Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Nachshon - The Israeli Mechina

Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Netzer Year

Program: 

School’s Out: Teens Put College on Hold for Adventure in Israel

School’s Out: Teens Put College on Hold for Adventure in Israel

School’s Out: Teens Put College on Hold for Adventure in Israel

July 28, 2011

By Emma Silvers, JWeekly
 
Nina Tabrizi has been back in the U.S. for almost two months now, but in her mind, she’s still in Jerusalem.
If she closes her eyes, it’s early May, and she’s at the Mount Herzl cemetery for Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. She can still hear the sounds of sirens echoing in the air, the gunfire, and then celebratory shouting all around her as the holiday transitions into Yom HaAtzmaut, Independence Day.
 
“Hearing all the politicians, seeing these thousands of people at the soldiers’ graves, and then you turn around at night and everybody’s celebrating … it was incredible to see,” said Tabrizi, 19. “It’s such a big jump going from complete sadness to complete happiness, and it was amazing to witness how normal that is there, from an outsider’s perspective, from a North American perspective.”
 
That night is just one of many Israel experiences that Tabrizi says will stand out in her mind for the rest of her life. It’s also one of the reasons she’s so grateful she had the chance to do a gap year program in Israel — in her case, a nine-month, international travel–focused track called Olami, organized by Young Judaea — following her senior year of high school. 
“It was the most amazing experience of my life,” said Tabrizi earnestly. “I would not be the same person if I hadn’t done it.”
 
Gap years have long been a way for recent high school grads to take time off before college and enjoy a little independence before heading back to the school environment.
 
But gap year programs in Israel can do more than provide an avenue for soul-searching. According to a recent study commissioned by the Masa Israel Journey program, which allows young adults to spend up to a year in Israel, an extended Israel experience made alumni more likely to marry someone Jewish, become involved with Israel-related activities back home and consider a job in the Jewish community...
 
Elana Stern
2010-2011
Roselle Feldman
Dance Journey, 2009-2010
Beth Canter
Eco-Israel, 2008-2009

Gabi Gordon

Gabi Gordon

Nativ
Program: 
 
Raised in a Conservative home in Chicago, Judaism was always a part of my life. I attended Solomon Schechter for elementary school and then got involved in USY. While a junior in high school, I took part in the Alexander Muss semester program in Israel. It was then that I decided I needed to return for another extended period of time.
 
My chance to do so came soon enough. After graduation, I enrolled in Masa Israel’s Nativ, the Conservative movement’s gap year program in Israel. During that year, I had the opportunity to get to know the areas where I lived. While taking courses in Arabic, Jewish studies and Hebrew at Hebrew University during the first half of the year, I was also able to explore Jerusalem. I went to festivals, museums, and the market on a regular basis. I traveled to the Old City and visited the Kotel whenever I felt like it. On Yom Kippur, when the streets are devoid of cars, my friends and I sat in an intersection and sang, and the Israelis who passed joined in.
 
I also had the opportunity to volunteer at the Jerusalem YMCA’s preschool, which has both Arab and Jewish students.
 
I spent the second half of the year in Yerucham, a development town in the south—which allowed me to see a very different side of Israel. There, few people spoke English and I worked at a religious girls’ school with people who were very excited to learn English from Americans. My host family was incredibly hospitable, inviting me for meals and to take part in hiking trips. 
 
Leaving Israel was very difficult and after a year at Columbia/JTS, I decided that I needed to return to Israel. Recently I made aliyah through Garin Tzabar, a program that enables me to live on a kibbutz alongside other new immigrants around my age, while enlisting in the Israeli army. 
 
I am currently living on Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu and still keep in touch with all my counselors from Nativ, as well as my friends from Yerucham. I am so glad I participated in Nativ because it really allowed me to explore Israel and discover a place for myself in it.

Dana Bornstein

Dana Bornstein

Nativ
Program: 
 
I’ve become a Big Sister.
 
I’m volunteering at a Kfar Yeladim, or children’s village, in Karmiel, a small city in the Galilee.
 
What brought me here is Masa Israel’s Nativ, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s college leadership gap-year program. I began my nine months in Israel studying at Hebrew University. Then I was sent to Karmiel because of my experience working with disadvantaged youth.
 
Founded more than 30 years ago, the Kfar Yeladim is a large gated community of 17 houses, each home to 11 children from broken families. Some of these kids know no other home than this village.
 
Living in each of these homes are a “housemother” and “housefather”; nearly all of them have their own children, whom they are also raising in the village. Other than its own schools, the village has everything the families could possibly need: a grocery store, computer rooms, sports fields, music rooms, homework tutors, psychologists, playgrounds, and even buses to take the children around Karmiel. 
 
I work with house parents who have lived in the village for 12 years and raised their own three children there. They are paid next to nothing. They rely on secondhand clothes, grocery store money points, donations from others and whatever they can earn from odd jobs. But despite their hardships, the Kfar families have come to cherish the simple gifts that life has to offer.
 
While my house parents speak English, the children – who range in age from 7 to 16 – hardly speak a word of it. But the language barrier has given me the opportunity to connect with them on so many other levels: through computer games, English homework tutoring, soccer, playground games, TV programs and even cooking. Though they don’t always need my help, the kids make sure to include me in their everyday lives. 
 
Seeing smiles on the kids’ faces when I come over to spend time with them and getting a hug on Thursday before I leave for the weekend make me so thankful that I’ve decided to take a gap year in Israel. 

Jenna Silverman

Jenna Silverman

Nativ
Program: 
Having progressed through the Conservative movement’s landmark institutions and programs for youth, from Solomon Schechter Day School to U.S.Y. to Ramah Seminar in Israel, Jenna Silverman viewed Nativ as the next step in her life as a Conservative Jew. “My older sister went on Nativ a few years before and it was a great opportunity to live in Israel without having other things to worry about in my life,” she said. 
 
While on Nativ, Jenna studied at Hebrew University during the first part of the year and then lived and volunteered as an English teacher for fourth to sixth grades in Be’er Sheva. “The kids were so appreciative to be learning from a native English speaker, and living in Be’er Sheva was great for me,” Jenna said. “Because Be’er Sheva is not Americanized, I was able to learn Hebrew, become a part of the culture, and venture outside the American bubble.” 
 
When Jenna began her studies at the University of Maryland, she became involved in the Jewish Student Union. Jenna’s position as a Masa Israel campus representative led to greater involvement in Jewish communities on campus. “Because it is a non-political and non-religiously affiliated organization, I was able to advertise Masa Israel in a variety of Jewish and pro-Israel programs,” Jenna said. Some of the activities at which Jenna promoted Masa Israel programs include Piece of Parsha, a gathering in which students study the weekly Torah portion, a poker tournament co-sponsored with AEPi, and an event featuring a speaker from Sderot Media Center. 
 
As a result of her presence in many different Israel and Jewish arenas on campus, Jenna recruited the second-highest number of college students to Masa Israel programs. 
 
This year, in addition to continuing her work as a Masa Israel campus representative, Jenna will represent students on the Hillel International Board of Directors, a position for which she was nominated by the director of the University of Maryland’s Hillel. 
 
Jenna believes that it is a result of her year spent in Israel that she has attained her position in the Jewish community on campus and that a long-term experience will prove just as valuable for others. “My experiences in Israel further connected me, just being there and living in a strong Jewish environment,” she said. “It’s so important for me to share my experiences with people in college, because we’re at the best time in our lives to go. We’re trying to find ourselves now, and living in Israel while immersed in the culture helps solidify our connection to Judaism for the rest of our lives.” 

Elana Stern

Elana Stern

Young Judaea Year Course - Social Action Track
I looked down at the muddy floor again and, just to be sure, I gazed back at the water tap in the ceiling. Nothing. It was my second day in Rwanda, and there was no running water. I had listened to all the other advice we had been given but I hadn’t believed that running water would actually stop.
 
I spent the month of February volunteering at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda. I would do things I once thought entirely out of the realm of possibility in my life (chopping down trees with a machete, building a warehouse out of concrete and bricks, teaching English and French to African orphans).
 
Built in response to the overwhelming orphan population in post-genocide Rwanda, the village is probably one of the region’s most advanced places. Housing up to 500 orphans at a time, the village also employs women whose families were murdered during the genocide, to take on the roles of house mothers for families of 16. In addition to American and Israeli volunteers, the village staff includes therapists, social workers, teachers, kitchen workers, and a construction crew.
 
In Rwanda, our major project was constructing a warehouse to store clothing and goods donations. The first day was undoubtedly the hardest but, by the end, we were carrying bricks in piles of five or six, wheelbarrows full of cement, and several-gallon jerry cans overflowing with water. In time, the work got easier and, in the process, we became friends with the construction workers.
 
My time in Rwanda wasn’t just about building a warehouse but it was about making a measurable and memorable change.
 
Each day, I felt our impact on the people around us, especially while building a mud hut for a man named Peter, who has seven children. With a little mud and a lot of smiles, we were able to make a critical difference in his family’s life.
 
When I returned to Israel, I turned on the shower in my Jerusalem apartment; to my surprise, water came out — and I cried. Not (only) because I was so excited to have returned to reliable plumbing, but because I now knew are people in this world who will never know this luxury, may never attend a university or fulfill their potential. This is a tragedy that is now real to me, because I have seen it and lived it firsthand. And now, more than ever, I want to change it.
 
I now know that a small group of determined people can change the world, one brick and one English class at a time.
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