Masa Israel Journey Energizes the Next Generation of Jewish Leaders

Masa Israel Journey Energizes the Next Generation of Jewish Leaders

March 9, 2010

There are more than 9,000 young Jewish adults currently on Masa Israel programs, and more than 50,000 alumni. Fifty six percent of them have also taken part in Birthright Israel.
"The nonprofit sector is at a major crossroads. After years of humming along at a familiar pace of ongoing programs, stable leadership, and status quo fundraising, a new wave of change is happening right before our very eyes. The thousands of idealistic baby boomers that started nonprofit organizations 20 years ago are calling it quits and retiring from their leadership positions in the coming years. You’ve no doubt heard about it, but I’ll just confirm it for you here: there is indeed a leadership crisis looming ahead for the nonprofit sector.”
Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles
 
Who will lead the Jewish community tomorrow?  As the baby boomer generation of leaders approaches retirement, Masa Israel Journey is setting the pace in leadership development for the next generation by tapping into the passions of thousands of outstanding 18-30 somethings searching for a deeper connection to the Jewish people.  There are more than 9,000 young Jewish adults currently on Masa Israel programs, and more than 50,000 alumni. Fifty six percent of them have also taken part in Birthright Israel.
 
Masa Israel alumni are taking on entrepreneurial leadership roles, from chairing national conferences tostarting their own organizations. Others have assumed positions as Jewish communal professionals, tackling the challenges facing the Jewish community today.
 
“Following their 5-12 month-long Masa-sponsored internship, volunteer or study experiences in Israel, Masa Israel alumni return to North America not with new skills and the capacity to compete in today’s global economy, as well as with deeply rooted (and often new-found) passion for Jewish life and the desire to become part of a lifelong network of committed and connected leaders,” says Avi Rubel, director of Masa Israel Journey North America.
 
Elina Moyn, having left Latvia to escape religious persecution, always had a strong Jewish identity but knew little about the traditions or history.  After a Birthright trip to Israel sparked her interest in her Jewish identity, Moyn decided to spend her senior year at CU Boulder at the Masa Israel-accredited Tel Aviv University.
 
“Until I went on my Masa program, I did not feel as personally invested in the land,” Moyn says.  “But as I developed friendships with Israelis and lived an everyday life amongst the history I learned about in the classroom, my Jewish identity grew, with Israel at its center.” Today, Elina works as an Operations Manager for a Boulder trading company and teaches Hebrew school.  In the future, she hopes to work in international business with an Israeli company.
 
The anti-Israel sentiment at Concordia University compelled Toronto-native Alan Herman to return to Israel for a longer period of time after his first Birthright trip.  “Finding myself at an increasing number of pro-Israel rallies, I knew I needed a way to incorporate my passion for Israel into my daily life,” he says.
 
At Ben Gurion’s Masters in Middle Eastern Studies (MAPMES), Herman studied the Arab-Israeli conflict under the guidance of the Israeli scholar, Benny Morris, helped organize excursions to UNSCO (the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process) and the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), participated in research on Jewish-Arab reconciliation, and took a course in the role of Canada in the Middle Eastern Peace Process.
 
After earning his Master’s degree, Herman returned to Canada and became a research associate at the Israel & Jewish Advocacy Research Institute, the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. A year ago, he was accepted to the Quebec-Israel Committee for their Quebec Parliamentary Program.
 
For Rachel Olstein, it was not until she was an adult working in the non-profit sector that she discovered her place in the Jewish community. Though Olstein grew up in a large Jewish community outside of Boston, her commitment wavered as a student at Vassar College as she became involved in social justices causes unrelated to the Jewish community.  But when she found a community of Jews dedicated to tikkun olam and Israel, Olstein reentered the community and decided to explore her own connection to Israel.
 
“For thousands of years, Jews have wanted to be in Israel,” Olstein says.  “Not only did I feel privileged to be born into an era when it was possible to visit Israel, I felt obligated to spend an extended period of time there.”
 
Olstein enrolled in the Masa Israel-accredited Hebrew University Masters program in Community Leadership & Philanthropy Studies, where she focused her studies on organizations that pursue social justice from a Jewish perspective, but work to help populations beyond the Jewish community. Today, Olstein serves as Director of Volunteer Services for the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda, a residential community for orphaned children in Rwanda.

Building Future Leaders: Reflections on Masa Israel’s leadership training program

<div class="masa-blog-title">Building Future Leaders: Reflections on Masa Israel’s leadership training program</div>

 
By Masa Israel participant Jordana Gilman
 
I had no expectations for my first BFL conference, and I was having an awful day when I first arrived to the Ganei Moriah Hotel in Jerusalem half an hour late after four hours of traveling. Things quickly turned around for me, and I was welcomed into the BFL community like a long lost friend.
 

Snagging a spot on the IDC Herzliya Conference communications team

<div class="masa-blog-title">Snagging a spot on the IDC Herzliya Conference communications team</div>

Guest post by Masa Israel alumnus Natan Edelsburg
 
Arriving to Israel in August 2006 to begin my year abroad was an extremely scary and exciting time. I was leaving all my friends and starting a new phase of my life, but I was finally fulfilling my dream of being able to living on my own in Tel Aviv, while working in a communications department.
 

Masa Israel showcases career opportunities for young adults in Israel’s ‘green’ sector

Masa Israel showcases career opportunities for young adults in Israel’s ‘green’ sector

Masa Israel showcases career opportunities for young adults in Israel’s ‘green’ sector

October 31, 2009

Go Green in Israel campaign joins Hazon in cross-country eco-awareness tour
Masa Israel Journey recently launched ‘Go Green in Israel,’ an initiative to highlight opportunities for young adults in North America to study, intern or volunteer in the “green” or environmental sector in Israel. Masa offers programs ranging from environmental studies at Ben Gurion University and the Arava Institute, to internships at renewable energy startups, to volunteering on an eco-farm. Masa launched a microsite for these programs at www.gogreeninisrael.org.
 
To increase awareness of these opportunities, Masa partnered with Hazon, America’s largest Jewish environmental nonprofit organization, launching the Jewish Climate Change Campaign and Bus Tour at the United Nations Friday (Oct. 23). The bus, which was formally sent off by Janos Pasztor, head of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Change Support Team, is run entirely on bio-diesel fuels and loaded with seedlings to be planted by children in Jewish communities around the country.
 
Masa and Hazon staff will travel cross-country on the bus, making stops to promote Masa programs in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Kansas City, Atlanta, New Orleans, Texas, Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Monterey, California.
 
“Israel is a world leader in innovation in fields like sustainable development, water conservation, and renewable energy, and a great place fore young adults from North America to prepare for cutting-edge careers in the green sector, while also connecting to their Jewish roots,” says Avi Rubel, North American director of Masa Israel Journey.
 
Masa is a joint project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Government of Israel and was founded in 2004 under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to encourage Jewish young adults ages 18-30 to study, intern or volunteer for a semester to a year in Israel.

Minneapolis Students on Masa Israel Journey Project Meet with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

Minneapolis Students on Masa Israel Journey Project Meet with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

Minneapolis Students on Masa Israel Journey Project Meet with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

December 16, 2008

Rebecca Hornstein (South Senior High School) and Ethan Buckner (Hopkins High School) are two Minneapolis High School graduates who are spending a year in Israel within the framework of the Masa Israel Journey project of the Jewish Agency and Government of Israel. 
They met with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty who is leading a trade delegation from Minnesota to Israel this week. The Minneapolis teens were invited by Israeli philanthropist Raya Strauss, who chairs the Jewish Agency`s Partnership 2000 committee to a dinner at the Ilana Goor Museum in Old Jaffa in honor of 126 participants, including those from the Minnesota and Georgia Trade Delegations, who attended the Jewish Agency`s Business to Business Initiative at this week's Globes Israel Business Conference.
 
Pictured above, from left to right, are Raya Strauss, Ethan Buckner, Rebecca Hornstein and Minessota Governor Tim Pawlenty.
 
Photo Credit: Allpix Photo Agency

Masa Participants Win Israel’s "Queen of the Desert Journey"

Masa Participants Win Israel’s "Queen of the Desert Journey"

Masa Participants Win Israel’s "Queen of the Desert Journey"

September 25, 2008

Four Masa long-term Israel program participants won Israel’s first annual Queen of the Desert Journey earlier this week.
The week-long desert challenge, which included 60 women aged 21-64, was cosponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel, Partnership 2000 and the Geographic Company in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary.
 
Throughout the week-long journey, participants rode jeeps and bikes through the desert’s rocky terrain, explored Israel’s craters, visited a combat unit with both men and women, rappelled off mountains, and camped in Bedouin tents.  "I’ve spent a good deal of time in Israel, but it was incredible to experience it from the heart of the desert and in the heart of Israel," said one of the winners, Ronit Raier, 23, Bnai Akiva gap-year program alumna and former madricha from South Africa.
 
Tali Farkas, 22, from Germany, Hannah Zakon, 24, from New Zealand, and Ingrid Abler, 21, from Argentina joined Raier in her victory.  The desert challenge also included 10 participants from North America. 
 
Though participants faced many challenges along the way, including sleeping in areas exposed to foxes and then awakening to find their backpacks gone and their cell phones and chocolate bars scattered along nearby mountains, the Masa participants did not find the trek too trying. "We found so much support in the other 56 participants throughout our journey," said Tali, an IDC Herzliya student. "They were like mothers to us."
 
Winners of the competition received certificates and Columbia-brand sportswear. They were selected to be winners as a result of the spirited contribution they made to the desert challenge experience.  
 
"To see young girls taking such a huge step, leaving their homes, their comfort zones, their families and friends, and spending time in Israel made a huge impact on the other women," said Ronit. 
 
Our new "Queens of the Desert" truly appreciated their Negev victory. Hannah, from the Israel Government Fellows program, said, "The opportunity to bond with so many other Jewish women inspired me, and competing in the Negev made this experience even more unforgettable."

50 Masa participants take the stage in Jerusalem at the Presidential Conference 2008 - Facing Tomorrow.

50 Masa participants take the stage in Jerusalem at the Presidential Conference 2008 - Facing Tomorrow.

50 Masa participants take the stage in Jerusalem at the Presidential Conference 2008 - Facing Tomorrow.

July 7, 2008

50 Masa participants from the Building Future Leadership Seminar Series (BFL) were invited to share the stage in Jerusalem with Israeli President Shimon Peres during the opening ceremony of The Presidential Conference -- Facing Tomorrow. 
The participants joined 50 other Masa participants, 13 current or former heads of state (including President George W. Bush and and former Prime Minister Tony Blair) and 3,500 distinguished guests for a three-day event initiated by Mr. Peres for the purpose of "examining, confronting, and responding to three intertwining  futures: the global tomorrow, the  Jewish  tomorrow, and the Israeli tomorrow."
 
Attendees chose from a wide variety of lectures, panels, and discussion sessions lead by prominent figures in the academic, political, religious, scientific, business, technological and Jewish world covering a diverse range of topics. "It was something I never thought I would experience," commented Deborah Laks from Costa Rica. "Getting to see such prominent people up close.  It gave me the insight that anyone can achieve what they have if they have the ambition.
 
Peres has made clear that the development of such ambition was one of the desired outcomes of the conference as a whole. More than generating "talk," Peres writes, the conference strove to drive "action" by "encouraging practical initiatives intended to positively shape our future."

College Advisors Discover a Wide Range of Gap Year Programs in Israel

College Advisors Discover a Wide Range of Gap Year Programs in Israel

June 4, 2008

Unlike regular tourists, the 15 high school college advisors and gap year consultants who visited Israel in October as part of Masa Israel Journey’s semi-annual study trip to Israel were “on a mission.”
The professionals, chosen from more than 70 applicants from Jewish, private and public high schools and independent consultancies from around the country, came to Israel to learn about different gap year options in Israel and to experience the culture and society in which these programs take place.
 
During the trip, the college advisors visited programs like Kivunim, Young Judaea Year Course, the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and Kibbutz Ulpan, where they had the opportunity to meet with current program participants.
 
“It’s clear that the students are not only having fun, but are regularly exposed to things on a very real level,” said Collegewise Consultant Arun Ponnusamy who, like many of the professionals, was impressed with the young adults he met. “On Kivunim, for example, they learn Arabic and discuss different political issues in the region. I would have loved to sit down with one of these students when I was on campus and learn about their experiences.”  
 
“One of the things I was struck by—despite the fact that we spent most of our time in Jerusalem—was how secular the country was,” adds Mr. Ponnusamy. “A gap year program in Israel isn’t exclusively for one of my clients who went to Camp Ramah since age four. A kid that knows he’s Jewish simply because he has a Jewish last name would relish being in that environment.”
 
For Sharon Horowitz, director of Judaica High School in Florida, which hopes to send its first batch of graduating seniors on gap year programs in Israel next year, the mission drove home the importance of taking a gap year in Israel
 
“From a student’s point of view, the experience of a gap year program in Israel can help them get into a college of their choice, makes them more mature once they enter college, often allows them to earn college credits, and enables them to be on their own within a structured environment with supervision,” Horowitz says. “From a professional standpoint, these students spend 10 months in Israel, living and breathing Israel, connected to the land and the people, and as Jewish educators, that’s everything we want.”
           
Another Masa Israel Journey-sponsored gap year mission for college advisors will leave in January.  Also in January, a Masa-sponsored mission for university career center professionals will visit a variety of volunteer and internship programs, such as Career Israel, OTZMA, WUJS, and Israel Service Corps, for post-college students. 
 
Masa maintains close ties with past mission participants, following up with their students about programs that interest them and keeping them up-to-date on programs’ changes.
 
For more information about Masa’s missions, please contact Masa North American Director Avi Rubel.
 
The October 2008 gap year mission included:
 
Deerfield, IL, Student Extended Experiences Counseling (SEEC), Marsha Ray
Denver, CO and Santa Fe, NM, Certified Educational Planner, Estelle Meskin
Detroit, MI, Frankel Jewish Academy, Evelyn and Louis Wolff
Los Angeles, CA, Collegewise, Arun Ponnusamy
Maitland, FL, Community Hebrew High, Erica Hruby
Miami, FL, Judaica High School, Sharon Horowitz
Montreal, QC, Hebrew Academy, Linda Lehrer
Natick, MA, Walnut Hill High School, Sarah Van Doel,
Prairie Village, KS, Shawnee Mission East High School, Lili and Larry Englebrick
Sausalito, CA, David Denman, Private Educational Consultant
Scottsdale, AZ, Saguaro High School, Robert Liebman
Web-Based, Planet Gap Year, Paul Mahone
 
The January 2008 gap year mission included:
 
Atlanta, GA, The Weber School, Sharon Karpel
Atlanta, GA, Woodward Academy, Missy Sanchez
Bellevue, WA, College Placement Consultants, Pauline Reiter
Bethesda, MD, The Walt Whitman School, Frances Landau
Brooklyn, NY, High School of the Telecommunication Arts and Technology, Christina Mednick
Coral Gables, FL, Aspire Educational Solution, Philip Ross
Cote-St-Luc, QC, Bialik High School, Janet Dwoskin and Leonie Richler
Glenn Cove, NY, Solomon Schechter School of Long Island, Madelynn Schwarz
Hartsdale, NY, Solomon Schechter of Westchester, Heath Einstein
Hightstown, NJ, Peddie School, Edward de Villafranca
Houston, TX, The Emery/Weiner School, Lynn Slaughter
Los Angeles, CA, Milken Community High School, Jennifer H. Lee
Montreal, QC, Royal Vale School, Cathy Schreiber
Newton, MA, Newton South High School, Barbara Brown
New York, NY, Trinity School, Elizabeth Pleshette
North Hollywood, CA, Harvard-Westlake School, Rose Ellen Racanelli
North Miami Beach, FL, Ben Lipson Hillel Community High School, Allan Wolf
Reseda, CA, Cleveland High School, Sharon Drell
Riverdale, NY, SAR High School, Marjorie Jacobs
Rockville, MD, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, Melissa Gartner
Phoenix, AZ, Jess Schwartz Jewish Community High School, Audrey Lewis
Pittsburgh, PA, Shadyside Academy, Virginia Maddux
Santa Fe, NM, Santa Fe Preparatory School and College Quest, Inc., Levia Nahary
Scarsdale, NY, Scarsdale High School, Lynda Mandlawitz
Seattle, WA, College Placement Services, Linda Jacobs
Shaker Heights, OH, Shaker Heights High School, Eileen Blattner
Toronto, ON, TanenbaumCHAT South Campus, Carol Morton
Van Nuys, CA, Los Angeles Unified School District, District 1, Linda Zimring
Vaughn ON, TanenbaumCHAT North Campus, Caryn Nutik
Waltham, MA, Gann Academy/New Jewish High School of Greater Boston, Anne Levy
West Bloomfield, MI, Frankel Jewish Academy, Patricia Bostwick and Lee Buckman
West Hills, CA, New Community Jewish High School, Marc Lindner

Masa Participants Attend Presidential Conference

Masa Participants Attend Presidential Conference

Masa Participants Attend Presidential Conference

May 13, 2008

50 Masa participants from the Building Future Leadership Seminar Series (BFL) were invited to share the stage in Jerusalem with Israeli President Shimon Peres during the opening ceremony of The Presidential Conference -- Facing Tomorrow.
The participants joined 50 other Masa participants, 13 current or former heads of state (including President George W. Bush and and former Prime Minister Tony Blair) and 3,500 distinguished guests for a three-day event initiated by Mr. Peres for the purpose of  "examining, confronting, and responding to three intertwining  futures: the  global  tomorrow,  the  Jewish  tomorrow, and the Israeli tomorrow."
 
Attendees chose from a wide variety of lectures, panels, and discussion sessions lead by prominent figures in the academic, political, religious, scientific, business, technological and Jewish world covering a diverse range of topics. "It was something I never thought I would experience," commented Deborah Laks from Costa Rica. "Getting to see such prominent people up close. It gave me the insight that anyone can achieve what they have if they have the ambition."
 
Peres has made clear that the development of such ambition was one of the desired outcomes of the conference as a whole. More than generating "talk," Peres writes, the conference strove to drive action by "encouraging practical initiatives intended to positively shape our future."

Masa Celebrates its Fourth Year, and Israel's 60th

Masa Celebrates its Fourth Year, and Israel's 60th

Masa Celebrates its Fourth Year, and Israel's 60th

April 29, 2008

Thousands of Masa participants, dignitaries and guests gathered in Latrun on Thursday night to celebrate Masa's 4th year and Israel's 60th anniversary.
Over 5,000 Masa Israel participants gathered in Latrun on the evening of May 22nd to celebrate their year in Israel and the contribution they have made while participating in a long-term Masa-affiliated program.  
 
Those in attendance were treated to a high-caliber show that included addresses by Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Ehud Olmert and the Chairman of the Jewish Agency Mr. Zeev Bielski, musical and visual performances by Israeli artists such as Teapacks and Tararam, and a laser light show and spectacular fireworks display finale.
 
"It was really cool that Masa went out of its way to put on something special for us," said Los Angeles native Jordan Kwok of OTZMA. "I was impressed by how big the event was and the whole energy it had about it. And it was great to see how many participants were there." 
 
0ver 25, 000 young Jews from around the world have participated in a Masa-affiliated program since Masa's conception in 2004. This year (2007-8) witnessed the largest participant numbers to date with over 8,000 participants coming to Israel from 50 countries.  
 
Deborah Laks of Costa Rica, who co-hosted Masa LIVE with fellow Building Future Leadership (BFL) participant Noah Serbin of the United States, confessed, "Living in Israel makes me feel I finally belong somewhere. Israel has given me so much. It has definitely become my home, and this has been all thanks to Masa."