Jewish News: Aiding, showing solidarity with French Jews

Jewish News: Aiding, showing solidarity with French Jews

Jewish News: Aiding, showing solidarity with French Jews

July 6, 2016

By W. David Weiner

 

While we were visiting the schools, we met with small groups of graduating high school seniors and nearly 75 percent of them have plans to immigrate to Israel and/or attend JAFI programs, such as Masa, that will let them learn more about Israel. Funds raised in the Phoenix Jewish community support programs like Masa and allow young adults to have an in-depth experience in Israel and escape the anti-Semitism in France. The French Jewish community is strongly Zionistic, and most of their youth have spent numerous summers in Israel. One evening, we attended a touching and emotional send-off of new French olim, who were greeted by the Israeli Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver. It was beautiful to see Israeli flags flying from the La Victoire synagogue (Grande Synagogue de la Victoire), which has been at the center of Parisian life for over 135 years. 

Tablet: Go East, Young Non-Jews!

Tablet: Go East, Young Non-Jews!

July 20, 2016

By Rebecca Heilweil

 

In 2012, Edelstein introduced the Global Village Conference in Israel, which was attended by Diaspora Matters’ Aikins and included commentary from representatives from the Jewish Agency for Israel (which helps fund Taglit-Birthright) and Masa Israel, which assists students living in Israel for longer stretches of time. That same year, Edelstein took his first trip to Ireland, briefing journalists and academics on Israel’s diaspora engagement, as well as other issues.

Inside The Security And Diplomacy Program At Tel Aviv University

<div class="masa-blog-title">Inside The Security And Diplomacy Program At Tel Aviv University</div>

By Axel Angeles

Interested in becoming an expert in security policy and diplomatic protocol for the Middle East? Then, this is the right program for you! As an alumni of this program, I can tell you it was an eye opening and challenging experience. This one year master’s program gives you all the essential knowledge and first hand interactions with everything. 

 

Let’s start with the essentials:

 


The campus: Tel Aviv University is located in Ramat Aviv, a nice neighborhood with a reputation of having beautiful luxury condos and a relaxed beach vibe. The campus is like an American university with a few libraries and buildings dedicated for specific study areas. It's close to the main city of Tel Aviv and only 10 minutes by public bus. Many students lived in the dorms and others rent apartments in the city. I lived in the dorms because it was convenient and I could just walk across the street and go to class. I also trained for a half-marathon which allowed me to go to the beach every morning and study before class.


Professors: This was one of the main reasons I applied for this program. We had professors with a ton of professional experience whether they were former diplomats, advisors, and even IDF army generals. They gave us the real deal when it came to the realities of security in the region. We had one professor called Azar Gat, a former army Major who has published several books on military theory and strategy. As well as another professor who served as a Colonel in the Research Division of Military Intelligence for the IDF. I was learning from people who actually lived and participated in wars, negotiations and came up with strategies that paved the future for Israel. The knowledge of these professors can not be found anywhere else in the world.

 


Security: This program really focused on Israel’s security strategy. From how Israel handles their security threats to what methods and technology are used to protect the country. We learned about the future of war, weapons of mass destruction, Israeli technology, and how to measure threats and respond to various scenarios. In addition, our program went beyond Israel and ours included discussing national security policies of surrounding countries. The program includes tours around Israel exclusively visiting security points and areas of strategic interest.


Diplomacy: Every week we would have seminars led by active diplomats from foreign nations. They would give us an inside look at their countries ties with Israel and how they mutually work together. These diplomats would give us tips and insight on how to negotiate and deal with certain situations whether it be political, economic, or security related. Another great thing about Tel Aviv University is that many Prime Ministers come to visit and give speeches on campus. A perk of being in the security and diplomacy program is that you get tickets to these special seminars before they are offered to other university students. While I was there, Angela Merkel, Germany’s prime minister came to speak. If you are lucky enough, you may even meet these public figures in the hallway. 

 

 


Classroom: Before I signed up, all I kept thinking was how my class was going to be only Americans. I was proven wrong. This program consists of people from all over the world. Nigeria, Russia, Germany, Mexico, Venezuela, Denmark, Italy, India, etc… the list goes on. What makes this special is that things can get a little spicy. What I mean is that everyone brings a different perspective to the table. There will be heated discussions and a lot of reflection during and after every single class. Of course everyone is friends at the end, but it is an interesting dynamic and you can learn a lot more from your peers than just what's in your textbooks. 


Lessons: There is never a dull moment in the Middle East. This complex region will keep you on your feet and make you wonder if there will ever be a break from all the action. During my time, the Arab world was changing with the Arab Spring. I was able to witness everything from the beginning. The protests in Cairo, the rebellions in Syria and the region become complete chaos. I will never forget being in class and simultaneously watching the riots. It got to the point where the professor told us that what we just learned the week before is history and that the future is only going to get more complicated. This made me realize that getting a master’s degree in Israel could not compare to getting one in the states. I was living and seeing my degree in real time.


Tours: One day a week, the security and diplomacy program traveled all over Israel visiting  security areas. Our guide was an army general who knew everything and anything about the security of Israel. Believe it or not, these trips showed us the reality of Israel and how such a small country survives as they surrounded by their enemies.

 

 

Travel: Since I am a natural born risk-taker, I decided to see the region for myself. I traveled to Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey. Israel is also super close to Europe so a weekend trip to Spain or Greece is a must.  

 


Simulations: At the end of the program you have a crisis simulation. This is an exercise that brings all that you learned over the past year. You get assigned a country and a role (President, Foreign Minister, etc.) that you play throughout the simulation. This is an interesting exercise because it shows what happens in real life when countries get together in a UN style discussion. My simualtion discussed "Iran's nuclear crisis" in which at the moment was a relevant topic. We discussed sanctions, economic pros and cons, and the overall legalities of a nation obtaining nuclear power. Although it was frustrating because every country has its economic and political interests, there are diplomatic solutions.


All in all, getting a master’s degree in Israel was the best decision I have ever made. Most importantly, I didn’t come out with a student loan debt that would haunt me for ages. I came out stronger and more aware of the world around me. I made lifelong friendships, lived like a local in Tel Aviv, got an amazing tan and body, learned Hebrew, traveled, and got a Master’s degree that makes my resume stand out in ways you could not even believe. Imagine walking into an interview with a masters in security and diplomacy from the leading country in the field, Israel. 

 

To learn more about the MA in Security and Diplomacy at Tel Aviv University, click here

 

Detroit Jewish News: Poland's Jewish Community

Detroit Jewish News: Poland's Jewish Community

July 7, 2016

This spring, Detroit-area native Lauren Levinson took a break from teaching in Netanya to travel to Poland with the Masa-GLI Wilf Family Holocaust Education Program. She wrote about her experience in the Detroit Jewish News:

Florida Jewish Journal: Masa Israel was a life-changing trip for participant

Florida Jewish Journal: Masa Israel was a life-changing trip for participant

Florida Jewish Journal: Masa Israel was a life-changing trip for participant

July 18, 2016

By Sergio Carmona

 

Kenneth Hice of Palmetto Bay had a life-changing experience in Israel that shaped his connection to his Judaism more than two years ago.

Hice was a participant of Masa Israel Teaching Fellows (MITF), a program that brings American Jews to Israel to gain valuable teaching experience as they help to close Israel's achievement gap by teaching English to Israeli students. It is a 10-month service-learning fellowship for high-achieving Jewish college graduates ages 21 to 30 and allows these young professionals to gain international teaching and social work experience in Israel.

 

Before participating at MITF a couple of years ago, Hice had very little connection to Judaism and his Jewish identity. However, by the end of his 10-month trip in Israel, he had a much stronger sense of his place in the Jewish world,and even learned Hebrew while there.

 

"It definitely was life-changing," Hice said about the trip. "To be honest, I had never been to a bar mitzvah or a bat mitzvah. I had never really been to temple or been able to celebrate beyond basic holidays with family and friends. I had never worn a kippah here in the states. However on this trip, I was able to go to the Western Wall multiple times, I was able to converse with rabbis and I was able to really immerse myself in the culture and understand what it exactly meant to be Jewish and do it."

 

Since this experience, Hice said he has become more culturally Jewish.

 

"I've been to a few Shabbat dinners since my experience in Israel where before this experience I might have been to a total of two in my life," he said. "I've had positive connections with people who I met overseas and I now have more understanding of when Jewish holidays start where before I most likely wouldn't have done much to celebrate and understand what they mean. Now I know the background of the holidays and what it means to celebrate them."

 

Tamar Zilbershatz, director of Gap & Service Programs for Masa Israel Journey, said about Hice's participation in the program: "Kenneth's work outside of the classroom engaged students in a fun way to help them learn English better. His dedication and effort were greatly valued by Israeli teachers."

 

MITF is a joint initiative of the Israeli Ministry of Education, Masa Israel Journey and The Jewish Agency for Israel. Masa Israel Journey is a project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel and is made possible through the contributions of the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod-UIA.

 

Originally published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel. 

The Jerusalem Post: A modern Orthodox born-and-bred New Yorker getting the job done in the IDF

The Jerusalem Post: A modern Orthodox born-and-bred New Yorker getting the job done in the IDF

The Jerusalem Post: A modern Orthodox born-and-bred New Yorker getting the job done in the IDF

July 14, 2016

By Marion Fischel

 

But it was while she was on her Masa Israel “gap year” program at Midreshet Ein Hanatziv (on Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv, near Beit She’an), which encourages its graduates to contribute to the state and to the advancement of Jewish society, that she made up her mind.

The Jewish World: Journey to find the light after darkness

The Jewish World: Journey to find the light after darkness

The Jewish World: Journey to find the light after darkness

July 13, 2016

By Dawn Kassirer

 

Dawn Kassier of Clifton Park recently attended the Masa Israel Journey’s five-month Career Israel internship program in Tel Aviv. She shared with The Jewish World some of her reflections on Masa, and her spiritual journey.

 

Since my mom passed away from cancer my senior year of high school 13 years ago, I have been on a spiritual journey with many obstacles. I am searching for knowledge, wisdom, healing and strength. I have a feeling that a magical energy has brought me back to Israel through a Masa Israel Journey internship program.

 

I am turning 30 this month, and find myself trying to accept that my life may not be what my friends’ lives look like or what society may expect.

 

In 2013, I was gifted with the opportunity to travel to Israel on a 10-day Birthright trip, giving me the chance to experience the country and learn more about the history of our ancestors. It opened my eyes to a land and culture where I felt welcomed.

 

Judaism— A Choice


There are parts of my identity and spirituality that I feel that I neglected for most of my youth.

 

I was fortunate to get close to my grandfather, Abraham, before he passed away two years ago. He and my grandma, Rose, my dad’s parents, were survivors of the Holocaust. I now know there is so much history and culture that I have yet to understand and discover about their journey, fight for liberation, and their resilience.

 

Growing up, I was never forced to practice Judaism and only attended synagogue on holidays with my family a couple times a year. For me, Judaism was a choice. I find myself on this quest to find out more because I want to learn the story, and share how one can overcome the most dark moments to live a full life with compassion and purpose.

 

In January, I decided to return to Israel for some self-discovery and reflection. I now feel I have a greater understanding of myself, my Jewish identity, and my family’s history. I have extended relatives in Israel and developed a better relationship with them, which is important to me. I don’t think I could have fully prepared emotionally or spiritually for what was about to unfold.

 

I learned about adaptive leadership at the Masa Global Leadership Summer in March. The best leaders can work with a team and also step back to figure out how to navigate/solve the tasks at hand. Knowing when to be a leader and how to lead, but also to listen to the environment around you are skills that I picked up at the summit. I will connect with some local Jewish communities and see if I can build some relationships to continue my education of the Jewish culture. My experience with Masa encourages me to live a more traditional Jewish life rather than the more secular one I’ve been living for my whole life.

 

Roller Coaster Of Emotions


Through Masa Israel Journey’s Career Israel program, for the past five months, I have lived, worked, and immersed myself in Israel. I interned in the marketing and communications department of Puzzle Israel, an amazing start-up that brings all aspects of Israel together—culinary experiences, cycling adventures, yoga retreats and history—to give travelers a real customized Israel journey. Puzzle Israel allowed me to combine my passions for fitness, travel, and marketing with a desire to connect the larger world to the amazing country of Israel with all its diversity and history.

 

Being accepted to attend a Holocaust educational trip to Poland as part of the Masa Israel’s leadership program created a roller coaster of emotions for me, but also allowed me to process my own family’s story. We experienced the death and the life in Poland; pre-Shoah, during the war, and life after the darkness. We traveled to Kraków and Warsaw, visited concentration camps, death camps, the ghettos, Jewish community centers, museums, and spoke with old and young Polish Jews.

 

At Auschwitz-Birkenau, I saw the place where millions of Jews and non-Jews were murdered. It was overwhelming to visit this place and hear about how many humans lost their lives. I am grateful for my grandma’s ability and luck to have survived. I feel very sad for all the people that perished. I wanted to know what happened, so I can share my family’s story. We can never forget what happened, but at the same time, I thought about whether my grandparents, if they were alive, would have even wanted me to visit these places where they lost their loved ones.

 

Life-changing


I reflect and think about what is the purpose of people visiting these places. It shows there is a need to see the evidence, a wanting to learn more, and an urge to remember. This was a very special and life-changing experience for me. It is hard to even put into words. I am very grateful I had this opportunity.

 

I have experienced many losses in my life including both of my parents before I was 17 years old, and three of my four grandparents as of last year. Despite these traumatic experiences, I’ve learned to feel the sadness, but not to allow it to become my whole life. It is easy to fall into the pit of darkness and depression. But we must never forget, must keep discovering, and lead with love. I give gratitude to my nana, aunts, uncles, cousins, brother, sister and close friends that continue to support me on my journey.

 

Dawn Kassirer, graduated from the University at Albany-SUNY in 2009 with a communications and business degree. She was an assistant manager at VENT Fitness in Clifton Park and a coach for its nutritional systems. She will stay in this area, she reports, at least until the fall or winter. “After living in Tel Aviv, I really enjoy the beach/outdoors culture. I may look into San Diego for work and move at the end of the year,” she said. She may be reached at dawn.kassirer@yahoo.com.

 

Originally published in The Jewish World.

So You're Feeling Homesick at Home: 8 Ways to Deal With Reverse Culture Shock

<div class="masa-blog-title">So You're Feeling Homesick at Home: 8 Ways to Deal With Reverse Culture Shock</div>

By Rachel Greenberg, Nativ alumna

 

It’s hard feeling like a stranger in your own home, but just as you needed time to adjust when you got to Israel, so too you need time to adjust back to life here in the United States of America.

 

When you were in Israel, you probably did not realize how much you changed every day, but you did. You learned from everyone around you, picked up new mannerisms, and adapted completely to a totally new lifestyle. So what happens now that you’re home? You’re not the same person you were when you left, but everything around you remains seemingly unchanged.

Here are some tips to help you deal with reverse culture shock:

 

1. Share your experiences


Now that you’re home it may seem like you’re alone, but your friends, family, and community  do want to hear about how you lived like a local, became a master negotiator in the shuk, and found your way around Israel via public transportation. Plus, if you become a mentor for others who want to go abroad, you will always have an attentive audience to share your story with!

 

alt="Become a Masa Alumni Mentor and help the next generation start the journey."

 

2. Stay Informed


If you’re feeling out of the loop, check social media and Israeli news sites to stay up-to-date with current events in Israel. This will not only help you feel connected, but you’ll be able to talk to other alumni and friends about what’s going on in Israel.

 

3. Write About It


Sometimes, the best way to express your feelings about your experience abroad is to write about. Writing allows you to positively articulate your feelings and express you sentiments about your recent return to America. Ten years from now, you will look back at something you wrote and you and make yourself fall in love with Israel all over again. Not to mention, we’re always looking for awesome alumni bloggers. (Email Andria at AndriaK@MasaIsrael.org for more information.)

 

4. Stay connected

It's helpful to have people in your life who shared experiences with you in Israel. While you can reminisce with them about hikes and nights out, they're also experiencing the same emotions as you, and they're the only ones who are able to understand how you’re feeling without words. People you met abroad will be some of your closest friends no matter where you all end up living. The best part about staying connected with people you met abroad is traveling to see them for reunions!

 

"Reunite with your Masa squad and network with Alumni at a Shalom U'Lehitraot Party"

 

5. Seek new experiences

Find hidden gems in your area, get excited and have yourself a little adventure. Being home doesn’t mean you have to go back to your same old routine: meet new people, explore your surroundings, and try new things. You’d be surprised to find out how many places you don’t know about.

 

6. Make a Schedule


In America, one part of you will want to see everyone you haven’t seen in months, and the other part of you may want to stay in bed and look at pictures and videos from your time in Israel. Plan time in your schedule to reminisce, but also try to get back into your life at home by creating a schedule.

 

7. It’s okay to miss Israel


Whatever you feel when you get back from a life changing experience is okay. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to laugh, it’s okay to plan a trip back, but it is important to not let missing Israel consume you. When you miss it, let yourself acknowledge the amazing experience you just had and use that emotion to realize how much you learned. You miss it because of how much you loved the experience and you wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

8. Let yourself process


Feel it. Dive in face first to everything your feeling. Embrace your emotions and give yourself permission to relax, absorb and really think about your time abroad. Be patient with yourself as you undergo the many different emotions and changes that come along with re-entry to America.

 

9. Rock your Israeli Look


Instead of trying to revert back to your old American fashion, wear your Naot in the summer, keep your new piercings with pomegranate studs, and rock your genie pants in the supermarket!


Reminisce about your Masa and Israeli experience here.


 

The Jewish Advocate: The significance of Shabbat in Somerville

The Jewish Advocate: The significance of Shabbat in Somerville

July 8, 2016

By Evan Rabin

 

I grew up as a Reform Jew in New York and went on to study at Brandeis University. However, I never really felt I had “Jewish” responsibilities to myself until I spent some time in Israel.

In the spring of 2011, I studied abroad at Tel Aviv University through Masa Israel Journey. While I learned a lot of Hebrew in Ulpan, and learned a lot about Israel and business studies in my other classes, it was often the conversations I had with friends that truly helped me understand what it means to me to be a Jew – and how Judaism fits within my own life.

 

Previously, I had not frequently honored Shabbat. It wasn’t until a friend expressed surprise that I didn’t think experiencing Shabbat applied to me, because I was Reform, that I realized I had been missing an experience that would grow to become dear to me. This conversation was one of the first to change the way I viewed my relationship to my Judaism. I wanted to observe Shabbat – I wanted to be involved.

 

After I returned from my Masa program and went back to school at Brandeis, I frequently attended Shabbat dinners and took part in Jewish learning at the campus Chabad. When I graduated four years ago, I moved back to New York, and found most of my new friends through the Jewish communities at the Moishe House and Chabad of Young Professionals.

 

Six months later, I moved to Boston to begin my career in technology sales, and the same thing happened – I frequented the Chai Center, Vilna Shul, CJP, JPulse, Tremont Street Shul 20s 30s and other Jewish organizations’ events. Long after I’d left Israel, I continued to feel most at home in Jewish communities wherever I went, whether local in Boston or as far as Goa, India, or Buenos Aires.

 

Fast forward three-and-a-half years, and I am still active in the Boston Jewish community, cochairing the Tremont Street Shul 20s 30s Committee and sitting on the Masa Israel Boston Alumni Board. Although I already consider myself highly Jewishly involved, my roots in Masa Israel, which helped me realize the significance of Judaism in my life, continue to lead me to explore new ways to connect with my Jewish identity and community.

 

So earlier this month, with the help of Masa Israel and OneTable, I did something I’ve always wanted to do: I hosted a Shabbat dinner in my own home.

 

My original intent was to have no more than 10 guests; after all, my apartment isn’t that big! But 16 people showed up, including six fellow Masa alumni. In Chabad-like fashion, I could not turn people away. I upped the catering order several times and purchased new chairs to squeeze in everyone.

 

It was a diverse group of people – both men and women, ages ranging from about 22 to 40, and birthplaces in the United States, Russia and Israel. Some of the people I’ve known for years; others I met recently. One attendee I met for the first time; he moved from Puerto Rico to Boston two weeks ago to study at Hebrew College Rabbinical School.

 

After schmoozing, we sung “Shalom Aleichem.” A friend from Netanya, Israel, led us in kiddush, and a fellow Masa alum made hamotzi. Then we dined on hot pea soup, meatballs, knishes, tofu, London broil, roasted chicken and schnitzel.

 

In between dinner and dessert, we made a few L’Chaims with beer and Jameson and sung songs and niggunim. A few of us got up and started dancing a la Peretz Chein, the shaliach at Chabad of Brandeis, who is famous for standing up on tables and dancing to song. We then ate a smorgasbord of desserts, including chocolates, rugelach and a peach pie.

 

The company, food and conversations reminded me of the realization that I’d had back when I was studying in Israel: participating in Jewish traditions, even something as simple as a Shabbat dinner, makes me feel more connected to my Jewish identity.

 

Now, the next time a friend asks me about my Judaism, I can proudly say I’ve studied in Israel, found a Jewish community, and even hosted my own Shabbat dinner – all thanks to my involvement with Masa Israel.

 

Originally publish in "The Jewish Advocate".

The Times of Israel: The Real Story of the 'Israel Backpack'

The Times of Israel: The Real Story of the 'Israel Backpack'

The Times of Israel: The Real Story of the 'Israel Backpack'

June 28, 2016

By Liran Avisar, CEO of Masa Israel Journey

 

In Israel, you see backpacks everywhere. They’re on the beach, on the bus, on hiking trails, on the banks of the Jordan River. Many of them sport insignia connecting them to an organized trip or sponsored tour. We would know, we’ve given out more than 110,000 of them over the past 12 years.

These backpacks come in handy when Masa Israel Journey’s more than 12,000 participants every year head to work or class, take a day trip to explore the country, or visit new friends from countries all over the world that they’ve met along their journeys in Israel.

 

The packs last much longer than an individual’s time in Israel, and they carry so much more than their physical contents. The bags we give out are not simply souvenirs, they are instruments—a critical tool in facilitating personal journeys, both figuratively and literally.

 

“Masa” in Hebrew means “journey;” the Masa Israel experience includes both a significant inner personal journey alongside an outward physical journey. When a young person spends an extended amount of time in any foreign country, let alone Israel, he or she starts to live like a local.

 

You see the beautiful, the ugly, the good, and the bad—you live your life alongside Israeli citizens. You walk in the streets with them, go to the market to buy your groceries with them, live next to them, work with them and see the cultural gaps when you interact with them. You sling their backpack over their shoulder just like they do.

 

We equip our participants with new backpacks as encouragement to explore, to immerse themselves in their surroundings. They come to understand the intangibles of Israel’s history, culture and current political state, and, in turn, strengthen their sense of self.

 

A key part of our educational vision is for our participants to reflect on their experience while they’re in Israel. Their backpacks’ physical appearance, with their own scuffs and scars, tell a story parallel to their personal journeys. A spilled cup of coffee here, a few specks of dirt from a recent hike there; the memory of their experiences abroad lives on through the bag.

 

These backpacks are not simply receptacles for possessions along the journey. They are the physical manifestations of each participant’s often entangled relationships with the Jewish people, the State of Israel and their own spirituality. The packs represent the new knowledge, skills, experiences and connections that participants collect throughout their time in Israel. Just as the backpacks last much longer than the programs themselves, so do the participants’ connections to Jewish life and each other. Masa Israel participants become part of a community forever united by their life-changing experiences in Israel.

 

The backpacks we distribute are a vessel for Jews between the ages of 18 and 30 – many of whom are not formally affiliated in the Jewish community – and are the same demographic described in Pew’s now infamous 2013 survey of Jewish Americans, to engage with Israel for a significant off-the-bus experience. Our goal is to allow participants to nurture a relationship with both native Israelis and Jews from around the world, which in turn empowers them to understand what’s at stake when it comes to the continuity of both the Jewish people and the State of Israel. In other words, the backpacks – and long-term experiences in Israel as a whole – serve to foster a level of depth in relating to Israel that has concrete results for Jews as a larger Diaspora community.

 

The backpacks provide a way for alumni to continue their lifelong journeys with a physical reminder of the transformative time they spent in Israel and the global community they have become a part of for life. This community is far more than a social network; it serves as a platform for connecting with professional opportunities, resources, and leadership development.

 

So, the next time you see a backpack with Masa Israel’s logo on it, take a look at the person carrying it and take a moment to think about where he or she has been, and more importantly, where they are headed.

 

Originally published in "The Times of Israel".