Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : December 30, 2010
By Adi Raz, Because We Care
After graduating from Santa Clara University I was faced with the challenge of figuring out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had studied psychology, but was a bit wary of the counseling profession and didn’t know if it was for me. I decided that I needed a change of scene to clear my head before I made any life altering decisions. I didn’t want to just take a vacation and be lazy for a while, I wanted to do something that would give back to the community. I decided to return to my place of birth, Israel.
A friend of mine turned me onto the Masa Israel website and I spent several hours reading through the myriad different programs available. When I read the description for Masa Israel’s Because We Care five-month-long volunteer program I was instantly intrigued. I liked the fact that it was hosted at Hakfar Hayarok, The Green Village, in Ramat Hasharon. Not only would I be close to my family that lived in Tel Aviv, but I would be in the perfect location for all the fun things that the Tel Aviv area had to offer. I was also intrigued by the idea that the program was located at a boarding school that was also a working farm. I have never been a huge nature lover, so I was interested in this opportunity to stretch my limits.
The program itself was exactly what I was looking for. I got to choose my own internship at the Kfar, which for me was teaching English at the school and working with the Grade 10 boarding students. I even got to milk cows! I gained a greater appreciation of nature and got to know a lot of really amazing people. Over my months at the Kfar working with the kids I could tell that I was really making a difference. I discovered that I am really drawn to helping people, and especially to working with teenagers. I began to research graduate programs in counseling.
While in Israel I was chosen to be one of 40 participants from all of the Masa Israel programs to participate in a leadership program called Building Future Leaders (BFL). In this program I travelled to three weekend conferences in Jerusalem and went on amazing tours, attended interesting lectures, and made really great friends. The BFL series built on leadership skills that I already had and opened my eyes to new ideas that I brought back to my placement at HaKfar Hayarok.
Participating in the Because We Care program has literally changed my life. It gave me a newfound sense of purpose that I have taken back to the States. I am now about to enter my final year in a counseling psychology graduate program and will be working with children and adolescents at my internship placement next year. I am happy to say that I have kept in touch with my friends from the Because We Care and Masa’s BFL programs and am looking forward to a reunion trip in the future.
Published : December 24, 2010
Growing up in Atlanta, Scott Berger first became involved in Judaism as a teenager through Bnai Brith Youth Organization. But, it was not until he was a freshman at Tulane University that he first traveled to Israel with Birthright.
“I had no idea what to expect and it was thrilling for me to be in a country filled with other people like me,” says Scott. “I knew I wanted to spend more time there.”
During his fourth year at Tulane, Scott decided to study in Israel. But, as an architecture student at a university that discouraged study abroad in Israel, the process was not simple. “My study abroad advisor encouraged me to take a semester off and look into university programs where other Tulane students had studied,” says Scott. “I decided to take a semester off from architecture and focus on Jewish Studies at Hebrew University.”
At Hebrew University, Scott enrolled in an intensive Hebrew Ulpan, as well as courses that covered the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israeli art, and archeology in Jerusalem. “More often than not, the reading for my Jewish Studies courses at Tulane is written by Hebrew University professors,” says Scott. “It was an incredible opportunity to study with the best in the field.” Scott also enjoyed sharing a dorm with international students from Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Canada. “It was a beautiful thing to meet other Jews from all over the world, who had each decided to study in Israel,” says Scott.
While in Israel, Scott had the opportunity to explore diverse Israeli communities. For the high holidays, Scott split his time between an Orthodox community in the Old City of Jerusalem and the secular suburbs of Tel Aviv. “I spent Rosh Hashanah experiencing the hospitality of families who were much more religious than me, and then on Yom Kippur, I watched movies all day while fasting,” says Scott. “I can’t say I enjoyed one experience more than other, but I did love seeing the dichotomy of Israeli culture.”
When Scott’s parents and Catholic best friend came to visit towards the end of his time in Israel, he knew the country well enough to show them around. “It was wonderful to watch their preconceptions of Israel shatter,” says Scott. “They were definitely impressed and told me that if I ever lived in Israel in the future, they would love to return.”
Since returning to campus to finish up his Masters in architecture, Scott has participated in URBANbuild, a program in which students design and build homes to help in the Katrina relief effort. He also attends Israel-advocacy events on campus and reads English-language Israeli newspapers every day. In a few years, he hopes to return to Israel for another extended period of time to work or volunteer.
“I feel a real sense of comfort in Israel,” says Scott. “In Israel, everyone seems to know each other, or at least each other’s cousins. It makes for a real warm environment, one where I feel like I belong.”

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