Justine Friedman is a Clinical Dietician and Mindset Mentor who can coach anyone on perseverance.

By Chandrea Serebro

Although they say that nothing about Israel is simple, for registered Clinical Dietician and ‘Mindset Mentor’, Justine Friedman, simplicity is everything. She strives to offer her clients straightforward tools that lead to lasting change, making it easy for them to implement these strategies into their daily lives. This is in part what sets her apart from others in her field here in Israel, given added weight by the triumph over the not-so-simple adversities she experienced when she embarked on her own transformative journey upon making Aliyah from Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2019.

It was certainly not easy or straightforward – converting her degree and starting to practice in Israel after practicing in South Africa for almost 20 years was full of “hard work”. But Justine very quickly found that she needed to change the way she looked at herself, to “reinvent” herself in order to stay abreast of what was required to succeed, and then to go out there and make it happen for herself.

Converting her degree involved much administrative labour and back-and-forth, having to ensure that she had meticulous documentation of all her past studies and numerous rounds of translations of each one, and needing to overcome numerous language barriers before she even began making any headway. With the support of a recommended attorney (which she highly recommends using due to the paperwork which one might not readily have which is required), she navigated the bureaucratic landscape successfully. Finally, she found herself ready to write the exam to convert her degree – despite many setbacks caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and the numerous lockdowns in Israel. She went on to successfully pass her exams, which she chose to write in English, and found herself ready to start again. “Although it was a big challenge, especially studying and writing an exam 20 years after qualifying, I am so glad that I had the grit and determination to do it. It has been well worth all the effort.”

Starting anew introduced Justine to new ways of seeing and being, expanding her professional horizons. Justine has had many years combining clinical nutrition with empowering mindset strategies, specialising in supporting women over 40 navigating perimenopause and menopause. She recently started a new online programme – aptly named ‘The Wellness Upgrade’ – which is a 12-week course for women to learn how to support and nourish their bodies over the age of 40 and at the same time break free from dieting and heal their relationship with food.

For this programme, and when seeing her clients in general, Justine performs many roles in her holistic approach. But never has she been her own PA exec, social media manager and tech expert too. “For the first time in my career, I found myself needing to market myself. This has been both challenging and exciting. It has allowed me to learn many new skills that I don’t think I would ever have invested in.”

Adapting to Israel’s healthcare structure posed further challenges, requiring her to establish a new network and navigate a totally different system.

Justine chose not to work under the kupah system, opting for a more personalised approach that sets her apart from the pack, by working privately, but which brings with it other considerations. Like the cost of the consult and the inability for the client to be reimbursed — the out-of-pocket nature of consultations in Israel delivers a unique challenge, especially when compared to the cover provided by private medical aids in South Africa.

Justine has learnt a lot through her experience and offers advice to anyone wanting to move to Israel and requalify. “Although the process to convert or get a degree recognised is technical and there are a lot of different channels you have to go through, it is worth it. The sooner you do it the better, don’t wait too long after you arrive to get it done.”

“Ask for help, there are many people who have been there before you and who are happy to give advice and support. Join networking groups and get to know other professionals in your field.”

Proactivity, resilience, and a positive mindset are key elements in navigating the intricacies of adapting a profession to Israel’s dynamic landscape. “Put yourself out there. If you don’t hear back from someone, be sure to follow up. You may think you are bugging them, but in Israel, if you don’t push you often get forgotten or fall to the bottom of the pile.”

And of course, Telfed’s outreach and check-ins offered “valuable connections” and a sense of community to her, highlighting the importance of a support network during significant transitions such as Justine’s and so many others.

As she continues to nourish positive change in the lives of her clients, Justine exemplifies the spirit of transformation and determination that defines the journey of professionals making Israel their new home. She advises anyone seeking new horizons to keep at it, because with determination and the Israeli never-take-no attitude, success is just around the next corner.