Repairing the world at Jaffa

<div class="masa-blog-title">Repairing the world at Jaffa</div>

 
 
My name is Natanya Meyer and I am repairing the world. Today is Wednesday and I am walking to my "Moadonit" activity center, balancing a sack full of art supplies between my arms and my bright blue guitar on my back.
 

See Galilee

See Galilee

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

See Galilee

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

Home and Goodbyes…

<div class="masa-blog-title">Home and Goodbyes…</div>

By Samantha Sisisky, Yahel Social Change Program
 
I’m entering my last week in Gedera, and I’m not sure how to feel about it.  This weekend, we had our final group Shabbat weekend.  We ate a beautiful, delicious, watermelon-themed Shabbat dinner together, spent time at the beach and even received “awards” (does anyone else think I have a flair for the overdramatic?).
 

Annie Lascoe

Annie Lascoe

West Coast Regional Director

Times of Israel: Dizzy for the dance

Times of Israel: Dizzy for the dance

Times of Israel: Dizzy for the dance

July 22, 2013

Students of the Vertigo dance workshop perform for an audience of family and friends at the troupe’s eco-art village.
By Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel
 
The lights were down in the house and the room was hushed as the audience waited in silence for the performance to begin. And then, a small fat dog trotted across the floor pillows being used as front-row seats, until it was quickly scooped up by a boy sitting, cross-legged, nearby.
 
It’s the kind of scene that always seems to take place at Vertigo, a modern dance troupe made up of the husband-and-wife team of Adi Sha’al and Noa Wertheim, plus two of Wertheim’s three sisters, and their families. They all live at the troupe’s Eco-Art Village, which is situated within Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Heh. Call it a post-modern take on the kibbutz, a collective coexistence of dancers and their families living ecologically and communally and finding a way to meld their art, belief systems and families into one generally cohesive whole. And now, they have brought a host of students into their midst.
 
They were all gathered Wednesday night, kids and all, for Batzir 15 — Harvest 15 — an evening to mark the culmination of the students’ recent work. There are Israeli students who either are completing a two-year program with Vertigo or are midway through it, and six American students who spent the last five months at Vertigo as part of a Jewish Agency Masa internship program.
 
All the students have been dancing together at the Eco-Art Village studio as well as at the company’s headquarters in Jerusalem’s Gerard Behar Theater. It’s been a tremendous learning experience.
 
“The best part about this is you don’t even know who’s who anymore,” Sha’al said, pointing at the mix of Israeli and American students onstage. “They’re all learning how to be artists and thinking about how to do this in real life.”
 
For the Israeli students, the Vertigo workshop generally comes after their army stints and before university education, while the Americans had just completed their university degrees or were in the middle of their studies
 
“The Israelis have had such a different life experience… they were doing the army and then they came back to dance,” said Suzannah Dessau, 20, a junior at Boston University, who has been dancing most of her life. “At Vertigo, they taught me to calm down and relax, to accept that things are as they should be and that it will all come.”
 
For Dessau, a New Jersey native who had only visited Israel once before, the opportunity to live and work in Israel has altered her trajectory. While she hasn’t yet completed college, she decided to accept admission to another two-year dance program, this one with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. She’ll be staying in Israel, living at Kibbutz Ga’aton in the western Galilee, where the dance troupe is based.
 
That’s a fairly common outcome for these Masa students, at least three of whom will be remaining in Israel for the time being. Some of the others are auditioning for other dance troupes in the US and Europe, on the notion that now is the time to try and dance professionally.
 
“What I see is them aspiring to stay,” said Sigal Roth, Vertigo’s coordinator for the program, while handing out mini ice cream bars during intermission. “They want to make it work, here in the troupe and then with auditions and finding work. They’re all really motivated.”
 
Vertigo’s Masa program is still quite new, as the spring semester saw the arrival the troupe’s second group of students from abroad, and it’ll be receiving 14 dancers in October.
 
“The Israelis bring seriousness to the program,” said Sha’al. “They know they want to be in the dance world. And then the Americans try to figure out how to stick around; they arrive as kids and leave here as adults.”
 
 

Tlalim Authentic Hebrew

http://www.masaisrael.org/sites/default/files/14824819_IVRIT_0.jpg

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.
 

Tlalim Culinary Art

http://www.masaisrael.org/sites/default/files/KULINARIA.jpg

Program Description

Culinary art - one of the most ancient in the world. The ability to create a beautiful meal can be equated to art, with organized international championships, exhibitions and competitions in the field of culinary and confectionery business. In order to achieve mastery, however, training and continuous improvement is necessary.
 
Masa "Culinary Arts" in Eilat will help you discover your talents, get professional skills and experience a taste of success. You will experience global cuisines in Israel and at the same time have the chance to discover the country.

Building Bridges in Israel with a Lacrosse Stick

Building Bridges in Israel with a Lacrosse Stick

Building Bridges in Israel with a Lacrosse Stick

June 19, 2013

For centuries, members of Native American tribes played lacrosse as a means of forging common bonds. So it makes sense that a group of young American Jewish volunteers in Israel used the sport to reach out to Arab-Israeli teenagers, who last week played their first full game.
By Joshua Berkman
 
For centuries, members of Native American tribes played lacrosse with one another as a means of forging common bonds. So it makes sense that a group of young American Jewish volunteers in Israel used the sport this past year to reach out to 24 Arab-Israeli teenagers, who last week played their first full game.
 
The lacrosse match, held in the port city of Jaffa, was the culmination of the Lacrosse Arab-Jewish Cooperation Project.  The Project was created by Ian Cohen, a recent graduate of Monmouth University who is volunteering in Israel with Tikkun Olam, a Jewish service learning program  supported by The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government’s Masa Israel Journey partnership.
 
Masa enables more than 10,000 young Jews each year to spend up to 10 months volunteering, interning and taking academic courses in Israel as they learn about Jewish history, build friendships with Jews from around the world and experience Israeli culture on a daily basis. The idea for the lacrosse project came to Cohen after he joined Tel Aviv’s lacrosse team last September and sought to combine his passion for the sport with his volunteer focus on Jewish-Arab coexistence.
 
“The program is intended to dispel bigotry through real contact between Arabs and Jews,” Cohen said.
 
Through the Peres Center for Peace, Cohen connected with the Ajyal School in Jaffa, which expressed interest in working with him. He then recruited fellow Masa volunteers and members of Israel’s national lacrosse association (Israel Lacrosse) to help teach the sport to the Arab high-schoolers during weekly clinics.
 
“The Jewish volunteers developed a fantastic relationship with the kids,” Cohen shared. “Primarily, we are teachers and role models. The sport is secondary.”
 
The Arab teens are not the only ones who have benefited from Cohen’s passion for lacrosse. Last fall, as the rocket attacks from Gaza intensified, Cohen helped organized a lacrosse clinic in Netanya to provide kids from southern border towns a few days of fun and respite from the daily barrage of rocket fire.
 
“We set up in an open field near where some local kids were playing on a playground,” Cohen recalled. “Within minutes, some students came over and snatched up the sticks, trying to figure out how to use this foreign device. I showed some of them some basics but they were really just interested in throwing the ball and shooting on the net.
 
“While this was happening, students in the classroom got wind of what was going on outside, and began pressing their faces up to the windows and even hanging out the windows trying to get the kids with the sticks to throw the balls into the classroom.”
 
Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in North America.  As long as young volunteers like Cohen bring their enthusiasm for the sport with them to Israel, it might soon be the “next big thing” in Israel—for Jews and Arabs.