Building Future Leadership (#BFL12) Conference: The First Half

Jacob Couzens here. It’s been an exciting first half to a week-long seminar that has definitely gone beyond its expectations. Although I wasn’t sure what we’d be doing for a whole week on Masa’s #BFL program, they’ve been keeping us on our toes with a variety of sessions; including group discussion, keynote speakers, and different tracks for individual interests.
Upon arriving I made my way to my room and met three roommates who were all on the Nativ Leadership Program. It turns out they’re also all attending the University of Maryland, just like me, so we immediately bonded over our intentions for next year. After our initial meeting with our discussion groups (Group 4 baby), we made our way into the main hall for an address by President of Israel Shimon Peres. Mr. Peres answered questions, offering important insights into planning and accomplishing goals on the Jewish agenda successfully. His wisdom and advice (although delivered in such a soothing manner that some members of the audience dozed off) were greatly appreciated and I know I’ll make an effort to take his words to heart. His parting words were “Be Jewish, Be Israeli,” a message that I believe was meant to unite us with both our brethren and our country.
After the opening ceremony, Masa whisked us to a gala dinner where we were treated to hors d’oeuvres, fancy drinks (actually they were just slushies), and a multi-course meal. A quick note about the food and facilities on this program. They’re AMAZING. Clean, comfortable rooms with TV, nice bathrooms, and their own thermostat. The dining hall offers salads and soup at every meal along with several delicious choices of entree. Masa really went all out to make us comfortable and I am greatly appreciative. 
Anyway, Tuesday brought with it more new experiences. In the morning we heard from Aharon Horwitz, one of the founders of PresenTense (sic), a company that helps startups that benefit the Jewish community. He outlined the purpose of vision and what we, as leaders, can do to refine and improve it. He also displayed classic examples of important traits that many of our leaders demonstrated in the past. We then attended a workshop, where we discussed how to implement the ideas Aharon related in his presentation. In the afternoon, our groups were taken to Neot Kedumim, a nature reserve and team-building center, where we spent the afternoon learning problem solving and responsibility through teamwork. One of the funner activities was archery, where we challenged ourselves by setting goals and expectations of how many points we could get. My friend Matt and I set a moderately high goal, but then (because we’re apparently sick at archery) went above and beyond our expectations by nailing 13 our of 15 bulls eyes! We did the best in the group, props to Matt. 
After another ridiculous dinner (I’m really starting to like this place) we heard from a panel of young Israeli leaders, including Rachel, one of the main players responsible for last summer’s Social Justice tent protests; Boaz, one of the key forces in the returning of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit; Two representatives of the IDF’s IDFSpokesperson unit (it seems I’m meeting a lot of them these days); and another leading female politician who hopes to see the train route between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv finally come into being. They all offered interesting stories on how they came to take the initiative, step up, and accomplish their goals, and motivated me (and I hope everyone else) to strive to do just the same.
Tuesday brought along more interesting discussions with Group 4 until we began long courses in our individual tracks. Always having been interested in Business and creating an organization, I chose the Entrepreneurship track. Our teacher throughout the day was Gore, an israeli entrepreneur who is CEO of three startup corporations and quite an impressive entrepreneur. He guided us through the process of turning an idea into reality, offering tips, criticism, and valuable information. I partnered with Courtney (also on Nativ) and together we built quite an impressive business model for an on-campus promotional company. The group offered constructive criticism on everyone’s ideas, bringing up possible issues and suggesting improvements in each ideas’ infrastructure. Overall it was an exciting few hours and I really cannot wait to see what Gore will teach us tomorrow.
Currently we’re on a short break before being bussed to another dinner (awesome) at Masa’s mega-event entitled “Back To Campus,” which I’m assuming will be centered around bringing what we’ve gathered in Israel back to our respective colleges and acting as leaders and advocates for the country.
More to come on the rest of the program as it happens, feel free to read here on my blog ( or follow me on twitter @j4yCuZZ for constant updates!

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