Journeys, Academic programs, MasaTech, Professional Training, Summer programs, Jewish studies, and more.
“I could tap into the storytelling and the business strategy of marketing,” she says. “It was a small company and they treated me as a member of the team, not just as an intern.”
Some of the accounts Milzer worked on in Tel Aviv are now household names in the United States including WiX (the website building company), Waze (the live traffic and road conditions app), and Microsoft Incubator in Tel Aviv. She learned how to build the reputation of start-up companies, and she could do it with a safety net provided by her colleagues.
Milzer chose the Internship Tel Aviv program and, after an interview process, was placed with Headline Media, an international public relations firm. Up until that point, her real-world experience consisted of an internship at Lionsgate Entertainment right after graduation where, she says, “It did not take long for me to realize I did not want to be in the entertainment industry.” Her understanding of public relations was, as she describes it, “mostly theoretical.”
But at Headline Media, which had a small staff of about 10 people at that time, she had the chance to learn by doing. She joined marketing staff meetings, she wrote press releases and blog posts, and she pitched reporters on stories.
“It was a very supportive team, and I received a lot of guidance on anything I wrote,” she says. “I felt like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have this experience and get to learn this much.’”
Masa was not all work and no play. Milzer lived in interesting parts of Tel Aviv with other Masa fellows she describes as “like-minded,” making new friends, going to Hebrew classes together, traveling throughout Israel, meeting young Jews from all over the world, including one of her closest friends who had come to Israel from Germany.
“You automatically build community,” Milzer says. “It was a dream experience. I loved every moment of it.”
And that it why, when the internship came to an end, Milzer was torn—should she return home to her family or stay in Israel where she now felt like she had a second family?
Israel opens doors in the U.S.
In the end, Milzer could not ignore the pull of family in the United States. She returned to her homeland, moving to San Francisco, where she discovered that her tech marketing experience in Israel “opened doors big time.” She was hired by a reputable agency to do public relations work with clients including Dell and Facebook.
Six years ago, she moved back to Denver. Freelance work led to a permanent position at CU Anschutz, where, she says, “it feels good to tell our story.”
“CU Anschutz is doing incredible work in the Rocky Mountain Region, and we are the only medical campus in this region,” she says. “If you have a rare disease or need specialized care you want to be seen at an academic medical campus. You want access to the newest and latest treatments, and that is what is happening at CU Anschutz.”
Milzer sees a direct connection between her internship in Israel and her career success in the U.S.
“Ten years ago, my experience with Masa in Israel gave me the confidence and skill set to continue to pursue a career in public and media relations,” she says. “It was so great that I have stayed with it.”
Masa also changed her relationship with Israel because it was so much more than a tourist visit. She spent time with family who live there and built lifelong friendships with Israelis she met. She traveled throughout the country, savoring both its beauty and history. And she visited Yad Vashem, where she was reminded of the sacrifices made to offer her generation opportunities like Masa Israel Journey.
“To be at Yad Vashem and remember my grandparents who survived the Holocaust was a moment that I will never forget and always cherish,” she says. “It made me even more proud to be living in Israel, building connections with the country and the people who ensure that there will always be a safe place for Jewish people around the world.”