“Anyone can get by with just English in Tel Aviv. So we teach Hebrew that gets you excited to learn!”
That’s Tamar Pross who, together with Efrat Chen, started what they think is the key to unlocking Hebrew language learning in Tel Aviv.
It’s called Citizen Cafe, and it’s the newest, coolest Hebrew Ulpan (“studio” – or Hebrew learning school) located in the heart of Tel Aviv: Mindspace. “You come to class with an amazing teacher, and we teach your mouth, tongue, and ear how to speak and listen from scratch – like a baby,” explains Tamar of their unique method of teaching.
Tamar is the founder and CEO of Citizen Cafe. 100% Israeli born and raised, she also grew up in the USA, Australia, and elsewhere, moving 18 times. She developed her professional background in London, where she worked in high-end concierge, managing the lives of movie stars, Chelsie football players, and Saudi royals.
Having returned to Tel Aviv, Tamar and her business partner Efrat – a leading Hebrew teacher – founded Citizen Cafe 2 years ago. “We founded Citizen Cafe out of the frustration that many of our international friends had when they tried to learn Hebrew and integrate into Israeli society, but found the challenges overwhelming. 80% of our students have done a traditional Ulpan before, and it didn’t work for them.”
Citizen Cafe offers a unique method of learning taught only in their classrooms. “We know that the ‘theoretical Hebrew’ taught in traditional Ulpans doesn’t translate to the real world. So we take textbooks out, and bring light and laughter to the class. The experience is so much more alive.”
With 8 students to the class, highly trained teachers guide both beginner and advanced students in speaking like a true Tel-Avivian. “Our teachers are basically the coolest Israelis that you’d want to hang out with. A lot of them are actors, producers, singers, dancers, social workers – but also professional Hebrew teachers. You get to learn Hebrew from a real Tel Avivian.” They even have Whatsapp groups and phone calls in Hebrew, while sitting in class. “It doesn’t get more Israeli than that.”
Tamar says that in Tel Aviv, Hebrew learners are frustrated. “The community who comes to Tel Aviv are international Olim (new immigrants) that bring talent and intellect, and they want so badly to integrate into the Tel-Avivian lifestyle. They sacrifice a lot to be here. And if they aren’t happy, they are going to leave Israel – and take their talents and expertise with them.”
That’s why Citizen Cafe’s exciting and uniquely social Hebrew learning experience is so important. “We were created to provide these newcomers with the essential tool of Hebrew so that they can enjoy their lives and stay here.”
And the range of newcomers is quite impressive. “We have students from Google, Waze, and members of Mindspace. Producers and TV anchors, yoga teachers and entrepreneurs. The Australian ambassador just finished his 4th semester with us learning Hebrew.” So if you see the Australian ambassador making coffee in the Mindspace kitchen, Tamar says not to be surprised: “He’s come to learn Hebrew with us!”
Tamar says they used to teach their classes in cafes around Tel Aviv, but as they grew, they began to look for a permanent home. That’s when they found Mindspace 6 months ago. “I loved the idea of moving to Mindspace from the start,” she recalls. “It was all about connecting our international community of Hebrew learners to the heart of the Israeli startup scene. You come to Mindspace and go, ‘Wow, this is the right place to be in Tel Aviv.’”
Mindspace has become a big part of Citizen Cafe’s identity. “A big part of our pitch is ‘Teaching Hebrew in Mindspace.’ The classrooms and facilities are wonderful, and there’s great energy between us and the startups around us. We have felt a massive warm welcome from Mindspace and its members since we got here.”
In fact, many Mindspacers have since become students at Citizen Cafe. “Internationals at Mindspace have signed up because they literally walk out of their office and walk into their Ulpan class next door. Plus, Mindspace members get a discount.” Employers at Mindspace have found that Citizen Cafe can used as an easy, cost-effective, and accessible employee benefit.
In addition, Israeli Mindspace members love introducing their international partners and loved ones to Citizen Cafe. “They’re excited that we might finally get them to learn Hebrew!”
Citizen Cafe will reach a record-breaking 17 groups of students starting this July, in 7 different levels of learning.
“So if you feel that you’ve lost hope in Hebrew, come be surprised.”
Welcome to Mindspace, Citizen Cafe! Learn more at citizencafetlv.com.