The Forward: How I Fell in Love With a Nice Jewish Boy Named Christian While in Israel

The Forward: How I Fell in Love With a Nice Jewish Boy Named Christian While in Israel

The Forward: How I Fell in Love With a Nice Jewish Boy Named Christian While in Israel

August 18, 2016

By Eliana Rudee, Career Israel alumna

On the first day of our semester-long Israel program, Chris and I met on the bus. But it’s safe to say that our relationship was not nurtured on wheels, but rather, on foot. Living at the Hebrew University campus, we always had an extra-long walk to our Shabbat hosts. We’d walk along the light rail tracks, long after the train stopped running for the Sabbath. We walked, talking about our jobs, our families back home in the United States and Brazil (respectively), and our thoughts and dreams.


Chris’ family was secular, somewhat culturally Jewish, but mostly Brazilian. Until he went on Birthright, he had very little exposure to Judaism within his family — no Shabbat, Hebrew school, or Bar Mitzvahs. His father had a hobby of pointing out Jewish celebrities but had never been back to Israel, his birthplace that he left as a toddler. As Brazilian Jews of Egyptian and German descent, Chris tells me that his family identified more with the Brazilian culture than anything else, which explains his intriguing name, Christian, “a beautiful Brazilian name not having anything to do with Christianity,” his family says.


I was brought up in the suburbs of Seattle, in a Conservative Jewish community where we drove to and from Shabbat services and ate pepperoni pizza, not realizing it was pork. Hebrew school was something forced upon me by my parents, and boy did I give them a hard time for it.

As a kid, I did everything I could to get out of going to Sunday school, including screaming, crying, and wearing short skirts that I knew my mom would deem inappropriate for synagogue. I did love my family’s Jewish traditions, including our Hanukkah parties, Rosh Hashanah get-togethers, Pesach Seders, and our weekly Shabbat dinner with all of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and my grandma. But until I came to Israel, I would never have said that I loved being Jewish.


Chris and I both viewed coming to Israel as a way to advance our careers, which is why we chose to come on the a program called “Career Israel,” organized by Masa Israel Journey. We were the babies of the group, each taking a semester off from school, whereas most had already graduated college.


Neither of us chose to come to Israel for religious purposes, but we did end up exploring our Jewish identities and religious customs. Being in Jerusalem introduced us to the observant way of keeping Shabbat. Each of us lived with roommates who kept kosher and Shabbat, so we had to learn how to be respectful of their practices. At Shabbat meals, we learned rituals like washing our hands before the meal, dipping the challah in salt after saying the blessing over the bread, hamotzi, and saying a blessing after the meal.


Although we did not keep Shabbat ourselves, we believed in the saying: “When in Israel, do as the Israelis do” and we kept the spirit of Shabbat. Although many Israelis are secular, they respect the idea of Shabbat even if they do not observe all the laws.


Chris and Ellie

Chris and Eliana at Passover 2016


That is, they believe there should be one day dedicated to rest, and even more, to building relationships rather than withdrawing into our work or our smartphones. So on Saturdays, Chris and I hung out with our friends and we actually talked to one another without the use of any electronics! We played cards on the lawn of the student village, passed around a soccer ball, and ended Shabbat with friends by our sides as we did Havdalah.


Of course, as many of the best relationships begin, we were “just friends” for the first four months of our program. More accurate, however, would be that we were “just best friends.” We did everything together — we decompressed after work together, cooked dinner together, and we even did laundry together.


Little did I know that Chris would soon admit his love for me in a letter, just a month before our program ended and we were to part ways. When we did part, Chris left me with a plan for our relationship: we will finish school in our respective countries and later, move to Israel together. And that’s exactly what we did.


Looking back at the five months we spent together in Israel, I think about the phrase, “More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” I believe that on an interpersonal level, Shabbat kept, or perhaps fostered, our relationship. Without the Israeli spirit of Shabbat, I’m not sure that we would have gotten to know each other as well as we did.


Perhaps this is one reason why we ultimately decided to make aliyah together, to begin our life together as immigrants in Israel. We are far from the United States and from Brazil and neither of us has family in Israel, making it an unlikely place to live.


But in a significant way, our relationship is based in, and on, Israel. After the five best months of our lives, we had fallen in love with Israel, and then, with each other. It felt natural to move to Israel, the place where we met, where we had our first date, where we fell in love, and where we walked together on those many Shabbat afternoons.


Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Israel Girl” column for She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill.


Originally published in The Forward.

Haaretz: Letters to the Editor: Responses to Arab English Teachers in Jewish Schools

Haaretz: Letters to the Editor: Responses to Arab English Teachers in Jewish Schools

Haaretz: Letters to the Editor: Responses to Arab English Teachers in Jewish Schools

August 18, 2016

By Tamar Zilbershatz, Director of Service and Gap Programs at Masa Israel Journey


Another resource to address English teacher shortage


In response to “With Qualified English Teachers in Short Supply, Israel’s Jewish Schools Start Courting Arabs” (, August 9).

Judy Maltz addresses the shrinking number of English teachers available to work in Israel’s schools. As the article shows, this is a critical issue — especially in the country’s periphery — and the Education Ministry has taken notice.


The influx of recently graduated Arab-Israeli teachers hired to work in Jewish schools is a welcome development that should be fully supported.


But there’s an additional resource, created through a partnership between the Education Ministry and Masa Israel, that could also help fill the void. Schools in Israel searching for extra bandwidth for English education should consider bringing in native English speakers living abroad who are eager to spend a year serving Israeli communities and gaining professional experience.


More and more, young people are seeing Israel as a prime destination for teaching English after college — right up there with Spain, China and South Korea. Through Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, we’ve brought hundreds of participants to more than a dozen Israeli communities from Netanya to Rahat, where they have a real impact tutoring in small groups and through one on one instruction. These are college graduates who come to Israel year after year to bolster their personal and professional growth, form lasting bonds with the country and make a positive difference in the lives of Israeli children.


So, as schools continue to identify solutions for the shortage of English teachers readily accessible, it’s worth highlighting the potential of this newly tapped resource.


Originally Published in Haaretz.

Washington Jewish Week: Opposites Attract

Washington Jewish Week: Opposites Attract

Washington Jewish Week: Opposites Attract

August 17, 2016

By Daniel Schere


Theirs is a story worthy of the holiday of love.

Finding a soulmate wasn’t the first thing on Blake Yospa and Rachel Leeds’ minds in 2014 as they began a year with the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program in Rishon LeZion, Israel. But as the spring of 2015 rolled around and the program was wrapping up, a romance began to blossom when Yospa asked Leeds for some much-needed practical advice.


“I needed to get some alone time with her to tell how I felt, so I asked for some help picking out some gifts for my sister and my mom,” he said last week. “And I told her how I felt, and she smiled and told me how she felt, and we’ve been dating ever since.”


Tu B’Av, the 15th day of the month of Av, is Friday this year.


Yospa and Leeds had spent the year together as aides in a classroom of third through fifth graders who were learning English. In the beginning they worked on projects together in a friendly, collegial setting, but that’s all it was.


“As time went on I slowly developed feelings for her,” recalled Yospa, 28.


He didn’t want to mess up the work relationship and would drop subtle hints like, “If you’re going to the beach, I’ll come,” but she never understood, he said.


“He would just text me these funny different things, and I wouldn’t respond,” Leeds said. “I was just not interested. Like, altogether it was like a work relationship.”


Leeds, 26, said when she first met Yospa, she thought he was “loud and obnoxious,” but in a fun way.

“He was very different in terms of being way more outgoing than I am,” she said. “I’m more in the background. So I was like, ‘he’s just trying to be all funny.’”


It was Yospa’s gift shopping trip at the end of the program that convinced Leeds to stop ignoring the aroma of romance after nine months of working together.


Shortly after that, they talked about their plans back in the States. She was set to begin teaching fourth grade at KIPP DC Promise Academy, a charter school. He was headed back to his native Baltimore to look for a job; two weeks after arriving he landed a position as an operations assistant with the Washington Redskins. They have been dating ever since.


To celebrate the one-year anniversary of their relationship, Yospa and Leeds had dinner at Union Market on July 24.


“We’re foodies and not big drinkers,” Yospa said. “She’s a wine drinker and I like classic cocktails. So we like to treat ourselves to a nice dinner now and again.”


They also printed a map of Israel and marked the coordinates of the spot where they first met.


Perhaps it was by chance that Leeds, an early childhood education major at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, met Yospa, a sports management major at Towson University. But a love for public service and a desire to connect with the Jewish state brought them together.


Originally published in Washington Jewish Week.

The Art of Organized Chaos Part 1

<div class="masa-blog-title">The Art of Organized Chaos Part 1</div>

Embracing the Unknown 

 Adi Hila Yoffe, Director of North American Business Development

  Adi Barel, Director of International Business Development


Israel’s innovative nature and comfort with discomfort can contribute to your personal growth and your company’s bottom line.

In the ‘Start-Up Nation”, we have discovered how to turn the challenge created by an abundance of opportunities and unknowns into a life of success. We bring an innovative perspective and drive to everything we do. Whether you’re launching your own start-up or managing a team, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is an essential practice.

This blog is our way of exploring Israeli cultural traits that make our startups so successful and we’ll introduce you to different perspectives by interviewing top CEOs, entrepreneurs. We’ll share ideas research, tools and methods you can apply to help you find composure amongst chaos. Stay tuned to learn about Israel’s secret sauce for success. See how an immersive experience in Israel helps people become more adaptable, ambitious, and open-minded professionals.

And here’s our first secret:

Put your hands in the air like you just don’t care

What would happen if people learned to handle complexity, to sit with fear and discomfort, and to have it help them grow?

Most Israelis by the age of 22 learned how to manage risk. One reason might be the army experience every Israeli goes through after high school. Faced with life or death decisions, Israelis know there is no place or time for self-consciousness or shallow expectations or beating around the bush traits we see daily in Western society. There’s no time for bullshit, only authenticity and quick, concise action.

In a place where there is no shame, creativity blooms. A place where authenticity is celebrated, not shunned. Where the trick is not how to avoid conflict but to navigate it well and to let it help you grow.

So far we talked the talk, now let’s walk the walk showing how these big words come into play:

1. Israeli’s Tell It How It Is: Being offended is a complete waste. Save time and energy by saying exactly what you mean, and be ready to hear direct feedback. It’s easy in this world to make everything politically correct but we promise – it’s worth it to call it what it is accompanied by - Let’s move on people, time is money. Your employee underperforms, you feel your boss isn’t hearing you out? Communication is the key, telepathy didn’t win wars. Think about it as going home to your wife and she’s giving you “the look” now we all know what that means. But, really you ask yourself – what does it mean? Do ask, do tell. 


2. No excuses: High standards and a relentless appetite for challenge. An Israeli startup CEO might wear a Pokémon T-shirt to work, 

but in 2003 he was a Commander in the 8200 cybersecurity intelligence unit, the boss of 25 people in a tiny room no one will ever admit exists. Their success meant a nation slept safe at night. 

A small failure could mean life or death. 

No blaming, just succeed.  (No pressure though…)


3. Teamwork gets things done. Accountability is the name of the game. Because you are expected to answer emails on “California time” you’re also forgiven for “working from a café” at 11 am on a Wednesday or even using Wi-Fi on the beach. However, constant communication is needed and people in Israel always know that survival depends on working together. Being surrounded by difficult neighbors leads you to work together to utilize everyone’s strengths for a common goal. It’s the same ways in a startup and while you might just be a Project Manager, in Israel if something is needed for marketing or HR that same project manager might need to step in. And they would step up.


“Indeed we are a small country, but as my dentist says, “Adi Hila for someone with such a big mouth you have such a small one. How ironic”. Same way with our country. A tiny country and yet, the highest per capita ration of startups, home to the R&D center for many global companies, and one of the highest global scores on the happiness index.  (Adi Hila)

“The latest research presented by Facebook indicates that people have 4.74 degrees of separation between them. In global terms this mean a lot considering the average is 6. Can you believe it? Here everybody always knows somebody at someplace that at one point he or she went to the army or youth group with. This influences performance and the likeability of creating meaningful partnerships and brainstorms with the greatest minds.” (Adi Barel)

Our future blogs will investigate the bits and pieces of the secret sauce of THE Israeli mental model. Innovation is the Big Thing we know and what makes headhunters love us so much. Mostly because – Hey, can you not?


Stay tuned for interviews with industry leaders, entrepreneurs, tools, and research and we look forward to sharing our journey with you.

Any industry leaders in Israel that interest you? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll make it happen. Connections - The Israeli way.

Sign up for email updates to receive interviews from the top movers and shakers in Israel and stay up-to-date on the latest innovation news in the startup nation.

Adi Hila Yoffe is Masa Israel’s new Director of Business Development for North America. She was born in Israel and grew up in the United States. Adi Hila brings North American business acumen combined with an Israeli mentality to the table. Her mission is to drive participation, develop new initiatives, collaborations and partnership in the business and NPO sector. Over the past few years, Adi Hila worked in the private sector managing strategy and cultivating business partnerships. She is based in New York City.

Adi Barel is Masa Israel’s International Business Development Director. Over the past few years Adi developed the field of Career Development via international programs in Israel, and is a leader in this arena. Adi works closely with top companies in Israel and emerging startups on development and enrichment. She is based in Tel Aviv.

Adi Hila & Adi Barel hold parallel positions at Masa Israel Journey and are the driving force behind its research and development. Together they create opportunities for students, universities and corporations enabling them to reach their full potential, personally and professionally. Always up for the challenge. Their latest initiatives are the Innovation Academy, a CIO training boot camp aimed at corporate America and a Women’s Empowerment Internship track providing opportunities for women.



JTA: For 'Jewish Valentine's Day,' Meet 5 Couples who Found Love on Israel Trips

JTA: For 'Jewish Valentine's Day,' Meet 5 Couples who Found Love on Israel Trips

JTA: For 'Jewish Valentine's Day,' Meet 5 Couples who Found Love on Israel Trips

August 14, 2016

By Gabe Friedman


In the two-part finale of the third season of “Broad City,” the show’s main characters, Abbi and Ilana, embark on a “Birthmark” trip — a thinly veiled allusion to the famed Birthright Israel trip that sends Jews aged 18 to 26 on free 10-day trips to Israel.

Upon boarding the “El Ol” plane, the best friends are assigned seats next to guys based on their “match potential.”


It’s hilarious — partially because it hits so close to home.


Programs such as Birthright and Masa Israel Journey, which offers study abroad and volunteer and internship opportunities in the Jewish state, are known — anecdotally, at least — for their high matchmaking rates. Even the receptionist for Birthright’s alumni community network who fielded this reporter’s phone call met her husband on a trip (read on for her story).


Thursday night marks the beginning of Tu b’Av, a minor holiday known as the “Jewish Day of Love.” A matchmaking day for unmarried women in the Second Temple period, before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., Tu b’Av is now a popular romantically themed day in Israel similar to Valentine’s Day in the United States.


In honor of the holiday, enjoy the stories of these five adorable couples who met in Israel.


Alissa Platcow and Zeeva Berman, both 24


Zeva and Alissa

Zeeva Berman, left, and Alissa Platcow (Courtesy of Platcow)


Alissa and Zeeva met at the airport in 2013 on the way to the same Masa program, Jerusalem Sounds, which offered music and other classes at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But they quickly realized that they must have crossed paths multiple times, having grown up about 10 minutes apart from each other in the Boston area and attending the same small Hebrew school for years. They even participated in the same gymnastics program in middle school.



During their semester abroad, they attended an acrobatics convention together — the only non-dancers there. The women acknowledged perhaps taking the program too seriously, as the dancers considered it vacation time, Alissa and Zeeva both told JTA.


Near the end of the convention, Alissa woke up dehydrated — and Zeeva went into “mama bear mode.” With no hospital around, Zeeva forced the convention administrators to call an ambulance. The ambulance workers didn’t put the IV needle in Alissa’s arm correctly — it hurt, so Alissa started talking to the workers to distract herself.


“I was like, ‘Let them do their job!’” Zeeva said.


By the end of what they jokingly call the “near death experience,” the couple knew they were meant for each other.


“It definitely cemented our relationship,” Alissa said.


Now they live together in Manhattan, where Alissa is the membership assistant at Temple Israel and occasionally leads services at the Bay Ridge Jewish Center. Zeeva teaches music at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and other temples. (Oh, and she liked acrobatics so much that she now teaches it, too.)


Blake Yospa,28 and Rachel Leeds, 25


Blake Yospa and Rachel Leeds

Blake Yospa and Rachel Leeds in Annapolis, Md. (Courtesy of Yospa and Leeds)


Blake and Rachel both spent the better part of a year working as teaching assistants at a school in Rishon LeZion. Blake liked Rachel, but felt he couldn’t make a move for, you know, professional reasons.


But with two weeks left in their Masa Israel program, he had to say something. To get her alone, Blake asked her to help him pick out gifts for his family members.


“I said, ‘Rachel, I kind of have a thing for you.’ She says ‘no, you’re lying.’ But she was smiling, so I could tell that she maybe felt something for me too,” Blake said.


He said he never would have crossed paths with Rachel if they hadn’t met in Israel — after all, she was living in Cleveland and he was in suburban Baltimore. Blake described it as luck that she was dissatisfied with the Cleveland school she was working at — it inspired her to go to Israel — and that the first school she worked at in Israel had a host of logistical difficulties, forcing her to transfer to Blake’s school.


The couple now live together in Washington, D.C., where Rachel is an elementary school teacher and Blake is an operations assistant for the Washington Redskins.


Arielle Mogil, 30, and Max Mogil, 29


Arielle and Max

Arielle and Max Mogil at their costume engagement party. (Courtesy of Arielle Mogil)


Arielle and Max met during the first ice breaker on their Birthright trip.


Everyone was given a card with a fun fact about someone in the group; the goal was to find the person it applied to. But by the time she sat back down in the group circle, Arielle was disappointed that she couldn’t find the person who played an instrument.


She happened to sit next to Max, who immediately told her he played piano.


“We joke that that’s his pickup line: ‘I’m a classical pianist,’” Arielle said.


Love grew from there and, to commemorate the day they met — which happened to be Purim — they had a costume engagement party. When the couple married in January, 14 people from their Birthright trip attended the wedding.


Now Arielle works on the staff at the Birthright Alumni Network. In addition to answering the phone — when she excitedly shared her story — she occasionally staffs Israel trips.


And when she does, she always makes sure to play that same ice breaker.


“I tell them that’s how I met my husband,” she said.



Ellie Rudee and Chris Goldenbaum, both 24


Chris and Ellie

Ellie Rudee and Chris Goldenbaum at Passover 2016. (Courtesy of Rudee)


They met in Jerusalem on Valentine’s Day a few years ago, but it took Chris a long time to win over Ellie. Chris, a native Brazilian, was interning at an organization promoting arts and culture. Ellie was interning at a private counterterrorism firm — and was also dating someone.


Months later their first date, a picnic at Jerusalem’s Montefiore Windmill, didn’t start exactly as planned — Chris forgot silverware and cups. Still, they had a great time.


“We were walking back and stopped in this restaurant to get drinks,” Ellie said. “We waited and waited, but nothing came. Eventually we were like, ‘Should we just go?’ So we just bolted and ended up laughing really hard.”


Their similar attitudes may have sealed the deal — but Ellie says it doesn’t hurt that he can do spot-on impressions of people they used to have Shabbat dinner with during their Masa program.


“We met a lot of people who said really crazy things,” Ellie said.


Both are journalists and now live in Jerusalem, although Chris is currently in Brazil working on film projects related to the Olympics.


Daniel Behrman, 32, and Jenna Kruger, 31



Daniel Behrman and Jenna Kruger (Courtesy of Behrman and Kruger)


Daniel and Jenna met at a weekend conference in Jerusalem through their Masa internship programs. When they saw each other at the same lectures, they thought it was just coincidence. But they didn’t stay “just friends” for long — soon they were frequently traveling back and forth between Tel Aviv, where Daniel was interning at a marketing firm, and Jerusalem, where Jenna was interning at Hadassah.


“We joke that Jerusalem is a ‘city of love’ even though it isn’t [known as] that,” Jenna said. “I think it’s just a less stressful environment when you go out and you don’t have to worry about the religious aspect because everyone is Jewish.”


When they were both back in the States, Daniel immediately flew her out to see him in Seattle, where he worked.


“Before I went over, my mom told me not to fall in love with an Israeli,” Jenna said. “Moving to Seattle wasn’t quite what she had in mind either.”


The couple will marry in September.


Originally Published on

The Times of Israel: The Gap Year Investment in Israel

The Times of Israel: The Gap Year Investment in Israel

August 11, 2016

By Liran Avisar, CEO Masa Israel Journey


For at least a generation, there has been broad consensus on the linear trajectory of education for young people in North America. After graduating high school, college is often considered the natural and only next step.


Yet more and more, individuals and families are realizing that going straight to college is not a one-size-fits-all experience. In the halls of academia and in high schools alike, administrators increasingly recognize value in providing students access to immersive, transformational experiences before they make consequential — and expensive — decisions about their futures. Just as higher education itself is a major investment toward a successful future, so too is dedicating time during this brief and influential period in life to discovering one’s passions, values and perspective. As with any big investment, completing one’s due diligence beforehand should be the expectation, not the exception.


Gap year programs come in a variety of formats. Some students opt for domestic experiences, working or volunteering at home, while others set off for an organized year abroad. In both cases, studies have shown that students who invest in a gap year experience have higher GPAs, are more engaged with campus activities, and are 75% more likely to report being “happy” or “extremely satisfied” with their post-college careers.


Many international gap year programs provide the chance to volunteer or intern while only practicing living independently. The more proactive participants may learn to cook their own meals, coexist with roommates, or glean a few fragments from a new country and culture. The Masa Israel experience, on the other hand, not only empowers its young people to become fully immersed in their local communities, it connects them with a global network of peers they would likely never meet otherwise, who are equally eager to engage in an exchange of culture and ideas.



Israel is home to an abundance of languages, religions and communities. And on top of that, Israel’s longstanding custom of hosting international guests for extended amounts of time makes its cultural capital uniquely accessible. The expectation that young people from around the world can come here to expand their worldviews, build life skills and discover or refine their interests is weaved into the fabric of Israeli institutions, and the opportunities afforded to gap year participants reflect that.


In Israel, young people are exposed to an intense multiculturalism only found in the backseat of Tel Aviv taxis and the ancient stone walkways of Jerusalem, not to mention the smaller Israeli towns in the north and south of the country. And similarly, on Masa Israel experiences, it’s the interactions with thousands of other participants from all over Europe, South America, Australia and elsewhere that make the journey so transformational. Our subsidized, individually tailored programs allow students the opportunity to specialize in their unique interests, gain valuable work experience, and grow as independent young adults. Service and study opportunities provide daily structure, while internship opportunities for our gap year participants in Israel are unparalleled.


The truth is, most post-high school internships, no matter where they take place, offer few opportunities beyond fetching coffee, printing and stapling, and organizing Excel spreadsheets. But internships for our gap year students allow them to build real professional skills and tap into actual networks. Because of the mandatory conscription policy, Israelis expect 18-year-olds to be able to handle significant responsibilities, and thus the society is much more dynamic and flexible when it comes to giving young people the benefit of the doubt in a workplace. Additionally, Israel is a global hub for technology and innovation, and it is virtually impossible to avoid the optimistic, entrepreneurial spirit that exists in every sector.



From behind the scenes of one of the leading organizations for gap year opportunities, I’ve seen first-hand how a student’s taking the time to develop his or her identity before entering the formal structure of college can profoundly enrich personal and professional growth. So, if spending time in Israel in the gap between high school and higher education has not been recognized by American students as an essential investment opportunity, it should be.


Originally published in The Times of Israel.

Why I Traded My Harley for an MBA

<div class="masa-blog-title">Why I Traded My Harley for an MBA</div>

My name is Amir and I’m originally from South Africa where I worked as an architect for 8 years. Can you imagine that, eight years at one company! I know it sounds crazy for our generation but as you probably assume, I became restless and continuously thought there has to be more to life than this.

I wasn’t feeling challenged as much as I once was, so I did what any young person does when they aren’t feeling fulfilled, I bought a Harley Davidson. This motorcycle was going to fix everything. I could cruise down the street with the fresh air hitting my face and feel totally free.

The Harley didn’t solve everything and once I came to my senses I realized what I wanted,  to pursue an International MBA in Israel.

Yes, of course, I dabbled with the idea of going to the U.S. where my family relocated years earlier but something just felt right about the Sofaer International MBA program at Tel Aviv University. Plus, it’s considered the top MBA program in Israel and costs a third of what the programs in the U.S. cost.

It was a perfect fit for me. I was an architect and consider innovation a central tenet of mine, so studying in Tel Aviv, known for being an international hub of innovation seemed like the natural port of call.

Let me tell you, the MBA program was way better than the Harley Davidson. Being a part of the International MBA program at TAU meant that I was studying alongside students from 16 different countries which added richness to the program and gave me the skills needed to work confidently in diverse teams.

What’s even better is I teamed up with an exchange student from NUS (Singapore) and from Bocconi School of Management (Milan) for an international innovation student competition help by Aéroports de Paris. Out of 180 teams from 27 countries, we came in first place!

I attribute the win to the spirit of innovation that is in the air and in the water here – mixed with a healthy serving of chutzpa. It’s the sort of ‘orderly’ chutzpa that challenges long-standing conventions.  A frame of reference both encouraged and rewarded in this environment.

I didn’t stop after winning the Aéroports de Paris competition, though. I grabbed student life by the horns and got involved with everything. I joined the Alrov Institute for Real Estate Research as part of a group of 2 architects, 2 economists and 2 lawyers researching urban renewal in South Tel Aviv.

My decision to pursue the International MBA in Israel was turning out to be a very smart decision. Subsequently, I have made Aliyah, as have a number of my classmates, which makes for a much softer transition. I now have a bunch of friends from the program who I see regularly and received two job offers immediately upon graduation.

I currently work for a commercial real estate consulting and investment firm in a position that compliments both my past and newly acquired competencies.

My employment prospects were certainly amplified by the Career Development Unit that the program offers. Though in Israel, there is a general sense that there is no shortage of opportunity here. So much so that in the recent national elections job creation was not even on the political agenda. There’s nowhere else in the world where you’ll see that.

Overall, I can’t pin it down to whether it’s Israel, the MBA or a combo of both; but I feel good living and working in Israel and giving back to the communities which I am part of.


To learn more about MBA and other graduate programs in Israel speak to a Masa Israel rep today.


How I left London, Pursued an MBA and Fell in Love with Israeli Startups

<div class="masa-blog-title">How I left London, Pursued an MBA and Fell in Love with Israeli Startups</div>

Six years ago I embarked on an unknown journey that changed my life. As a fresh-faced English grad from King’s College, Cambridge I had no idea what I would do in Israel, but I knew I needed to be in Israel and be a part of its incredible energy.


Kibbutz life had always sparked my interest and so did learning Hebrew, so I did what many new Olim do, I moved to a kibbutz, started Ulpan and worked in the kitchen.


It didn’t take long for me to realize the kibbutz life wasn’t for me; I knew I was a city person. Like many people that come to Israel, the start-up scene, abundance of innovation and thriving entrepreneurs entranced me. I wanted to break into this scene but was never quite sure how.


I was an English literature major with zero technical knowledge and no business training. How in the world was I going to make the startup scene my scene? My journey sidetracked a little and I spent three years working at the wonderful Reut Institute and fundraising for numerous charities but left knowing I still wanted a taste of the startup life.


I began the application process for various leading American universities, yep all the usual’s, like Harvard and Stanford. Then just as I went to press submit, it hit me. There was no way I was leaving Israel. I had built up a wonderful life in Tel Aviv, with an incredible husband and friends.  I was smitten with this mad and unpredictable little country.



I now knew I wasn’t going to leave home and still knew the MBA was the right choice for me. After a lot of thought, I opted for the Sofaer International MBA at Tel Aviv University. I got to stay in the wonderful “Silicon Wadi” of Tel Aviv and build my skills and knowledge with other students from around the globe.


The MBA was excellent. There was a strong focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, which allowed me to basically prototype a start-up. I partnered with one of the other students and started building a digital social business.


Now, the business itself didn’t succeed, but the tools I learned and the connections I gained were invaluable. Learning how to carry out initial market research, how to build an MVP, and what do with investors has helped my career immensely. Before the MBA program at TAU, all of this had been a black box to me. The degree gave me the skills I needed to build my own business. And it doesn’t matter that one idea failed, because I was now sure that sooner or later, one of the ideas would work.


Today I am a marketing consultant for a number of start-ups focused on innovation in the digital realm. Even more recently I began working with TAU and am working towards building a marketing agency that focuses on post-seed startups in Israel.


The MBA from Tel Aviv University in Israel was a game-changer since it gave me the confidence, tools, and network to build the career I have today.


By: Jude Jacob Kayton


The New Hampshire Jewish Reporter: Learning With the Jews of Poland

The New Hampshire Jewish Reporter: Learning With the Jews of Poland

The New Hampshire Jewish Reporter: Learning With the Jews of Poland

August 8, 2016

By Rebecca Haas, Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Alumna


On a rainy Friday evening in May, I entered a JCC to participate in a Shabbat dinner. As I walked through the lobby, the aromas of brisket and warm bread filled the air. I passed tables laid out with enough salads and appetizers to serve a hundred people, and I could see a table in front with challah, candles, and a Kiddush cup filled with wine. Around me, my friends were introducing themselves to those nearby, offering up a “Shabbat shalom” to each. It could have been any Shabbat, in practically any city. It certainly felt that way to me, which is why I kept forgetting that I was, in fact, sitting in a JCC in Poland.

Yes, in Poland. Before arriving there, I, like many others, assumed that Jewish life in Poland was just history. I had imagined a rather bleak place, strewn with remnants of the atrocities of the Holocaust, and a community void of Judaism. It had certainly come as a surprise, then, when we entered the lively and bright JCC of Krakow for our first Shabbat dinner.


Together with other young professionals and college students from Masa Israel Journey programs in Israel, I had traveled to Poland with the Masa-GLI Wilf Family Holocaust Education Program to learn about the Shoah, as well as the modern, Jewish communities that now exist there. We visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka, saw what once were the ghettos of Krakow and Warsaw, and walked through the horrifying forests and mass graves of the countryside. Seeing these sights gave a powerful context to the Holocaust learning I have had in the past, and invoked strong and raw emotions as we, a group of Jews living in Israel, walked through our people’s history. 


But such moments were matched with moments where we felt inspired and could look into the future as we explored the current community centers of Poland, met young, local Jews, and experienced the growing Jewish community in its entirety.


Halfway through my journey, I began to compare this budding community to my own. I then formulated a question that had been stirring around in my mind: What can WE (the Jews of the Diaspora) learn from this revitalizing Jewish community of Poland?


As a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow, I spend my days teaching English to elementary school students in Israeli schools. However, my job is not just to instruct students on the rules of the present progressive tense or the correct English words for popular foods. It is to inspire my students to continue learning long after I have left Israel, and to help them gain the confidence they need to explore the language on their own. Essentially, my goal is to help develop the next generation of Israel. A daunting task, to say the least.


But the Jews of Poland have done just that. Many young adults do not discover their own Judaism until their aging relatives, the generation that survived WWII, divulge their Jewish ancestry on their deathbeds. Having grown up with little or no Jewish exposure, these young Jews turn to the Jewish community for answers, to fill a void they have discovered in their lives. In order to make them feel more at home, the Jewish community inspires these young adults to take charge and become leaders. They are encouraged to plan and execute their own community programs and holiday celebrations, so they can instill them with ways that would interest their own generation, and encourage others of their age group to become more invested in the community.


As a teacher, I have similarly found that assigning authentic assignments empowers my students to go the extra mile, to think deeply about what they are asked to do, and to truly learn from the experience. For instance, we held a debate, and the topic was decided by the students. Because they chose their own topic, they were particularly interested in defending their own beliefs, just as the Jewish youth of Poland are encouraged to put significant effort into activities and events that they choose to organize.


We were fortunate to experience these young people’s creativity first-hand. Covering the walls of both the Warsaw and Krakow JCCs were posters advertising upcoming events, reminiscent of a student center at a university and including a basketball tournament, book discussions, Sunday  brunch (popular with young adults everywhere seeking to cure their hangovers). All of these activities were quite simply things that I, or any young adult, would partake in anyway, whether it is a Jewish event or not.


To me, this is what sets this community apart, the idea that the Jewish community can be involved in every single aspect of life. Instead of associating Judaism with Hebrew school and studying for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, the Jewish community is a place for community and leisure, a center of life for every age group, for every hobby, for every interest. Anything you would like to do can be put in a Jewish context, creating a bond that extends beyond tradition. The connection to Judaism is then transformed into friendship, family, recreation, and everything in between.


This past May, I left Poland with an incredibly positive outlook on the Polish Jewish community. The community is building leaders who are preparing to carry on the Jewish traditions for generations to come, planting the seeds for growth in the coming years. I hope to return to Poland someday, perhaps with children of my own, to see a Jewish community that is strong and proud, and that has influenced Jewish life around the world.


Rebecca Haas, a Londonderry native and resident, currently serves as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Rishon LeZion, Israel. She graduated in 2015 from the University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in elementary education.



Originally Published in the New Hampshire Jewish Reporter.

Cleveland Jewish News: Financial assistance available for gap years

Cleveland Jewish News: Financial assistance available for gap years

August 5, 2016

By Carlo Wolff


Another possible source of money is Masa Israel, an Israeli program that can supplement other gap year resources. A high school student interested in a gap year can apply to Masa Israel for “financial aid above what the normal amount would be,” she said. “They definitely should apply to the program that they’re going on to see if there’s financial aid from the program.”