A Rare Volunteer: Dina Silberstein


If you mention “Israel” to Dina Silberstein, her manner of speaking — direct with a hint of Long Island — softens and shifts. During a year abroad in Tel Aviv in 2011, Silberstein worked in real estate development, and not only inhaled the ocean air and fresh produce, but also rediscovered an almost-forgotten spot within herself for Judaism. Upon returning to New York, Silberstein delved into a career in real estate as well as volunteerism, launching an alumni chapter for Masa Israel Journey; MASA coordinates semester- to year-long programs in Israel for young adults.

“I had insane reverse culture shock,” says Silberstein about her return. She longed for Israel’s fresh juice and sun-filled days, as well as the Israeli approach toward leisure rather than the go-go-go mentality of New York. “I missed the sense of Judaism, the warmth,” she says. “I wanted to give back to the Jewish people and Israel.”

Silberstein, who turns 31 in June, and says she had “drifted” from her Jewish roots, now sits on the board of the Council of Young Jewish Presidents, is a member of UJA-Federation of New York’s GEN-I task force and of the charity’s Young Real Estate & Allied Trades Division Committee. She recently stepped down as chair of MASA’s alumni chapter, but remains involved.

In general, she says her cohort has a different attention span than those of older generations, and “what we expect from the world is not what we give back to the world.”

Silberstein is a rarity at work as well. As one of the few women in the construction/real estate industry, she encounters an occasional awkward moment, but mostly, she treasures the straightforwardness of her male colleagues at The Mace Group, a consultancy and construction company, where she works as a project manager, and is unfazed by being “the only girl in the room.”

Tomboy: Silberstein, who likes to box during early mornings at the gym, and who is one of three sisters, says her mother often remarked that she didn’t need a son because “I was the boy. I liked to play in the dirt and pick up cicadas, and flip and tumble everywhere.”