Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Migdal Oz

Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Yeshivat Lev HaTorah

Mary-Brett Koplen

Josh Laurence

Josh Laurence

Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
While working as a youth director at Temple Beth Sholom in Florida, Miami Beach-native Josh Laurence decided to spend a year studying at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. "After first traveling to Israel with Birthright, I definitely wanted to return," says Josh. "Then the opportunity presented itself in the form of Pardes's year program—my mentor, Rabbi Robert Davis encouraged me to do it, my friend Miriam Farber registered, and the financial support from Masa Israel made it possible." 
 
Living in Jerusalem, Josh spent his days taking courses in Talmud, Torah, Social Action, Rambam, and Jewish Law. "I'd never taken part in such intense text study and the experience was invaluable," says Josh. "I became a lot more knowledgeable and confident in my abilities to teach others." 
 
When one of his teachers, Rabbi Levi Cooper, invited Josh to his house for Shabbat, Josh was given the opportunity to chant Haftarah at one of the neighborhood synagogues. "It was something I'd done many times at my Reform synagogue back home but it was a completely different experience," says Josh. "While usually there are a handful of people who also know the trop, in the Israeli congregation, people understood exactly what I was saying." 
 
When not in class, Josh had the opportunity to volunteer with PeacePlayers International, and facilitated basketball games for Arab and Israeli youth. On weekends, Josh traveled throughout Israel with friends. During a trip to a few settlements, one of Josh's teachers, Rabbi David Levin-Kruss, at Pardes called to make sure the group was safe. "A professor in an American university would never make such a call," says Josh. "But the faculty at Pardes was like that—always welcoming us to their homes for Shabbat and looking out for us." 
 
As the Youth Activities Director at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest, Florida, Josh feels a lot more equipped for his work. "I can pull so much more meaning when unpacking Jewish texts and that makes me a much better teacher," says Josh. He continues to have weekly Skype study sessions with friends who have continued their studies at Pardes. 
 
Later that year, Josh returned to Israel to travel the country and visit friends. "I think it says a lot about my connection to Israel that I'm willing to drop $1200 on a ticket to return to the place where I just spent a year," says Josh. "After Pardes, I made a commitment to visit the country at least once or twice a year—whether for personal vacation or professional travel." Josh is currently applying to graduate school in education administration and hopes to continue working as an educator in the Reform movement. 
 
"But before continuing on that path, I may head back to Israel for another year or two to study or volunteer," says Josh. "There's nothing like being able to pick up the phone and tell an Israeli friend, I'm going to catch the 405 bus. Meet me on the beach in Tel Aviv.'"
Leor Kushner

Rebecca Karp

Rebecca Karp

Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
 
Following her graduation from the University of Pennsylvania, Rebecca Karp was not ready to plunge into the world of graphic design, her main academic focus. Instead, she chose to further pursue her extracurricular interests from the past four years, which centered around Penn’s Hillel, through study at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, a pluralistic co-ed yeshiva in Jerusalem. 
 
Though Rebecca attended Reform and Conservative synagogues throughout her youth and was active in USY, Rebecca still craved a formal Jewish education. At Pardes, Rebecca found the tools she needed to explore her Jewish identity which, while always strong, had never been fully articulated.
 
Surrounded by individuals from all Jewish affiliations, at Pardes Rebecca could study in an environment that actively encouraged constant questioning and reflection. The synthesis of textual study and discussion helped Rebecca shape not only her personal Jewish identity, but her outlook on life, as well. “The critical thinking and story-telling, the opportunity to learn why we do the things we do and where laws come from—it affected my everyday sensibilities,” Rebecca says of her learning experience at Pardes. “I don’t have separate ethical and Jewish values. I live my life according to Jewish values.” 
 
During her time in Jerusalem, Rebecca discovered at Pardes an open and engaged community that extended well beyond the classroom. Instead of serving as mere springboards for each other’s ideas and beliefs, students provided one another with support and mutual understanding. During Thanksgiving, a time of homesickness for many American students, Rebecca prepared a meal for 16 religiously diverse female students in her apartment’s kosher kitchen. “There were women in short skirts, long skirts, pants, and shorts,” Rebecca recalled. “And we had all come to Israel with a common goal: to learn.” 
 
Upon her return to the United States, Rebecca began looking for jobs in graphic design, but her heart yearned for something more. When she landed the job as assistant director of the American Jewish Committee’s Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey chapter, she was thrilled. The opportunity, which includes working with different ethnic groups in the United States to promote mutual cultural education, allows Rebecca to instill the values of understanding and openness, so central to her Pardes experience, in her own community back home.
 
Upon her return from Israel, Rebecca also sought to create a Jewish community similar to that which existed at Pardes. She began a Moishe House in Philadelphia, where she lived with several other Jewish post-college individuals who create Jewish-themed events for young adults in the area. Jews from all backgrounds and denominations attend the events, which have included Shabbat dinners and a documentary followed by a discussion about the Falash Mura Ethiopian population in Israel.
 
Looking back, Rebecca believes that her work in the Jewish community was inevitable. “But without Pardes, I couldn’t have gotten there,” she says. 

Louis Sachs

Louis Sachs

Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
I have spent the past nine months, living in Jerusalem and absorbed in the history of the Jewish people. Through Masa Israel Journey, I am a student at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, where I engage in intensive Jewish textual study each day. Sunday through Thursday, I take classes on Chumash, Talmud, Rambam, Modern Jewish Thought, and many other subjects. In these classes we look at the texts in their original language, often Hebrew or Aramaic. While this has been tremendously difficult for me, it has been exponentially rewarding as I have witnessed how much my abilities have progressed throughout this program. What has been even more incredible is realizing how important and relevant these ancient texts are to my modern life.
 
One of the things I have noticed in our tradition is the importance of tikkun olam, or “repairing the world.” The belief that we need to look out for those around us and not think only of ourselves comes up again and again in our people’s vast literature. “If I am only for myself, what am I?” Hillel famously said in Pirke Avot 1:14, Over 2,000 years ago Hillel, one of the greatest rabbis of our tradition, understood the importance of looking out for the needs of others and not only of our own.
 
In his renowned work, the Mishnah Torah, Rambam taught that eight levels of charity exist and that each is above the other. The lowest is giving grudgingly and the highest is helping someone become self sufficient. Rambam lived in Spain over 800 years ago, and not only understood the importance of helping others but saw that there were distinctions in how one helps another. For Rambam, the greatest form of tzedakah was not a temporary fix, but a permanent solution. He understood that tikkun olam went beyond helping those in need, but addressing the problems cause it, as well.
 
In Bereshit 6:9, we are introduced to Noah and the text states that he walked “with” God. Rashi, one of the greatest commentators in our tradition, notices the difference between this verse and Bereshit 17:1 about Abraham, which tells us that our forefather walked “before” God. Rashi explains that Noah required God’s support for his righteousness, while Abraham had this strength within himself. Many other commentators have also wondered why Noah walked with God and Abraham walked in front of God. While they give many interesting explanations I am particular to one we discussed in my class.
 
Noah himself was a good person; the text even describes him with the same word later used for Abraham, “tamim,” often translated as “pure,” “perfect,” or even as, “blameless.” There is however, one important difference between the two: Noah was himself tamim, while Abraham sought to lift up those around him as well.
 
Over and over throughout the story of Abraham, we see him go out of his way to help those around him. When a powerful group of kings comes from the East to wage war against the local kings near Canaan, Abraham gathers the men of the household to help the local kings. After he saves the day, he takes nothing for himself from the loot they collected in the war. Not only did he go out of his way, but he expected nothing as a reward for his actions. Also, when God plans to destroy the city of Sodom, Abraham argues with him until God agrees not to destroy the city for the sake of 10 righteous people living there.
 
As opposed to Noah, Abraham set himself apart by focusing on helping others in any way he could. He walked before God, because he carried God’s message into the world through acts of tikkun olam. Noah may have been a good guy himself, but when the flood came, he did his duties but didn’t go beyond them to help anyone else. This quality explains why Abraham, and not Noah, merited being the father of the Jewish people.
 
At Pardes, I’ve learned that it is our responsibility as Jews to be like Abraham and to go beyond what we are told to do. Whether it is with money, time, or even just treating our fellow human being with dignity, it is our duty to perform acts of tikkun olam, and repair the world, by helping others in any way we can.
 
Next year, Louis will begin rabbinical school at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.

All mitzvas great and small

<div class="masa-blog-title">All mitzvas great and small</div>

 
By Leor Kushner
 
The months I spent at Masa Israel’s Yeshivat Sha’arei Mevaseret Zion were the most unbelievable ones of my life.
 
Soon after our arrival last August, we entrenched ourselves in Jewish learning. But a few weeks later, the yeshiva announced that Sept. 14 would be devoted to hesed work: helping underprivileged people build sukkas.
 

Safety and security

Safety and security

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The safety and security of Masa Israel Journey program participants, staff and partners is our top priority.Masa Israel Journey maintains strict standards for safety and security on all program sponsored activities.
 
As a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, Masa Israel programs receive updated information regarding safety and security regularly and are able to respond to official recommendations.