Digging Into the Connection between Food and Land

Digging Into the Connection between Food and Land

Digging Into the Connection between Food and Land

December 28, 2010

After four years of grassroots education and community work following her graduation from Brown University, Talya Oberfield decided to head to Israel.
“Israel was one of the places I wanted to spend time after college so even while working, it was in the back of my mind,” she says.
She enrolled in Eco-Israel, a five-month ecological program located on a farm in Modiin. “Having grown up in a home with a garden and compost pile, as well as working with an urban gardener and farmer through my job in Boston, I wanted to explore my own connection to food and the land,” says Talya. “I was also interested in learning about these issues in Israel.”
During those five months, Talya lived in a geodesic dome, took courses in permaculture, herbal medicine, mud building, and food growing, as well as Israeli history, and took part in communal living with Israeli, North American, and Australian peers. “It was great to live outside alongside a group of 10 other people and cook together and celebrate holidays together,” says Talya. “I also appreciated experiencing the Israeli calendar cycle and actually seeing that Sukkot was harvest time and that the almond trees blossomed on Tu B’Shevat.”
On group trips, Talya visited other agricultural communities around Israel and attended the country’s first Food for Thought conference. “I realized that we weren’t just doing isolated work on a farm,” says Talya. “We were connected to a much larger movement.”
Also during her time in Israel, Talya started dating a long time friend—now fiancé—who was studying at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Machon Schechter, another Masa Israel-accredited program.
Talya decided to stay in Israel after Eco-Israel ended to help the farm develop its community supported agriculture (CSA) initiative and work with other organizations that she learned about through Eco-Israel.
“Initially, I thought that my experiences would play a role in shaping my career and perhaps it will, but ultimately the impact was more holistic,” says Talya. “I’ve learned how to incorporate the things I gained into my daily life.”
Now in New York, Talya is working at iMentor, a creative mentoring organization based in New York City high schools and youth organizations throughout the country. She continues to remain environmentally engaged, growing tomatoes and other plants on the fire escape of her Manhattan apartment and taking part in the Hazon bike ride, with the help of Masa Israel funding. In addition to biking 130 miles in two days alongside her fiancé and sister, Talya learned how to make pickles and reunited with other Eco-Israel alumni.
“My time in Israel definitely strengthened and complicated my relationship with the country. I was able to get to know my surroundings and develop a connection to the environment,” says Talya. “I was also able to spend a lot of time with my Israeli friends and family, and I’m looking forward to seeing many of them soon at my wedding.”

Taking the Time to Experience Israel

Taking the Time to Experience Israel

December 27, 2010

After his Birthright trip to Israel during college, Brookville, Maryland-native, Josh Lichtenstein knew he needed to return to Israel for a longer period of time.
“Everything was so rushed and amazing,” says Josh. “I didn’t have time to take it all in and I knew I’d be back.” Upon graduating from George Washington University, Josh joined WUJS Intern in Tel Aviv.
In Tel Aviv, Josh interned at YNet News, where he wrote book reviews and blogged about his experience as an American Jew in Israel. “Unlike internships in the United States, Israeli companies give you a ton of responsibility,” says Josh. “At YNet, I wasn’t just doing busywork; I was actually writing articles that got published.”
Aside from wanting the long-term experience abroad he missed in college, Josh says, “I wanted to explore my identity.” Having attended a Reconstructionist synagogue and been active in the campus Hillel during college, Josh was surrounded by a Jewish community for much of his life but his friendships with international Jewish young adults proved to be the highlight of his experience. “I befriended participants from Sweden and Russia and I was amazed to learn that though we were all different, we had a real bond due to our shared religion,” says Josh.
Josh also established similar connections to Israelis who lived in his building. “On Fridays, before getting ready for Shabbat, all the guys in the neighborhood played soccer—guys who had been in the army and served at dangerous checkpoints,” says Josh. “Yet, there we all were, playing soccer and having a good time and I realized that, at the end of the day, we were all pretty similar.”
Aside from being able to get to know the people of Israel, Josh was able to experience the entire country through trips throughout Israel. “The whole country was beautiful—hiking in the north, sleeping outside, camping in the desert,” says Josh. “And just waking up every day only 30 minutes from Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world.”
Back in Washington, DC, Josh believes that Israel will continue to be an important part of his life. “As it’s the Jewish homeland, I’ll always feel a spiritual connection to Israel. I’ll always feel an obligation to keep an eye on it,” he says. “And I definitely want to go back.”

I found my heart in Israel: A Jerusalem Conection

<div class="masa-blog-title">I found my heart in Israel: A Jerusalem Conection </div>

Andrew Apt and Becca Pohl
What Masa Israel program were you both participating in when you met?
I was in my second year of Graduate School at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Rebecca was in her first year in Cantorial School at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, which last year had their first years attend the 

I found my heart in Israel: Pardes + Career Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">I found my heart in Israel: Pardes + Career Israel</div>

Jordyn Feiger and Tom Bomberg, Career Israel and Pardes
What Masa Israel program did you meet on?
I was a first semester Pardes student; he was a second semester Pardes student. But I kept hanging out with the old crew even though I had transferred to Career Israel for the second part of the year.

I found my heart in Israel: Healey Heissler

<div class="masa-blog-title">I found my heart in Israel: Healey Heissler </div>

What Masa Israel program did you meet on?
I was completing my masters at IDC Herzliya and just starting Career Israel when we met.

I found my heart in Israel: A Career Israel love story

<div class="masa-blog-title">I found my heart in Israel: A Career Israel love story </div>

California-native Jessica Hertz remembers listening to the Career Israel participants’ introductions. “There was someone from Boston, someone from Los Angeles, and then there was this guy, Henrik from Denmark,” says Jessica.

First impressions of Tel Aviv restaurants: King George Street

<div class="masa-blog-title">First impressions of Tel Aviv restaurants: King George Street</div>

By Lauren Goldstein, Career Israel, Washington DC
I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel a month ago from the suburbs of Washington, DC to work with TasteTLV.com. I decided to work with the organization after reading the founders bios on the website. We seemed to be kindred spirits in our love of food and finding new and unique places to eat. After hearing about the success of the Taste TLV events I became even more excited to work for them.

WUJS Israel Tel Aviv: A Gateway to Experiencing Israel

WUJS Israel Tel Aviv: A Gateway to Experiencing Israel

WUJS Israel Tel Aviv: A Gateway to Experiencing Israel

April 11, 2011

Jacob Shillman is the first to admit that he was a “typical American Jewish kid.”
After all, it was easy to be Jewish in his hometown of Roslyn, NY – where synagogues are as ubiquitous as Woody Allen at a New York Knicks’ game.
It wasn’t until Shillman attended the State University of New York at Buffalo that he was exposed to Christian America.  “I was driving around on my first day with my roommate and I said to him, ‘Wow! There are a lot of churches here!’ and he looked at me like I was crazy. But it was the first time I was exposed to the world outside of my little shell.”
After graduating in May 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, Shillman knew one thing: He wasn’t ready to jump into work just yet.
He first wanted to experience Israel.
“Everyone was always talking about Israel, about how much they love it, and it’s constantly in the newspaper, and yet I had never been here,” said the 22-year-old Shillman. “I wanted to come before I have a career and family. I needed this place to be tangible to me.”
He started searching online for the perfect program  – something that would be for a significant amount of time and that would give him hands-on life and working experience. He found it in the WUJS Israel Hadassah program.
“WUJS Intern Tel Aviv was the best fit because it combined a work internship in Tel Aviv with tiyulim (day trips). It’s really a nice balance between working and being on your own and exploring the country,” said Shillman.
The WUJS program is under the umbrella of Masa Israel, a joint project of the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel to bring young people on long-term programs to Israel.
Masa Israel enables thousands of Jewish youth to spend a semester or a year in Israel close to 200 different programs, helping them build a life-long relationship with Israel and a firm commitment to Jewish life.
Since arriving here in September, Shillman completed an intensive ulpan (Hebrew language instruction), participates in weekly trips across the country with the rest of the WUJS Israel Hadassah interns, and is an intern at Oppenheimer Financial Services Co., where he is getting on the job training and experience.
The WUJS program’s mission has always been to strengthen the connection between the participants and Israel, according to Mike Mitchell, Program Director of WUJS Israel Hadassah.
The internship programs were established in 2008, beginning in Tel Aviv and expanding into Jerusalem a year later.  For five months, participants study Hebrew, explore the country, and are exposed to experiential lessons in Israeli culture and history. Each participant on the Jerusalem Arts Track is paired with a mentor while those on the Jerusalem Learning Track explore their routes through Jewish text and discovery.
What is unique about the WUJS program is its “boutique, personal feel,” said Ricky Yihye, Program Coordinator for the WUJS internship program in Tel Aviv, which is reflected in the way they will tailor the internship to the interests of the participants. Shillman, for example, had interned at Merrill Lynch in the United States and so requested to continue in the financial arena.
The 26 current Tel Aviv WUJS interns hail mostly from the United States but also include participants from India, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Germany and Russia. They are working in a fascinating cross section of internships, including everything from interning in the make-up and costume department at Israel’s Cameri Theatre and writing for the Haaretz newspaper to nursing at Ichilov hospital.
“There are 150 opportunities for different internships and it is always changing,” said Ricky Yihye who will seek out new internships in response to participants’ requests.
For his part, Shillman is thrilled with his WUJS experience – and for its potential to boost his marketability to future employers.
“I wanted to do something different and add something different to my resume and in the process develop a whole new network. In the end, I strive for a good recommendation to take back with me to America,” he said.
And when he does return to the States in February, he will remember his time in Israel fondly.
“My main goal in coming here was to establish a real connection to Israel. I wanted to know what it is like to live here and to develop relationships with this place and the people,” he said. “And I am doing that. I really love Israel and understand now why everyone is so passionate about it.”
Participation in semester or year programs in Israel is directly linked to stronger Jewish affiliation and leadership – regardless of the Jewish background growing up, a study commissioned by Masa Israel Journey finds.
The study found that the longer the time program participants spent in Israel and the more repeated the experiences, the greater the level of Jewish identification.
“We are convinced – and the data from this reports affirm – that a continuum of Israel experiences for young adults correlates directly to them feeling, thinking and doing more things Jewish and Israel with each step they take along the Israel experience spiral,” said Dr. Misha Galperin, president and CEO of Jewish Agency International Development.

Drawing the URJ Connection

<div class="masa-blog-title">Drawing the URJ Connection</div>

Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI) is one of many URJ camps and communities in the United States and was one of the most important parts of my childhood. I started at GUCI when I was 9 years old, eager and ready to experience the joys of camp that I had heard so much about from my older brother and many friends from my Jewish community in Dayton, Ohio.

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