Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Samantha Shevgert

<div class="masa-blog-title">Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Samantha Shevgert</div>

Samantha Shevgert knew she was Jewish but didn’t know what it meant to live a Jewish life. She decided to learn about her Jewish roots in a 10 ½ month Neve Yerushalayim Seminary in Jerusalem, Israel. During her time in Jerusalem, she learned about the importance of Judaism, Torah, and gained friendships for a lifetime. She also gained experience in her career while in Israel by volunteering every week in a Jewish nursing home using her Russian speaking skills to assist those in need.

After her Masa Israel Journey, Samantha returned to South Florida and has helped strengthen the Jewish community. Samantha’s knew found knowledge and connection with Judaism helped her start and become part of many Jewish organizations and communities. She is a founding member of the Moishe House Aventura, Chabad of Ft.Lauderdale, and Yehudi of South Beach. Her efforts in the Jewish community have surpassed the norm and have made her an outstanding leader in the Jewish community of South Florida.

Sam holds a BA in Public Health and Associates Degree in Occupational Therapy. Her experience in Israel has helped her with her career as an occupational therapist. She focuses in In-Patient Rehabilitation Hospitality as well as working with children with autism.

What was the most meaningful aspect of your Masa Israel experience?

Every moment of the Masa Israel experience was incredibly meaningful! These 10 months changed my life and shaped who I have become. Being able to spend an extended amount of time in Israel allowed me to not just learn about what it is to be Jewish and how to lead a Jewish life but also how to integrate it into who I am and live it. It truly shaped me; it was the catapult to my now Jewish involvement.

What inspired you to become a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow?

I applied to be a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow because being a part of the Masa experience myself it changed my life. I am so passionate about Israel and bringing awareness to people and learning about Judaism. I would love nothing more than to become a great leader in my community. I want to help send people to Israel to have as much of a meaningful experience as I did!

Each Masa Israel Alumni Fellow is required to create an Impact project to bring back to their local community, either to increase local alumni involvement or help recruit new participants for Masa Israel programs. What ideas do you have for your Impact project, should you be chosen as a Fellow?

I am a member of the Moishe House in Aventura, Florida. I would love to incorporate all of the Israel opportunities to that experience. Masa has a lot to offer to our house and we are able to use the house to spread the word on what Masa does!



Learn more about the Masa Alumni Fellows Program.



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Masa Israel alumnae giving back to the world. #InternationalWomensDay

<div class="masa-blog-title">Masa Israel alumnae giving back to the world. #InternationalWomensDay</div>

In honor of International Women’s Day, we decided to highlight our fellow Masa Israel alumnae and their amazing accomplishments. Here at Masa we know our participants have the potential to not only make a difference in their own lives, but in the lives of others. Giving back is the focus this month and it’s the perfect time to mention a few alumnae who have done just that.


1. Kayci Merritté, Yahel Social Change Program 2014-2015 Alumna



“After my Masa Israel experience, I returned to my hometown of St. Louis to serve as an AmeriCorps member assisting in refugee resettlement. Once-a-week I pick up new arrivals from all of the world – Congo, Iraq, Cuba, the list goes on – from the airport and bring them to their new homes. Throughout the rest of my week, I help these new residents of my city access the medical care that they need. I’m not sure I would have applied for this position if it were not for my experiences in Ramat Eliyahu.”

Learn more about the Yahel Social Change Program.


2. Jamie Gold, Masa Israel Teaching Fellows 2012-2013 Alumna


“As a result of her Masa Israel Teaching Fellows experience, Jamie chose to pursue a career in Jewish education. Upon returning to Los Angeles, Jamie moved into the Moishe House in West L.A. and enrolled in the DeLeT program at Hebrew Union College. “Masa Israel Teaching Fellows is the only reason I was picked for the HUC program,” Jamie says. She believes it gave her the necessary Israel and teaching experiences to be a top-notch Jewish educator.”

Learn more about the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Program.


3. Rachel Pope, MSIH 2011 alumna


“Rachel is completing a two year fellowship in Malawi. She is learning how to repair obstetric fistulas and working with the next generation of Malawian residents at the newly created Malawian OB/GYN residency program. Rachel is currently living in Lilongwe, Malawi and working for the government hospital, Kamuzu Central.”


Learn more about the The Medical School for International Health (MSIH).


4. Ashleigh Talberth, Pardes Insitute of Jewish Studies 2014-2015 Alumna


“A serial green-tech entrepreneur, Ashleigh has pioneered initiatives for a broad range of leading companies, startups, and institutions for over 12 years. She currently consults for emerging companies primarily in California and Israel, the world's leading green-tech and startup hot spots.” ("Israelcagreentech." Israelcagreentech. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.)

Learn more about the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. 


Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Josh Entis

<div class="masa-blog-title">Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Josh Entis</div>

Joshua Entis has a special place in his heart for the Jewish community around the world. After volunteering for Masa Israel Teaching Fellows in Netanya, Josh knew that his experience would remain a part of his life forever.


Becoming a Masa Alumni Fellow has encouraged Joshua to express his love and passion for Masa, the Jewish Community, and the State of Israel. Before his journey to Israel, Joshua's Jewish Identity was almost non-existent, and now, 2 years after returning, he feels more connected, educated, and part of a community more than ever before.


Currently Josh is living in Seattle, WA, he works as an account executive by day and a waiter by night. Joshua is always finding new ways to strengthen a strong set of values and beliefs to live by, while exploring his life path, where ever it leads.


What was the most meaningful aspect of your Masa Israel experience?


Having the opportunity to make a difference and add value to the lives of children in Netanya.


What inspired you to become a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow?


Being a Masa Alumni Fellow will allow my love and passion for the organization to shine. My experience with Masa changed the way I see the world. There are thousands of people who can help support Masa and even more who can benefit from the over 200+ Masa programs. Being a Masa Israel Fellow will help me spread that message. This opportunity will help me connect with the people who share the same values and beliefs; creating awesomeness!!


Each Masa Israel Alumni Fellow is required to create an Impact project to bring back to their local community, either to increase local alumni involvement or help recruit new participants for Masa Israel programs. What ideas do you have for your Impact project, should you be chosen as a Fellow?


One place to start would be the Hillel at the University of Washington. They host a  Shabbat Dinner every Friday night at their campus location. This is only for undergrads. This would be an unbelievable place to volunteer as a guest speaker. There can be an event planned (bowling, mini golf, something) that would take anyone who was interested to find out more about them and their interests, establish a relationship, and turn them into Masa participants. Jconnect would be another option too. They are post-college organizartion that caters to young professionals ages 22-31.


Learn more about the Masa Israel Alumni Fellows program.


Marisa Obuchowski

Valeria Esquinazi

Valeria Esquinazi

Spanish Speaking Desk Representative

Yael Pearlman

Yael Pearlman

English Speaking Desk Representative

Polina Yurkovetsky

Polina Yurkovetsky

Russian Speaking Desk Representative

eJewish Philanthropy: We Don’t Need a ‘Jewish Peace Corps’, We Already Have One

eJewish Philanthropy: We Don’t Need a ‘Jewish Peace Corps’, We Already Have One

March 3, 2016

By Tamar Zilbershatz, Director of Gap and Service Programs

We don’t need a ‘Jewish Peace Corps’, we already have one in Israel and around the world.

Instead of creating yet another organization or institution to compete for Jewish millennials’ attention, the Jewish world must leverage and promote the plethora of existing Peace Corps-like opportunities that are offered and subsidized around the world and particularly in Israel. It is extremely important to myself and my colleagues that you and your readers know about all of the service-learning opportunities available to them in Israel. And not just that, but that thousands of Jewish millennials are engaging with Israel not out of anger, but out of a genuine desire for personal growth and professional development.


Service to Israel is integral to helping participants of long-term Israel programs to truly experience Israel for all of its beauty and complexity. In exposing them to the challenges and issues facing Israeli society, service and volunteer projects foster participants’ personal connections to the land, the State and its people. They see Israel for themselves, ask difficult questions, form educated and nuanced opinions and learn to navigate uncertainty.


Every immersive Israel experience includes social action and community service components, as well as Jewish studies. Whether studying abroad in Be’er Sheva, learning at a yeshiva in Jerusalem or interning at a start-up in Tel Aviv, each participant of a 2-10 month Israel program has a meaningful and eye-opening service experience that informs his or Jewish identity and relationship with Israel.


More specifically, gap year and post-college service-learning programs encompass a significant segment of the vast programmatic offerings available in Israel. As I write this piece – and right now, as you read it – more than 1,500 Jewish millennials are living and learning the values of tikkun olam in Israel. They are working directly with disadvantaged Jews and impoverished Israeli Arabs, as well as African refugees and asylum seekers – in both central Israel and the periphery.


Youth movement and non-denominational gap year students are Diaspora Jews from around the world who come to Israel for a year of service and self-discovery after graduating high school. They live, volunteer and study in a few different cities throughout their year in Israel, including underprivileged communities like Bat Yam, Yerucham, Kfar Chasidim, and others.


College-educated individuals work in underserved elementary and middle schools across Israel, helping Israeli teachers to improve students’ English learning outcomes. They serve Bedouin communities in Rahat and Be’er Sheva and Israeli Arabs in Lod, as well as Ethiopian, former Soviet Union, and other immigrant communities throughout Israel.


Other service-learning programs like Solidarity of Nations – Achvat Amim, the Yahel Social Change program, Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Israel Corps – Project TEN are specifically built around the issues of human rights, social justice and environmental activism. Diaspora Jewish participants of these programs work with local nonprofit organizations in various cities and communities. They also engage in renewed dialogue surrounding Zionism in the 21st century with their Israeli peers.


For Jews at risk around the world, heavily subsidized Israel programs provide those interested in making Aliyah with a soft-landing. From developing a foundational knowledge of the Hebrew language, to networking and relationship-building, to getting a foot in the door in one’s industry of choice or field of study, long-term Israel experiences serve as a pre-Aliyah immersion for thousands of Jews from places like Ukraine. For those who do not make Aliyah, they return home with extensive leadership skills and experiences and a built-in global network of global Jewish leaders.


Post-program research shows that alumni of immersive Israel programs of all ages, who come from across the Jewish spectrum, emerge more connected to their people and more invested in their Jewish identity. They are three times more attached to Israel and twice as engaged and informed about Israel than their peers. Empowered by a transformative, independent experience, alumni volunteer with Israel advocacy groups almost three times more than people who do not participate in similar programs and are 100% more likely to take a leadership role inside or outside the Jewish community.


Although long-term Israel programs are not the same scale as the Peace Corps, or maybe Yossi Beilin’s vision, a wide array of existing programs offer Jewish young adults numerous to take part in inter-racial, inter-religious and international humanitarian work in Israel.


So before we jump to write off the existing landscape of Israel engagement, perhaps we should take a closer look at the impact currently taking shape.


Tamar Zilbershatz serves as Masa Israel Journey’s Director of Gap and Service Programs. You can learn more about Masa Israel Journey’s volunteer programs by visiting, and


Originally published on eJewish Philanthropy

Connecticut Jewish Ledger: Spotlight on Daniel Hammerman

Connecticut Jewish Ledger: Spotlight on Daniel Hammerman

March 3, 2016

By Cindy Mindell


When Daniel Hammerman of Stamford graduated from American University in May, he decided to translate his BA in international relations into just such an opportunity. He was accepted to the Yahel Social Change Program, a nine-month service-learning immersion experience of Masa Israel Journey in the Arab-Israeli community of Lod and the Ethiopian-Israeli community of Ramat Eliyahu, Rishon L’Zion.

Hammerman chose Lod.


“I wanted to get some experience either with an organization that works with Israel or doing work that’s improving Israel on the ground,” he says. “I studied the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict in college and working with Arabs on the ground and Jews on the ground and make positive change seemed like a great opportunity.””


Read the rest of Daniel's story here