Joel Wanger cites his Jewish faith as a factor in becoming politically active.
By Daniel Schere
Joel Wanger (right) says working for progressive candidates such as Hillary Clinton is an important way to “live” his Judaism. (Provided)
It was the deep-seated Jewish values of social justice that spurred Crofton, Md., native Joel Wanger to become involved in politics. Wanger “fell in love” with the campaign lifestyle while in college at Northeastern University in Boston, he said, prompting him to apply for the Israel Government Fellows program that is run by Masa Israel.
“The thing that stuck with me the most about that experience was what it means to be an American Jew versus a Jew from anywhere else in the world,” he said.
Wanger’s fellowship involved work with the Israeli Presidential Conference, including assisting different speakers with position papers.
“The theme of the conference was ‘Tomorrow,’ and it was all about the tomorrow of the world, the tomorrow of the people and the tomorrow of Israel,” he said.
“I was really able to see some of the differences and the starkness between being an American Jew and a Russian Jew, a Spanish Jew and seeing what those opportunities are.”
Wanger said his passion for tikkun olam started well before this point. He became familiar with social justice work through attending Camp Harlem in Pennsylvania as a child through his teen years as well as his involvement with his synagogue youth group in Bowie, Md.
After finishing the fellowship program in 2012, Wanger spent the next few months figuring out what he wanted to do next. It was during an interview with progressive organization Democratic GAIN that he was asked if he would be interested in submitting his resume to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. He accepted and was placed in Las Vegas as a field organizer.
Wanger said that as soon as the 2012 election ended he began anticipating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s launch for a 2016 presidential bid, and when she made her campaign announcement last year, he wasted no time in getting involved.
“I actually arrived in Nevada on April 13, 2015, which was the day that she announced, and one of the opportunities that I wanted to pursue in getting out here that early was that Las Vegas really does have a large Jewish community,” he said. “As Jewish Americans, we share values with Clinton. Her fights are our fights, and it’s not just about donating money, it’s about our shared values and getting involved in the campaign in a more concrete way.”
Wanger, 27, said several other millennials have become involved with the Clinton campaign in Nevada, thanks to the use of Twitter as a recruitment tool. He said social media has been a much greater force in this campaign than it was while he was working for the Ohio Democratic Party in 2014. People his age who support Clinton do so because she has been a “fighter” for the middle class, he said, which is a quality that is personal to him.
“As a millennial, whether it’s women’s reproductive health or raising the minimum wage, these are all issues that I care about,” he said. “Not just as a citizen, but as somebody who was in college during the financial crisis and saw the job market go down. These are things that are important to me.”
Wanger drew a sharp distinction between the proposal of Clinton to make college debt free and that of the tuition-free concept put forth by Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “The new college compact that Hillary Clinton has proposed really focuses on the idea of making sure you can graduate college debt free,” he said. “Because while it would be amazing to have everyone go to college for free, I agree with Clinton when she says Donald Trump’s children probably don’t need to go to college for free.”
Wanger said he feels “confident” that Clinton will emerge victorious in the Nevada caucus on Feb. 20. Much of his work in the campaign has focused on organizing the group Jewish Americans for Hillary, which he launched in August. This involves identifying “captains” at the different synagogues in Las Vegas and organizing house parties as a means of engaging people from across all age groups. Wanger said he feels this is the role he sees for himself when it comes to giving back.
“I could live my Judaism not by making aliyah or by being kosher or being shomer Shabbos,” he said, “but by working in progressive politics for candidates like President Barack Obama, like Hillary Clinton, who are fighting to make the world a better place, who are fighting to repair the world.” JT
Originally published in the Baltimore Jewish Times.
The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle: Ten Months in Israel for Shorewood native">The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle: Ten Months in Israel for Shorewood native
By Rob Golub
Marissa Steinhofer, 23 is not best friends with Miley Cyrus.
Yes, the pop star who played “Hannah Montana” is from Franklin, Tennessee, which is in the United States, which is where Steinhofer is from. But, really, that doesn’t mean they hang out.
As Steinhofer was getting over this first hurdle of explanation while teaching children English in Israel, she came to realize her students were fascinated with America.
“I feel like a celebrity every day when I go to school,” said Steinhofer, who is mid-way through a ten-month teaching stint in Ashdod, Israel. “The kids are so excited to see me every day.”
Steinhofer grew up in Wauwatosa and then moved to Shorewood and attended high school there. She spent many summers at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, the Reform Jewish camp in Oconomowoc. She attended University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, double-majoring in Jewish studies and communication. She was president of Hillel Milwaukee before graduating in May of 2014.
All of that has led her to this moment: She’s in a classroom at Retamim School in Israel, looking at her watch. She’s waiting for a small group of her Israeli students, ranging from 3rd to 6th grade, to stop talking. They see her eyeing her watch. They trail off and stop.
When that happens, she has everyone sit in silence for exactly as long as she timed them talking. “See, this wasn’t very fun,” she says, “so let’s not do this again.”
Though she’s got to control the class, she loves her job and the kids are great, she said.
“They want to learn English,” she said. “They want to put in the effort. They’re excited.”
Her role is to teach typical Israeli students as part of the Masa Israel’s Teaching Fellows program. The program is a 10-month teaching and volunteer fellowship in which college graduates teach English to Israeli children. More information is available at IsraelTeachingFellows.org.
Steinhofer is using weekends to travel around Israel, to see Israeli and American friends from camp and elsewhere.
Steinhofer is well aware of the litany of attacks in Israel. “A lot of what’s happening right now in Israel is in Jerusalem, Ashdod’s pretty far from that,” she said. “You go about your life. I guess you could kind of compare it to shootings in America in a way. Yeah, something might happen but you can’t just stop living. But I’m definitely more aware. I pay attention more. I look around more.”
Steinhofer can see herself working in the Jewish community after she’s done with her 10 months.
“I don’t want to make aliyah,” she said. “I love Milwaukee but I’m planning on applying to jobs all over the country. Milwaukee will always be my home.”
From Steinhofer’s blog: EatPrayLoveIsrael
- On her first Israeli wedding: “First thing that I learned was that gifts aren’t a thing here. Everyone brings money to the wedding and writes on the envelopes that were provided for us.
- You know you’re in Israel when: “Winter means 60 degrees and big puffy winter jackets, hats, gloves, and scarves have all come out.
- On a ceremony in October: “As the kids started singing this beautiful song to remember Rabin, it started to rain lightly. It was a beautiful moment like Yitzhak Rabin was listening and started crying because these kids were singing so beautifully.
Originally Published in The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.
Hillel International: Welcoming the 2016 Masa-Hillel Fellows">Hillel International: Welcoming the 2016 Masa-Hillel Fellows
We are so excited to welcome our third cohort of Masa-Hillel Fellows. The fellowship is a six-month professional development seminar designed to prepare current Masa Israel participants for Hillel work.
Through Hillel’s partnership with Masa, Hillel provides a Fellowship experience for current Masa participants who were at the Masa Israel Leadership Summit in November. The goal of the Masa-Hillel Fellowship is to build a talent pipeline and populate Hillel’s professional cohort with talented individuals and budding leaders who are actively exploring Israel and reinforcing their Jewish and Israel connections. Learn more about the Fellowship and the 2014 and 2015 cohort’s on our blog.
Supposedly John Travolta
Moshe turning his staff into a snake
Famous Rabbi 1
Famous Rabbi 2
Women Carrying Fruit
Working the land
So when you are in Jerusalem on Shabbat, take a stroll through the Machane Yehuda Market and see all different pieces of art. If you’re visiting it in the winter, make sure to bundle up!
Blog post and photos by Garrett Davis who is currently a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Beer Sheva and Masa Influencer. Follow Garrett's Journey on his blog: https://g13israel.wordpress.com/
The Eco-Israel Experience: A Hungarian Perspective">The Eco-Israel Experience: A Hungarian Perspective
My name is David, I’m 18 years old and from Budapest, Hungary. I take part in a program called Eco-Israel, which is a five-month program on a sustainable community farm near the city of Modi’in. We are a group of eight “Ecos”, living and volunteering together with the local young Israelis.
So you’re going to Israel for a 4-10 month Masa Israel program. You probably want to share your experiences with people or maybe your overbearing Jewish mother is nudging you. Either way, blogging is one of our favorite ways to shine a light on our impressive participants, like you!
Living on the Land: Vegan Tu B’Shvat Recipes from Eco-Israel ">Living on the Land: Vegan Tu B’Shvat Recipes from Eco-Israel
Tu B’Shvat is the Jewish new year of the trees. In Israel people get together and celebrate by eating delicious foods made with the 7 species of the season.
Masa Israel's Eco-Israel prgram embraces this holiday every day of the year by living on and off-of the land. Participants learn permaculture and agriculture while living sustainably on an organic farm.
Wow! We can hardly believe 2015 is already coming to a close and we’re sure you’re all reminiscing on the year that has passed. Both in terms of achievements and experiences, here at Masa Israel we have had a pretty incredible 2015. Let’s look back on this year and recap our 10 best Masa Israel Moments!
1.Our 2015 AIPAC Policy Conference Delegation
Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Alex Willick">Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Alex Willick
A native of Westport, Connecticut, Alex Willick holds a B.A. in Music and Philosophy from Colgate University and an M.A. in Jewish Experiential Education with concentrations in Israel education and Jewish communal leadership.