Each morning, with her eyes still closed, Kaley Zeitouni wiggles her toes, moves her feet, and shakes her legs. Then she takes a deep breath, opens her eyes, and when she can see, she thinks, “Everything is working! We’re on for the day.” She thanks God and gets out of bed.
When Kaley was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at age of 12, her entire life changed. “On any day, anything can happen to us,” said Kaley. “Most of us don’t live with that awareness, but I do.” This knowledge has made Kaley embrace every single day and jump into each of her pursuits with a full heart. The same year that she was diagnosed with MS, Kaley became a motivational speaker, sharing her story and her positive mindset with thousands of people. At 13, Kaley and her friends started the nonprofit, Youth Against MS, which developed chapters throughout the United States and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support MS research. Now, at 29, Kaley has taken on another challenge—moving to Israel and becoming COO of the startup nonprofit, The Elevation Project. For Kaley, this not only meant leaving her home in Los Angeles, but moving to a country where she needed to find new doctors, understand a foreign medical system, and develop a rhythm that worked for her. Kaley wasn’t daunted.
“When you acknowledge that life is fleeting, then you realize that you can’t wait on your dreams,” said Kaley. “You need to make them happen.”
So Many Avenues for Healing
Spirituality has always been integral to Kaley’s daily life, and after high school, she enrolled in a seminary in Jerusalem. She was ill at the time and wanted to take a break before jumping into a stressful college environment.
“My health really improved in Israel, and the experience gave me the space I needed to take care of myself,” said Kaley.
From there, Kaley returned to the US and began a multifaceted professional journey, each stop devoted to another mode of healing others. After graduating from the University of Southern California, Kaley earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology and became a marriage and family therapist, working with Holocaust survivors to process their trauma and couples to improve their relationships. But soon the social entrepreneur found herself becoming restless.
“I started getting that itch again, and I was ready to build something from the bottom up,” said Kaley. She was recruited to help launch Sanguine Biosciences, a biotech company that advances personalized medicine by bridging the gap between patients and clinical researchers in order to create efficient and transparent technological solutions to medical problems. Kaley developed the company’s initial patient relations platform, empowered patients to play a larger role in the research that impacted them, and gained “a hands-on MBA” in the process. Kaley was inspired to take the business skills she had learned back to the nonprofit sector, and she joined American Friends of Magen David Adom. She loved knowing that the dollars she raised each went toward new ambulances, pints of blood, and saving as many lives as possible. She also enjoyed spending every day speaking about Israel. “That was the transition I needed,” said Kaley. “I finally knew that it was time to come home.”
Carpe Diem in Israel
For Kaley, moving to Israel wasn’t a decision made on a whim. She wanted a job waiting for her and all of her medical care in place. When Rabbi Doniel Katz approached Kaley and asked her to become the COO of The Elevation Project, a self transformation seminar series based on Torah psychology that unlocks tools to achieve higher consciousness and techniques for spiritual development, Kaley immediately jumped on board.
“The Elevation Project’s timing is perfect because many people are searching for this kind of product,” said Kaley. “And the amazing thing is that it’s 3,000 years old!” The seminar is focused on expanding to become an international, spiritual movement. Two months before moving to Israel, Kaley was put in charge of the business side of the organization—planning events, developing strategies with the board, hiring the staff, fundraising, and creating the budget.
While making the arrangements to move her life to Israel, Kaley connected with specialists at Tel Hashomer Hospital who understood her needs, and received assistance from Nefesh B’Nefesh to set up her health insurance before she arrived. By the time Kaley made Aliyah in July 2015, she had a job that felt meaningful, full medical coverage, and a home in a land that feels in sync with her seize-the-day mentality.
“People here have a zest for life and cherish their relationships and every day that they’re alive,” said Kaley.