Some Jewish tech workers won’t ever return to the office: They’ve moved to Israel

The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA — Koby Geduld clocks into work at 7 pm most nights. He is a project coordinator for Tile, the San Mateo–based maker of Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices. He boots up his laptop from his home, responding to messages and having meetings until 3 am

No, Geduld isn’t nocturnal (at least not naturally).

He is working overnight hours because he no longer lives in the Bay Area. Instead, he’s 10 hours ahead, in Jerusalem — where he and his wife moved last summer. And the 24-year-old is not alone.

Guy Rosen, an Israeli and a vice president at Meta, the parent company of Facebook, worked at the social media network’s Menlo Park offices prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he is planning to relocate to Israel, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Working from Israel while retaining a Bay Area tech job is the result of the willingness of many Silicon Valley companies to allow their employees to work remotely — indefinitely.

“I’ve never been in the offices, which is weird,” said Geduld, who began working for Tile’s parent company, Life360, during the pandemic in December 2020.

The pandemic had already thrown a couple of major wrenches into his life. When it first hit, he was studying communications at Reichman University in Herzliya, and his classes went remote. Then, his planned wedding from him to his college sweetheart, Ariel, was postponed, and what had been anticipated as a short, pre-wedding stay in Oakland turned into a year and a half there.

The couple used the time to look for post-college jobs, with Geduld doing Bay Area deliveries for Instacart and DoorDash before he landed a part-time job at Life360, which turned into a full-time position with Tile in July 2021.

A month later, the Cleveland native and Ariel (now his wife) relocated to Jerusalem, where Geduld’s siblings have lived for years, and where the newlyweds had always hoped to live.

Ariel and Koby Geduld and their puppy Hazel in Jerusalem. (Courtesy of J. The Jewish News of Northern California/via JTA)

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity that I have,” Geduld said of their move. “I don’t take it for granted at all. I’m beyond grateful.”

The pandemic has allowed many businesses — Silicon Valley and Bay Area tech companies, in particular — to rethink the way work can get done.

“I think they’re super understanding and willing to give you a lot… especially if they see you’re contributing with a time difference,” Geduld said. “They realize that you’re here not just for a paycheck. You’re here for something bigger.”

That belief is what led him to ask for something he was at first hesitant to bring up: time off for Shabbat. I have got an immediate yes.

As for how he manages the graveyard shift, “It’s honestly not that bad,” he said. “I wake up late and take some midday naps.”

For Dan Cohen, who relocated from Oakland to Israel five years ago, the pandemic “really changed the equation” of working remotely from Israel.

Cohen, 53, lives in Raanana and runs Full Court Press, a public relations firm headquartered in Oakland that specializes in supporting nonprofits, federations, and social enterprises, many of which are Jewish. Though his team of seven employees is entirely Bay Area–based, the CEO and founder (Cohen) has led the company from Israel since 2017.

When he first relocated, Cohen recalled, picking up a phone and calling someone was how most companies operated. Now he communicates almost entirely over Zoom, which he feels builds stronger connections with people than a standard phone call can achieve. Five years ago, he worried that missing out on handshakes with clients and not having a seat at a literal conference room table might weaken the social capital he was fostering. Now, he said, it feels normal, both for him and the companies he supports.

Dan Cohen and his family at a bat mitzvah in Tel Aviv. (Courtesy of J. The Jewish News of Northern California/via JTA)

“What felt like a leap off a cliff five years ago now just feels like a walk in the park,” he stated.

Cohen and Geduld both said they are atypical of most of Israel’s workforce; for example, Cohen’s Israeli friends and neighbors are openly jealous of his work schedule that includes Sundays off.

Like Geduld, Cohen works overnight hours so he can stay available for his Bay Area team and clients. He works Monday through Thursday each week — reaping the benefits of an Israeli workweek that ends on Thursday and the traditional US workweek that starts on Monday.

“I get to do physical fitness, I get to volunteer, I get to spend time with people I care about. And I get to really be active and supportive in my kids’ lives,” Cohen said.

“The best thing is,” he added, “I get to live here.”

A version of this article originally appeared in The Jewish News of Northern California and is reprinted with permission.

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