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Aliyah in Action: Stéphanie Benmoussa-Molkhou – A French Lawyer’s Journey in Tel Aviv

Recently, Ludivine Sellem, intern for the Tech&law Department at Robus had the opportunity to hear the incredible journey of Stéphanie Benmoussa-Molkhou. She is a French lawyer who decided to make Aliyah to fully embrace her Jewish faith. Stéphanie’s story is the perfect illustration of the true success story (although she won’t admit it). Working from Tel Aviv for the French law firm BERSAY, Stéphanie, member of the Paris Bar since 1999 and of the Israel Bar since 2011, continues to do the job she loves and is more fulfilled than ever since moving to Israel.

In this interview, we learn about her legal career as a lawyer in Israel and what she does now. Stéphanie talks about the reasons for making Aliyah and the challenges she faced once in Israel. We hope Stéphanie’s story will be a real source of inspiration for foreign legal professionals who are considering the move to Israel. 

1. Can you share your journey in the legal profession and what motivated you to make Aliyah to Israel?

Before making Aliyah, I worked as a French lawyer for the French business law firm BERSAY since 1999. I specialize in corporate and commercial laws, and I accompany national and international companies especially in the fields of M&A, private equity, restructurings, and commercial agreements.

I’ve always dreamed of moving to Israel, and my husband felt the same way. So, in 2009, as I was about to become a partner in the firm, I decided to quit my job and make Aliyah. This allowed me to practice my Judaism fully and embrace my spirituality in ways I was not able to in Paris. Moreover, I consider myself a Zionist. I love the land of Israel and I feel at home. For me, Aliyah was the best decision of my life.

2.  How has being in Israel influenced the dynamics of your business, particularly in terms of navigating international legal frameworks and cultural differences, compared to operating directly within France?

Fortunately for me, Jérôme Bersay, the founder of the firm wouldn’t let me go when I announced my resignation. Instead, he proposed that the firm open an office in Tel Aviv that I now run. Thanks to him, I could continue to pursue my legal career in Israel!  Now, I practice French law from Israel; The firm assists companies, specifically Israeli ones, that need help establishing and further developing business in France.

Due to the nature of the firm, we don’t compete with Israeli commercial law firms. Being in Israel has undeniably had a positive impact on my professional activity. I speak English, French and Hebrew fluently and it’s a real asset for the firm. The companies we support can benefit from my knowledge of the French and Israeli business environment. I have noticed a cultural difference between French and Israeli companies when it comes to the “risk perception”. Israeli companies are more confident and able to adapt when they face a legal situation compared to French ones. They don’t hesitate to take on new projects even if potential outcomes are uncertain.

Alongside my legal practice, I have served as the vice-president at Israel-France Chamber of Commerce & Industry for five years.  

3. What were some of the most significant cultural challenges you faced in Israel, both personally and professionally, after your immigration?

When I arrived in Israel, I already knew some basics in Hebrew having prepared for the Israeli bar exam before leaving France. Nonetheless, like any Olé Hadash (New Immigrant) I still needed to learn Hebrew to be able to speak more fluently, be easily understood by Israelis and gain confidence in professional settings.

The other challenge that I needed to face in Israel was overcoming fear of the unknown. Relocating to a country with which I was not deeply familiar required me to reinvent myself and find new bearings.

4. Based on your experience, what advice would you give to other lawyers contemplating making Aliyah and continuing their legal careers in Israel?

For lawyers contemplating making Aliyah, I offer this advice: prioritize mastering Hebrew, especially legal Hebrew, before passing the Israeli bar if they plan to work in an Israeli law firm.

Finally, I encourage them to seek out career opportunities aligned with their specialization as soon as possible. Be open-minded and don’t hesitate to work in another field of law if necessary, because in Israel everything is possible.

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