Adi Barel

Adi Barel

Director of Career Development Programs

Yonatan Barkan

Yonatan Barkan

Director of Academic Programs

Masa Israel Alumni Gather for Leadership Training

Masa Israel Alumni Gather for Leadership Training

Masa Israel Alumni Gather for Leadership Training

August 15, 2013

This past weekend, 70 of the best and brightest "Masaniks" gathered for the first-ever national Masa Israel Alumni Retreat.
Current Masa Alumni Board members and recent returnees from Israel who participated in the Masa Israel Leadership Summit in March came together for the three-day shabbaton held at the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Maryland. The goal of the weekend was to promote the development of Masa Israel Alumni Associations and their boards in cities across North America, as well as to help the alumni cultivate their passion for Israel engagement and active participation in their local Jewish communities.
 
The retreat began with an opening address by Rabbi Scott Perlo of Washington, D.C.'s Sixth and I Synagogue. He set the tone for the weekend by prompting participants to ponder their place in the rich, millennia-spanning context of the Jewish story, and to think about how to get involved as they move forward in their own journey.
 
The retreat continued with enrichment sessions led by representatives from the World Zionist Organization, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Israel Action Network, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Shalom Hartman Institute, Hazon and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. These sessions provided participants with the opportunity to interact on a personal level, sharing the stories of their Israel exeriences while identifying practical channels through which to maintain their involvement in areas they found important during their time in Israel. 
"The social action discussions led by Hazon really got some ideas flowing. It's nice to connect to like-minded people," said Elise Yafet of Milwaukee, WI, who participated in Masa Israel Teaching Fellows in Netanya for the 2012-2013 school year. 
 
Over Saturday and Sunday, the alumni received practical leadership training from PresenTense, working in regional groups to develop a vision for their Alumni Board and improve upon community mapping and networking skills. 
 
"Having this outlet to re-engage and discuss renewed my interest and openness to further exploration of opportunities," said Jordan Winick, who participated in Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv - Jaffa in 2011-2012. "This weekend introduced me to ways to increase my participation and engagement when I go back to Toronto, including the possibility of starting an Alumni Board." 
 
This retreat was particularly inspiring for Masa Israel alumni from smaller, less-developed communities. "Coming from such a small Jewish community, the passion I had for Israel was fizzling out after returning. This retreat is recharging my batteries so I can go back and revitalize my community," remarked Jordan Goldschmidt of Kansas City, KS, who served as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Rehovot for 2012-2013 school year.  "The great thing about Masa is that it allows someone from 'Nowheresville,' USA, to have just as much involvement in the Jewish community as someone from New York City." 
 
With the establishment of peer-led Masa Alumni Associations to act as a springboard for recent returnees, we are confident that we will see Masa alumni deepen their involvement with a variety of Jewish organizations, and continue on their journeys toward a lifetime of leadership in the Jewish community that were inspired by their time in Israel. 
 
 

Prepa Netanya

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Program Description

This program is operated in French.

Meet & Greet the Miami Masa Alumni Comittee

Meet & Greet the Miami Masa Alumni Comittee

August 14, 2013 - 19:30  -  August 14, 2013 - 21:30

Aroma 150 Sunny Isles Boulevar North Miami Beach, FL  - 

Do you miss Israel, the friends you made in Israel, and the fun activities you took part in?. Miss them no more!
Hello Masa alumni and future Masa participants! We have created a Masa alumni committee to organize fun activities just for you. Wednesday the 14th of August we are having a Meet & Greet for you to get to know the awesome people in the Masa Alumni Committee and for you to tell us about your Israel experience and what you miss the most about it.
 
Gather your friends that did Masa or are interested in doing Masa and come out to Aroma on 163rd and we will treat you to a coffee. RSVP on Facebook.

Year studying in Israel fills in the 'gap'

Year studying in Israel fills in the 'gap'

Year studying in Israel fills in the 'gap'

August 1, 2013

Bu Sue Hoffman
 
For Rachel Kraus, a 2012 graduate of Solon High School and an alumna of The Agnon School in Beachwood, a gap year in Israel before starting college yielded substantial benefits.
“I definitely made the right choice,” said Kraus, who had deferred her start at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., to this fall. “One of the most important things I gained was independence. Being in Israel, you’re really on your own. I had to learn to do my own laundry. We shopped for food and took public transportation. I learned to cook and bake. I even had to go to the doctor by myself. “And I made so many friends -- friends who watch you grow as a person,” she said. “I now have places to stay all around the world.”
 
Kraus had traveled to Israel twice previously, the first time as an eighth-grader at Agnon, and again as a high school student through the Diller/Ambassadors of Unity student exchange program. “I fell in love with the people and the culture,” she said.
 
From September 2012 to June, Kraus lived in Israel through the Young Judaea Year Course, a gap-year program for recent high school graduates combining academic study, community living, volunteering and travel. “Our section was international,” said Kraus, who heard about the program from friends. The group included 30 Americans, 20 students from Great Britain and Scotland, three Israelis doing a service year, and a student each from Sweden and Belgium. Like the other Young Judaea sections, they lived in three locations during the nine months. Kraus’s section started in Jerusalem, where they resided in apartments on Young Judaea’s Beit Ar-El campus. Students concentrated on Hebrew and other studies and toured the city. Kraus’s second location was in Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv, where she volunteered in a kindergarten three mornings a week.
 
“I still took day trips once a week to different places in Israel and took a Zionism class as well.” For her final three months, she traveled to the place of her choice, Arad, in the south of Israel, where she volunteered at a day care four days a week.
Kraus, the daughter of Bonnie and Solon City Councilman Edward Kraus, who are members of Solon Chabad, said about her gap year, “I would totally recommend it to anyone. It is so worth it.”
 
Opportunities abound
Young Judaea Year Course is one of many gap year programs in Israel, according to I Connect and Masa Israel Journey regional coordinator Mirit Balkan at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. Masa (Hebrew for “journey”) is an umbrella organization with more than 200 different programs that involve study, travel and volunteer work in Israel.
 
“Today, we see more and more kids in Cleveland going on a gap year,” said Balkan, an Israeli living in Shaker Heights. “In the last year, we had an increase of 20 percent in total Masa numbers,” she said, from 64 in 2011 to 76 in 2012. The students include high school graduates pursuing a gap-year program, college students studying abroad and college graduates seeking further study and internships.
 
“The gap year is a win-win,” Balkan said. “Students are having fun and relaxing, and they are more motivated to go to college. They also earn 12 to 15 college credits. Parents are happy because the experience strengthens their Jewish identity.”
 
Masa programs offer several different courses of study, from science and music, to cooking, dancing and fashion design. Depending on their interests, students can attend classes at the University of Tel Aviv and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which were added to the list of the 100 best universities in the world in 2012, Balkan said. Other available institutions include the Technion in Haifa and the Weitzman Institute in Rehovot, “top leading institutions for science and research.”
 
I-Connect is a local effort of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland to provide “a continuum of meaningful Israel experiences” for young adults ages 18 to 30, Balkan said. Experiences start with Birthright and continue with Onward Israel summer internships and Masa programs.
 
Among Masa gap-year programs is Aardvark Israel, a program recently featured by The Jerusalem Post, which combines immersion into Israeli society with community service, internships, and educational programs, according to Helen Wolf, Israel programs director at The Jewish Education Center of Cleveland. JECC offers need-based scholarships for Masa programs. Wolf said the Jewish Federation of Cleveland realizes the importance of a gap year in Israel and helps with Masa funding.
 
Orthodox community
Of those students taking a gap year in Israel through Masa, 65 percent are graduates of Fuchs Mizrachi, a Modern Orthodox day school in Beachwood, Balkan said.
 
“Just about every student goes,” said Rabbi Avery Joel, who heads Mizrachi’s high school. “We view Fuchs Mizrachi as a five-year program with the fifth year in Israel. It’s the norm. Each year, we have a number of students stay a second year (in Israel). It’s a great opportunity for them to solidify their Jewish identity.”
 
“A year in Israel was amazing,” said 2012 Mizrachi graduate Leora Jaffe, who spent her gap year at Midreshet HaRova seminary in Jerusalem’s Old City. “By the end of the year, it surpassed all of my expectations. I learned so much inside and outside the classroom.”
 
In October, Jaffe, the daughter of Marlyn and Ari Jaffe of University Heights, said she will return to Israel to study at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, where she will major in political science and minor in Jewish history.
 
Scores of students from Orthodox day schools Hebrew Academy of Cleveland and Mosdos Ohr Hatorah in Cleveland Heights are spending the year in Israel annually. Hebrew Academy has been sending its graduates to Israel since the 1950s.
 
Study abroad
In addition to those going to Israel for their gap year, local students are traveling to the country for post-college study. Neil Weeks, the son of Deidre and Tim Weeks of South Euclid, is completing his master’s degree in conflict resolution and mediation at Tel Aviv University.
 
“I’ve wanted to come to Israel since I was a teenager but did not find the opportunity with just the business of life,” said Weeks, who has a bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University in international relations with a concentration in the Middle East. He said he had “a desire to connect with my people, to be part of the larger culture and community, and to walk the land of my forefathers.” He also wanted to see the holy sites and to gain a deeper understanding of Israel’s domestic and international struggles. Studying at Tel Aviv University allowed him to realize all of those goals, he said.
 
Highlights of his year ranged from experiencing an election season to participating in Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) in the country. “The spirit of community and the reality of feeling like I am at home is something that is not like any other place I have been in the world.”

Originally published in the Cleveland Jewish News. Photo credit: Rachel Kraus

Annie Lascoe

Annie Lascoe

West Coast Regional Director

JPost: Digging into Israel's melting pot

JPost: Digging into Israel's melting pot

JPost: Digging into Israel's melting pot

July 16, 2013

By Samantha Kubek
 
Aardvark Israel Study and Volunteer Program is positioning itself as "the melting pot" experience for students wishing to experience Israeli life.
As the range of programs on offer for youngsters wishing to get a feel for life in Israel continues to expand, the four-year-old Aardvark Israel Study and Volunteer Program is positioning itself as "the melting pot" experience for students.
 
Aardvark offers youth between the ages of 17 and 21 the opportunity to study, work, eat and sleep in Israel's two biggest cities, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, in the company of fellow Jews from different walks of life. The staff of the four-year-old organization tells The Jerusalem Post that this program further provides students with the chance to learn about their Jewish identity, to immerse themselves in Israeli culture, and to contribute to the land of Israel.
 
Something Different 
Aardvark gets its name from the African mammal that must burrow deep into the earth to survive. Aardvark's staff hopes the students learn to do the same: to search deep within themselves to learn more about the world around them.
 
Liron Milbar, Aardvark's marketing and sales coordinator, distinguishes this program from others by what she describes as the melting pot nature of the program: "On other programs it's often the same types of communities coming together. We pride ourselves on giving kids the opportunity to meet Jews from all over the world. No matter what nationality or race, we welcome them onto our program. We've had people from Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica, US, Canada, UK, Hungary, Holland, Germany, France, Belgium, China, Philippines, South Africa, etc." 
 
Keith Berman, Aardvark's co-founder and director, echoes Milbar's sentiments: "I grew up just being around Ashkenazi conservative and reform Jews, like most Americans do. And I came to Israel where you have all these people who are Jewish and have different customs and skin colors, and it opened up the whole meaning of what it really is to be Jewish. Here in Aardvark, having Jews from all over the world just adds a really nice aspect for us when we talk about identity and what it really means to be Jewish." 
 
In addition, Aardvark prides itself on offering exciting options for its participants. The program offers "add-ons", or enrichment programs that occur throughout the semester. "They're just a way for the students that want to do a little extra with a specific focus, to do that. We have the SeaQuest add-on, in which the students do water sports. There's also the Mind and Body Connection add-on where they volunteer with Magen David Adom, providing them with another way to give back to Israel," says Milbar.
 
Another add-on offers students a two-month long opportunity to immerse themselves in the Israeli army. Berman says "It's a simulated basic training in the army… And if any of the students do decide in the future to come back to Israel and want to actually serve in the army, the army will take two months off their service because of having completed the program." 
 
Berman's favorite add-on is the twice weekly, Tel Aviv-based entrepreneurship track. "It's quite well-known about all of the start-up companies and innovations that are coming out of Israel, particularly in Tel Aviv. Usually once a week the students will meet someone who started a company, and then the other day they will have some sort of workshop on how to be a better public speaker, how to write a budget, how to make a marketing plan, etc." 
 
Aardvark also offers different tracks to its participants. Aside from the basic, semester-long or gap year program, students can also take part in the international track, or the Selah track. The international track offers students the chance to travel abroad to eight different countries during their time abroad to learn about Jews and Jewish history outside of Israel. The Selah track allows the students to interact with educators with the goal of building a transformative relationship with the Torah. The program is targeted towards students seeking a deeper approach to the study of Judaism in Israel.
 
 

Tlalim Authentic Hebrew

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Program Description

Countries starts with people, the people begins with language. Languages can get into the history of nations, to slip through the border worlds, open the country.
 
Do you like the sound of Hebrew language? A language that for hundreds of years was not spoken in everyday life, and was reborn less than 100 years ago attracts you with its vitality. Do you want to discover these secrets? Would you like to become part of Israel, or start learning a second degree in Israel? All this will become possible on this program of intensive Hebrew Ulpan.
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