Record Number of Students in Israel on Masa Programs

Record Number of Students in Israel on Masa Programs

May 6, 2010

More than 3,000 participants in the Jewish Agency's Masa Israel Journey programs celebrated the end of their year in Israel at a mega event attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
This academic year a record 9,400 young adults ages 18-30 spent a semester or year studying, volunteering or interning on programs in Israel, with some two-thirds of the participants from North America. This represents a 15 percent increase over last year, and a similar significant increase is forecast for the 2010-2011 school year.
 
“It is hard for this generation to imagine a world without Israel,” Netanyahu said, speaking Tuesday (May 4) to thousands of Masa participants in Jerusalem. The Jewish people returned to their homeland and built a country, a stunning achievement, he continued, “but it is not enough. The main thing is our identity and spirit as a people which goes back 4,000 years.”
 
Masa was established as a joint project by the Jewish Agency and the Prime Minister’s office under Ariel Sharon in 2004 to enable thousands of Jewish young adults to spend a semester to a year in Israel on over 160 approved programs. Since its inception, Masa has made it possible for 45,000 people to live, work, study and volunteer in Israel, doubling the number of young adults on programs annually, from under 5,000 to nearly 10,000 a year today, with the goal of reaching 15,000 participants a year.
 

Address by PM Netanyahu to Masa Participants

Address by PM Netanyahu to Masa Participants

Address by PM Netanyahu to Masa Participants

May 5, 2010

Transcript of Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to a group of long-term Israel program participants.
"One of history's greatest empires, the biggest one, was the Soviet Union. At the height of its dominion, brave men and women – many of them Jewish – challenged this enormous power with the force of their conviction, faith and raw courage. And foremost among them was my friend and your patron, Natan Sharansky. Natan was put in jail, in a cellar, before being put on trial and sentenced to a long prison term. The judges asked him what he had to say on his behalf and he answered: “I have nothing to say to you, but to my wife Avital and to my people, I say – Next Year in Jerusalem!”
 
That’s a pretty important statement, and it expresses the basic idea.
 
You and your parents are all young. But your grandparents and great-grandparents remember a world without a State of Israel. It was a very different place and, for generations, Jews hoped for a change. They prayed and yearned for only one thing – “Next Year in Jerusalem!”
 
62 years ago, the most remarkable transformation in the history of any nation took place. A "dead" people resurrected itself and returned to Zion. They rebuilt their national life, their state and their army, and reassumed control of their collective destiny. This is the story of the Jewish people, and it's unlike the story of any other nation in history. Many other peoples have disappeared. In fact, most of the nations we know from antiquity no longer exist. Many were exiled or dispossessed, and many were killed. No people has ever come back from the dead. But this is our people and, through a remarkable transformation in our history, we have recreated the Jewish state – with its own government, territory, army and amazing economy. There's still more to do, but we're doing better than many of the places you’ve come from.
 
You may be too young to know this, but 20 years ago, people used to say that it’s impossible to do business in Israel. And we would reply that Israel can actually be an attractive place – a home for Jewish business, Jewish entrepreneurs and brainpower. We could even envision Jews making money in Israel. You’re not laughing, but this used to be a joke. It isn't anymore. Today, we have a country, a government, an army and a thriving economy, and we’re quickly becoming a global power in technology.
 
This is all crucial, but it’s not enough. The most important thing is our spirit, and the most critical part of spirit is identity. And there's a great revolution taking place right now within the Jewish world. It's a revolution of spirit and identity – and you’re all a part of it. I salute you for being here and expanding awareness – your personal awareness and that of young Jews everywhere. What a privilege it is to be a member of the Jewish people! What a privilege it is to come to the Jewish State! What a privilege it is to shape the future of the Jewish people! These are all great privileges.
 
How do we strengthen identity? By appreciating who we are. Studying our past to understand our present and chart our future. Suppose you didn’t know your family. Suppose you didn’t know the story of your parents – where they came from, what they did. If you grew up isolated from your personal history, you’d be a very different person, very confined and narrow. And you’d be missing a tremendously important part of your identity – who you are and what you can be.
 
We share a collective identity and a great history, not like that of any other nation. It goes back almost four thousand years. Imagine that you didn't know about it. Imagine that you had such a privilege, but weren't aware of it. What we’re doing right now, all of us together, is making people conscious of our rich past. And once you know the past, you can understand how the Jewish people has arrived here. We can shape our future. But you can only know where you’re going, if you know where you've come from.
 
We all came from here. And we all come back to here. And I want you to consider this fact: Your identity is not simply a function of your individual character. Your uniqueness, part of your unique identity, is also a function of your membership in the Jewish people.
 
And I also want you to consider how you feel. You’ve already been here for a while and had an opportunity to see the country and participate in various programs. But you've had another opportunity – whether you've come from the United States, Canada, France, Russia, Mexico or Australia
 
These are all great countries, but this is your country. This is your country! And when you walk here, I'm sure you don’t even wonder who else around you is Jewish. Right? It’s a perfectly natural question, but not one that you ask here – because this is your country. There are other countries that are also free and democratic, but this is your country! This is your Jerusalem! This is your home!
 
So I just have one request.– Explore your deeper self and ask yourself – I know that this is a tough question for someone who is only 18 or 22 – where you feel most at home. The time you've spent here has been valuable, but I think you'll find even greater value in deciding to stay here permanently. We invite you to join us in building the future of the Jewish people in our land. Welcome home to the Land of Israel, the State of Israel and Jerusalem."

Contributing to Israeli Society and Jewish Identity

Contributing to Israeli Society and Jewish Identity

Contributing to Israeli Society and Jewish Identity

May 4, 2010

Sharansky: Masa Israel Makes it Possible for Tens of Thousands of Young Jews to Strengthen Their Own Identity
The following is an update from the Jewish Agency for Israel
 
May 3, 2010 / 19 Iyar 5770
 
Masa has been good to Israel.
 
Founded by the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel in 2003, Masa Israel enables young Diaspora Jews to experience life in Israel for a semester or a year on any of over 160 programs to strengthen their Jewish identity and their connection to Israel.
 
2010 marked a banner year for the program – with a 15% increase in participation from 2009. A total of 9,400 young Jews from around the world will come to Israel through Masa Israel (from September 2009 through June 2010) as opposed to 8,200 participants from last year.
 
The increase can be broken down as follows: 64% increase in the number of young people who came to Israel from the Former Soviet Union, a 45% increase in the number of participants from France, and a 33% increase in the number of participants from South America. Also, there was a 10% increase in the number of participants from the United States. Further data revealed that the percentage of participants who came to Israel on Masa Israel programs immediately after graduating from colleges and universities abroad has increased from 7% since the beginning of the project to 28% today.
 
Since the project’s inception, Masa Israel has contributed $560 million to the Israeli economy and has significantly contributed to leading academic institutions, as well as to the local tourism industry. During this period, Masa Israel has brought 45,000 young Jews, between the ages of 18-30, from 60 different countries to Israel.

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.

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."