The idea of helping American Jews find apartments in Tel Aviv came to Ryan Blum after a week on Birthright.
Blum, 22, a Millburn resident, had been running a web-based service helping American students find apartments in London, Prague, Florence, Rome, and Barcelona.
After going on a Birthright trip to Israel following his graduation from Syracuse University in May, he decided to expand his company’s offerings.
“I met with a company in Tel Aviv and realized we can help Birthright participants who want to extend their trips to find high-end apartments along the beach,” he said.
So he and his business partner, Brett Newman of Deerfield, Ill., who had gone on a previous Birthright trip, launched a second website, beyondbirthright.com.
It adds Tel Aviv to the list of places where they facilitate housing for young people.
“We discovered that many of the students who want to spend their junior year abroad in Europe are Jewish and may also be going on Birthright trips,” he said. “In Tel Aviv, the prices are out of control. For three or four people it makes sense to find an apartment through us.”
In 2013, Blum, then a junior at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse, and Newman, a student at Ohio State University, met on Facebook and decided to search for an apartment together in Barcelona, where they would be spending a semester abroad.
“Who do you contact? Where do you go?” Blum said were among the questions they faced. “The people who provide your education can also provide you with housing, but they don’t tell you where you are going to live or who you are going to live with.”
So Newman and Blum formed a partnership called Study Abroad Apartments (studyabroadapartments.com), designed a business plan, linked up with a real estate broker in Barcelona, and have been running the service since then.
Blum, who attended Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston before college, believes Tel Aviv may become one of their biggest markets.
Birthright just hit a milestone: its 400,000th participant since its inception in December 1999. Blum said he believes going on the trip is definitely “a trend.”
His service charges a $199 fee for each application, as well as a commission on each apartment they help rent. “We will talk to you and your parents and take care of the entire process,” he said.
“We don’t necessarily want to limit our services just to Americans, or just to Jews. We had at least 15 non-Jewish clients in Barcelona, and not all of them happened to be students,” he said.
In addition, they will be working to provide places for parents to stay when they visit sons and daughters in Europe or Israel.
Blum can be reached at 973-699-7778 or firstname.lastname@example.org.