Tamar Zilbershatz

Tamar Zilbershatz

Director, Gap & Service Programs

The Sweet Spot: Alumni Career Development Meets Digital Engagement

The Sweet Spot: Alumni Career Development Meets Digital Engagement

May 5, 2014

Last month, Russ Finkelstein wrote about keeping alumni engaged and involved by offering career services.
Before we can tap into alumni communities for fundraising and volunteer requests, he argued, we have to provide them something of value, something that they want.
At Masa Israel we wholeheartedly agree, and have been experimenting in the professional development space for the past year. This year, we piloted individualized professional guidance for a select group of current participants through our “Masa Works” program, in partnership with the Jewish Family Services of Columbus. We also developed a long-term fellowship program to build pipelines for Israel program alumni to enter careers at Hillel, and are looking to replicate the model.
At the same time, we know our tens of thousands of alumni are dispersed around the world, and can rarely take advantage of in-person, in-depth career development opportunities. Just like Lisa Colton wrote back in January about building an online alumni ecosystem, we have recognized the need to create a more robust virtual network where we can move beyond the “likes” and start more conversations.
Several weeks ago, we made our first attempt to meaningfully connect those two strategies. On April 2nd, Masa Israel Journey hosted an online career expo for current participants and alumni of immersive experiences in Israel. The idea stemmed from our continuing efforts to enable Israel program participants and alumni to leverage their cross-cultural, immersive experiences in Israel for success in their desired field – both professionally and as leaders in their home communities. By running a virtual event, we hoped to reach a wider audience of participants and alumni than we’d previously been able to.
This sort of event has grown in popularity for university alumni associations, but as far as we know, ours was the first event of its kind in the Jewish community. We were fortunate to connect with a robust platform, Brazen Careerist, which has facilitated numerous events like these for university alumni networks and professional associations.
“Organizations of all types are turning to virtual events to connect their audiences with employers or with each other on a global scale,” Ryan Healy, Brazen Careerist’s co-founder & COO, told me recently. “Five or 10 years ago, virtual events were considered hokey or weird, but today it’s a totally different story. The combination of people being connected 24/7 and technology maturing to a point that has made virtual events both easy to use and affordable has led to a huge increase in job seekers and employers, alike. It’s a very exciting time for anyone who wants to engage a global audience.”
Our experiment paid off – over 200 Masa Israel program alumni and participants logged on over the course of the three-hour fair and were able to chat one-on-one with any of 24 different employers. Even better, the individuals who attended represented a broad cross-section of professional sectors, types of Israel programs, and length of time since their Israel experience (from mere months to over 20 years ago). Not only were we able to provide a valuable service to our alumni community, we managed to “reawaken” many individuals who had not engaged with us in recent years by providing a service they valued.
It certainly helped that the companies and organizations who agreed to participate were top-notch: Hillel International, Repair the World, Jewish Federations of North America, BBYO, AIPAC, RAVSAK, J Street, Nefesh B’Nefesh, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, Union for Reform Judaism, Teach for America, JDC Entwine, Tevel B’Tzedek, Acquis Consulting Group, EY (formerly Ernst & Young), Wells Fargo Securities and several others committed to spending those three hours chatting with members of our community who were looking for ways to channel their Israel experience into their profession.
Based on an analysis of traffic in the employer booths, Jewish communal organizations, particularly Israel-focused ones, were more sought-after. This makes sense, given that over 47% of our alumni consistently express the desire to pursue work in the Jewish community, and our fair was framed in the context of translating the Israel experience to a meaningful career.
“It’s important to stay involved with Masa, and Israel things as a whole, now that I’m home,” shared Barrett Deitz of Austin, Texas, who recently returned from his Masa Israel program and participated in the Career Expo. “At first, I didn’t want to work in the Jewish community. After coming home from my Masa Israel program, I absolutely do. I won’t feel fulfilled until my employer cares about the same things I do, i.e. Israel and the Jewish community.”
The event also served a dual purpose of helping Jewish organizations identify younger talent whom they might not notice through the traditional recruitment process, a point discussed last year by Masa Israel’s immediate past North American director.
After we first conceptualized the fair, we underwent an intense process of not only recruiting major Jewish organizations to participate as employers, but mobilizing them around the idea of experimenting in new forums. Hillel, the Schusterman Philanthropic Network, and BBYO were key partners in injecting momentum into the employer recruitment process. Those initial discussions have blossomed into an ongoing dialogue about our shared goals for providing innovative and valuable professional development opportunities to our respective networks.
Diane Klein, Senior Director of Human Resources at BBYO, told me, “The job fair was terrific! We interacted with many talented and energetic individuals and have numerous possible candidates who we will schedule follow-up meetings with. The technology was great and very easy to use. This is certainly a forum we can build upon.”
This reaction was echoed by many employers with whom I have followed up so far, and speaks to the imperative to use this pilot event in the service of the wider Jewish community. Similar opportunities in the future can be modeled for even larger groups of young adults like Hillel students, BBYO and other youth group alumni, and Birthright returnees, in addition to our own growing alumni network. I envision the Jewish community offering not only job fairs, but Israel program fairs, online networking events, global volunteer fairs, and even community engagement fairs.
Simultaneously, we plan on doubling down on digital, interactive events for the Masa Israel community as a way to engage a larger portion of our alumni – especially those that can’t or prefer not to engage with our local, in-person programming. Our next experiment in May will be a networking event on the same platform as the career fair, during which participants and alumni will be able to connect with each other according to interests and geography in order to build a stronger community and chat with other alumni who can help them navigate their career, or advise on leadership trajectory in the Jewish world or elsewhere.
The energetic conversations about alumni engagement these past few months inspired us to try something new for the Masa Israel community, but the real spark came at the nexus of multiple ideas – for us it was professional development and online community-building. For others, the golden combination will likely look different, and involve very different tools.
As Jewish organizations grapple with the challenge of adapting to new paradigms relating to technology and community-building, I hope we will all continue sharing both our successes and challenges as we internally experiment with new ideas for our constituents. We may just find that some of the most innovative ideas are not actually new, but are rather smart combinations of program elements that have already proven successful in their own right.

Breaking Records: World’s Largest Shabbat

<div class="masa-blog-title">Breaking Records: World’s Largest Shabbat</div>

A group of young professionals in Tel Aviv are taking Shabbat to the next level. White City Shabbat, in conjunction with the Am Yisrael Foundation, is planning the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner to attempt gain recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records. The dinner will be held in Spring 2014 at the Tel Aviv Port and will be 100% Kosher and uphold the highest levels of shomer Shabbos.

The Sweet Spot: Alumni Career Development Meets Digital Engagement

<div class="masa-blog-title">The Sweet Spot: Alumni Career Development Meets Digital Engagement</div>

Earlier this month, Russ Finkelstein wrote about keeping alumni engaged and involved by offering career services. Before we can tap into alumni communities for fundraising and volunteer requests, he argues, we have to provide them something of value, something that they want.
At Masa Israel we wholeheartedly agree, and have been experimenting in the professional development space for the past year.

7 reasons to join Masa Israel’s Online Career Fair on Wednesday

Masa-Hillel Fellowship: Building the Jewish Community’s Leaders

<div class="masa-blog-title">Masa-Hillel Fellowship: Building the Jewish Community’s Leaders</div>

by Lisa Motenko
This past summer I left Berkeley Hillel, where I was on staff for four amazing years, to head to Israel.  I didn’t grow up in Jewish day school, or have extensive experience in Israel – so my time had come to spend a year immersing myself in Jewish text and living in the land of milk and honey. My goal for studying with the Pardes Experiential Educators Program was to take experiential education programs to a higher level by infusing them with real Jewish content and meaning.

Masa Israel Goes to Tribefest

<div class="masa-blog-title">Masa Israel Goes to Tribefest</div>

Bummed you missed this year's TribeFest in NOLA? Check out this play-by-play from our awesome alumni who live-tweeted throughout the conference!

Masa Israel Cohosts AIPAC Policy Conference Welcome Party

Masa Israel Cohosts AIPAC Policy Conference Welcome Party

Masa Israel Cohosts AIPAC Policy Conference Welcome Party

March 3, 2014

Washington, DC – Over 400 Israel supporters, including Masa Israel alumni, attended the official welcome party for the 2014 AIPAC Policy conference.

The DC Masa Alumni Board tabled at the event, sharing their experiences of living in Israel as an intern, student or volunteer. Masa also held a raffle to win a gift basket filled with Israeli products. The alumni board members in attendance circulated through the pro-Israel crowd throughout the night, providing information and answering questions. The event was a tremendous success as a fundraiser, raising money for HaLev Israel, a new organization that provides scholarships to bring pro-Israel activists from all over the world to their first AIPAC Policy Conference.

For more information on Masa Israel's presence at the 2014 AIPAC Policy Conference or on the DC Masa alumni community, contact Jenn Rheuban.


Lahav Bais Yaakov Extended

Program Description

Introducing the Masa-Makom Fellows

Introducing the Masa-Makom Fellows

February 24, 2014

Israel in Real Life: The Masa-Makom Fellowship brings together emerging Jewish educators to learn about Israel engagement strategies and Jewish Peoplehood. 

The Masa-Makom Fellows will develop a sophisticated understanding of Israel and the Jewish collective, building their skillset as an Israel Engagement leader who is ready to implement innovative programming in their home communities. The Fellows were selected from highly-qualified Masa Israel participants spending ten months in Israel interning and volunteering with underserved communities.


Brent Abelson is a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Be'er Sheva from Torrance, California. Throughout his childhood he was very active in the Los Angeles Area Jewish community, reestablishing Galilee AZA of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization. Brent majored in History at UC Davis while actively participating in the College Democrats society and the University rugby team. After graduation, Brent came to Israel for the first time on Taglit-Birthright Israel and had one of the most important spiritual experiences of his life. After serving as a staffer on President Obama’s reelection team, Brent received the opportunity to return to Israel as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow, working to close the achievement gap in Israel’s periphery.


Samuel Chabrow is originally from Maplewood, NJ, and has varied interests from Jewish history and literature, to cycling, politics, and cooking. An accomplished musician, he has a Bachelor's of Music in Composition from New England Conservatory, graduating with honors. His compositions include a setting of Holocaust survivor Sonia Schreiber Weitz's poem “Icicles” as well as a passage from Psalm 104. His senior year, Samuel wrote a paper exploring the Jewish-American identity of Leonard Bernstein as expressed through his writings and music. Since graduating he has sought a career as a Jewish professional with the hope of strengthening the community that his given him so much. He is currently spending a year teaching English at Dvir, an elementary school in Ashdod, Israel, as a participant of the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program.


Amanda Gold was born and raised in Long Island, New York, is currently serving as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Rehovot. She spends her days learning about the different cultures in Israel and their unique cuisines. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree next year in Nonprofit Management and Leadership at Hebrew University. 



Nicole Hertzberg is currently a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Petach Tikva where she assistant teaches English at a low-income elementary school.  Born and raised in West Bloomfield, Michigan, Nicole is a proud graduate of the University of Michigan where she studied Psychology and Criminal Justice. At UM, Nicole was very involved in Greek Life and Model United Nations and served on the executive boards of both organizations.  Outside of college, Nicole was involved in politics through working on campaigns and interning for her Congressman one summer on Capitol Hill. Nicole plans to attend law school in the fall.  In her spare time, Nicole likes to travel and go swimming at the beach. 


Emily Hirschman of Oakland, CA graduated from California State University, Chico with degrees in Journalism/Public Relations and Sustainability Management in 2010.  Upon graduating she accepted a junior associate position with a large corporate public relations firm working in the food, wine and agriculture space.  After several months working in for-profit PR, she transitioned to the non-profit world, working for environmental nonprofits, designing programs, recruiting volunteers, and publicity. As a result Emily cultivated a drive and entrepreneurial spirit, and is excited to be a Masa-Makom Fellow.  



Aliyah Jacobson of New York City, NY is a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Netanya, Israel. She holds a bachelor degree in childhood education and a minor in English from La Guardia Community College and previously student taught at two different high schools in New York City.  Before coming to Israel, Aliyah acted as treasurer of the “Brooklyn Community Chorus” in Parks Slope, Brooklyn for a year, serving the Jewish community by donating half of the profits from concerts to the synagogue. She is grateful for the opportunities provided by Masa Israel to hear speakers from around the world on the many issues that Israel faces and to see what difference she can make when she returns to New York City.


Lauren Kandel has spent the past twenty summers as a camper, a counselor, and a group leader at various camps and could not imagine a summer without it.  Her passion for camp led her to pursue a master’s degree in Early Childhood and Childhood education at Queens College in Flushing, NY.  She is currently a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Netanya, where she teaches 3rd and 6th grade students, and is excited every day to meet people and engage in activities that help her learn more about state of Israel.



Seth Markin graduated from Muhlenberg College in 2013, majoring in the Philosophy of Political Thought with a minor in Business Administration and a program in law. As a Resident Advisor at Muhlenberg, Seth built and fostered an expanding community in every building he managed. By the end of his tenure at Muhlenberg he had rose to Head Resident Advisor, in charge of six buildings, five staff members, and hundreds of students. Seth also worked at the Admissions office, taught guitar to children living in Allentown, and was the head council member of the Muhlenberg judicial council. In addition to his in-college career, Seth worked at Congressman Fitzpatrick’s office in Pennsylvania after graduating: researching, speech-writing, and dealing in constituent casework. Now, Seth lives in Jerusalem, participating in the Israel Government Fellows program. He works with both the legal and economic departments of the Israel Antitrust Authority.


Dascher Pasco is a participant of Masa Israel Teaching Fellows in Netanya. She attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she double majored in Religious Studies and English. Outside of school, Dascher spent her time volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America as well as working with programs that addressed diversity within the William and Mary community. Her passion for the work that directly affected her surroundings ultimately led her to the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program. Dascher is eager to continue developing her relationships with communities in both Israel and America, and welcomes any opportunity to do so. After the conclusion of Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, she plans to apply to law school.


Mandy Usprech graduated from York University in Toronto, Canada with a bilingual degree in Political Science and Journalism. During her studies, she worked as a research fellow in human rights cases. Seconds after finishing her finals, Mandy worked for Ontario's Parliament in education policy. She hit the ground sprinting in her role as an education policy officer, meeting with visiting foreign delegations to discuss Ontario's unique framework on education. This opportunity allowed Mandy to work in South Korea for six months on Canada-South Korea partnership in English literacy as a second language. After reading about the demand for English teachers in Israel, and the major socioeconomic barrier for Israelis in the periphery to learn English, she uprooted from South Korea to Rehovot, Israel. Mandy currently teaches at Sinai, a religious elementary school. She adores incorporating her passions in her lessons such as dance, art and photography. When not teaching, Mandy can be found hiking the Israel Trail or practicing her ballet technique.


Aaron White of Palm Springs, CA is currently a graduate student at Tel Aviv University, where he is studying for his M.A. in Environmental Studies. He currently interns at Assif Strategies and conducts research at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS). In his spare time, Aaron can be found playing guitar on a park bench, riding his bike around Tel Aviv, or most likely, reading a book by the Yarkon River.