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."

Masa Wins Campus Coalition Award

Masa Wins Campus Coalition Award

Masa Wins Campus Coalition Award

September 27, 2007

At the Fall Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) consultation, Masa was presented with the 2007 Outstanding Israel on Campus Achievement Award for its Campus Grants Program.
The Israel on Campus Coalition is a partnership of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, in cooperation with a network of national organizations committed to promoting Israel education and advocacy on campus.
 
The Masa/Hillel Campus Grants program provides up to 20 Hillels with $5,000 each to support programming that increases Masa program participation. Masa Hillel grants have been used to organize Israel cultural fairs, Masa program organizer fairs, and a variety of other activities.
 
This year, the Masa/Hillel Campus grant recipients are: U. Virginia, Rutgers, Northwestern, Maryland, Indiana, Emory, Binghamton, Arizona, UCLA, U. Illinois, Wisconsin, UMASS, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, George Washington, Queens College, Vanderbilt, Brown, American, and the University of Ottawa.

Year Course 2007-2008 Constitutes Largest Class in History of Young Judaea

Year Course 2007-2008 Constitutes Largest Class in History of Young Judaea

August 16, 2007

Three new tracks give participants more options for a meaningful Israel experience.
When the 382 U.S. and Canadian participants in the 2007-2008 Young Judaea Year Course program leave for Israel at the end of the month, they will constitute the largest class ever and one that is an impressive 25 percent bigger than last year’s.
 
Coming from 30 states, Puerto Rico, and three Canadian provinces, they will be joined by 99 participants from Britain’s Federation of Zionist Youth and 17 members of the Israel Scouts. With the total class size nearly 500, this is the fourth year in a row that the Year Course attendance has grown to record numbers.
 
"Over the years, we have seen that the backgrounds of Jewish teens who are attracted to Year Course have become more and more varied. In light of this fact, we are offering more tracks than ever to address the special interests of Jewish North American teens," explained Shelley Sherman, coordinator of Young Judaea, the Zionist youth movement of Hadassah. "We believe we have something for everyone interested in spending a structured year in Israel – and that that shows in our numbers."
 
This year for the first time, 75 members of the class will participate in one of two new Olami tracks, which will not only take students to Israel but to countries around the world. Year Course Olami: the Zionist Revolution, will introduce students to five areas – France, England, Budapest/Prague/Krakow, Morocco, and Ethiopia – from where Jews risked everything to leave their homes and start anew in Israel.
 
Discovering remote Jewish communities of the world is the goal of Year Course Olami: the Lost Jewish Communities, in which participants will visit communities in Portugal, South Africa, India and Uganda. During the course of their academic year in Israel, students will alternate their travels with Year Course’s core components of classroom study, touring Israel and volunteering.
  
Year Course provides up to one year’s worth of college credit through the American Jewish University-in-Israel, while building leadership skills and developing and strengthening their relationship with the country’s land and people. Participants spend a third of their time in Bat Yam/Holon, where they engage in an array of educational activities with local school children, from teaching English to coaching basketball.
 
Another third is spent in the new Beit Ar-El, Young Judaea’s educational center in Jerusalem, where participants take courses in Jewish history, religion, language and current events. The third segment is spent doing hands-on volunteer work with organizations like Magen David Adom, the Israeli rescue service, an ecological farm, and the Israel Defense Forces, to name but a few. 

Masa Sets Multi-Year Commitment from Israeli Prime Minister

Masa Sets Multi-Year Commitment from Israeli Prime Minister

March 22, 2007

Today the Israeli government announced that it is making a multi-year commitment to support the Masa project, so that it can continue to bring thousands of young Jews to Israel for a five to 10 months to participate in volunteer and study programs.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened the meeting in which he stressed the critical importance of the project and pledged to support and continue the program whose goal is to bring more than 20,000 participants a year to Israel on long-term programs.
 
Since its start two years ago, there has been a 100% increase in the number of long-term Israel programs offering a wider range of options for young Jews from the Diaspora.  As a result, the number of young Jews that come to participate in these programs has more than doubled to 8,000.
 
The Prime Minister’s statement is a vote of confidence in the project and its ideals. 
 
Among the plans discussed for Masa over the next two years were increasing the number of participants to 20,000 a year, an emphasis on programming in the areas of the Negev and the Galilee, a fusion of the Masa programs with every facet of Israeli society, and the formation of a bond between Israelis and Jewish communities all over the world.
 
Executive Director of Masa Elan Ezrachi highlighted the project's values to the Israeli society: each participant of Masa contributes a minimum of 20 hours of community service. In total, the participants give about 200,000 days of volunteering to Israel, in a variety of social and cultural environments.  Moreover, each participant returns to his or her home community stronger, more committed and better equipped to succeed.  
 
Masa was created and is funded by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency. The budget for this year’s project was $36 million; half of which was allocated by the government of Israel and the other half by the Jewish Agency and private donors. This year, approximately $22 Million is being spent on scholarships and grants for 5,000 participants. In 2007-2008, Masa expects to bring 9,500 participants, the highest number ever, with a budget of $48 million.

2,000 Masa Participants Take a Train Ride to Israel's North

2,000 Masa Participants Take a Train Ride to Israel's North

September 19, 2006

This year, 8,000 participants from all over the world will be spending a semester to a year in Israel in more than 150 Masa-affiliated programs -- the largest number of participants ever.
On October 26th, over 2,000 of these participants currently in Israel will celebrate Masa's third year by taking the train from Jerusalem to the port city of Akko (Acre) in northern Israel. 
 
The participants will travel by train, specially chartered by Masa for this celebration trip, accompanied by live entertainment – including, music, dance and performances - and experienced guides who will be on hand to explain the significant sites along the route.  Also on the train will be a display devoted to the recent war with Lebanon and its impact on Israel's northern communities.  Traveling with the participants will be soldiers who fought in the war who will answer questions and share their experiences wih the participants. 
 
Participants will also be receiving Masa welcome kits, including discount coupons, tour map and lexicon, dictionary and a Masa ID card entitling them to additional discounts and entry to special Masa event, all in a special Masa backpack. 
 
Upon arriving in Akko, they will join with other Masa participants making their way to the port city by bus.  Together, they will make their way on foot to Akko's Old City.  They will learn about its history, visit archeological landmarks, and 'lend a hand' by volunteering in a number of projects to help revitalize parts of the Old City that were damaged during the war in Lebanon.  The day's activities will conclude in the evening with a celebration on the walls of the Old City.