Masa Israel Happy Hour - NYC

Masa Israel Happy Hour - NYC

February 22, 2017 - 18:00  -  February 22, 2017 - 20:00

643 BroadwayNew York, NY  - 

Join Masa Israel for an evening to remember!

First drink is on us for everyone who registers at

Come drink with your friends and hear about awesome opportunities to get back to Israel or to share your Israel experiences.




     Partner organizations: Moishe House Murray Hill, StandWithUs, Hunter Hillel, and Onward Israel

English-Speaking Teaching Fellows in Israeli Schools to Double

English-Speaking Teaching Fellows in Israeli Schools to Double

February 14, 2017


February 14, 2017



Sara Koenig, West End Strategy Team; Office: (212) 498-9300; Cell: (917) 420-0303


Masa Israel Journey to Bring 300 Young Professionals into Israeli Classrooms Next School Year

NEW YORK—Masa Israel Journey, the leader in immersive international experiences in Israel, announced today that it will double the number of participants in its flagship Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program, beginning this coming school year. The expansion will bring 300 young professionals into classrooms across Israel to teach English as a Second Language. It is made possible through a partnership with the Ministry of Education and is part of the Ministry’s plan to strengthen English as a Second Language programming nationwide.


Masa Israel Journey and the Ministry of Education launched Masa Israel Teaching Fellows in 2011 for recent college graduates ages 21-30 who are native English speakers. Since then, more than 800 native English speakers have served as fellows in the 10-month program. To account for increasing needs in the Israeli school system, Masa Israel and its partners at the Ministry, Israeli Government, and Jewish Agency for Israel are expanding the program’s presence. Many of the schools in which the teaching fellows serve have been identified by the Ministry as among the lowest performing in the country and in need of additional support. In the fall, as part of the expansion, Bat Yam and Eilat will be added to the current list of 12 cities where fellows teach.


Beginning this September, the fellowship will offer a new track for teachers who are certified to teach in their home countries, who will, after initial trainings, lead their own classrooms with English as a Second Language curricula. As in the past, individuals with undergraduate degrees will serve as teaching assistants alongside elementary and middle school full-time teachers.


“Masa Israel Teaching Fellows are serving in communities that are on the margins of society and in need of good, passionate, young teachers,” said Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of Education. “They do very important work, and the Ministry is proud to have them in our classrooms.”


Tamar Zilbershatz, Director, Gap & Service Programs at Masa Israel Journey, added, "Masa Israel Journey is thrilled to partner with the Ministry of Education to bring more highly qualified English teachers into the Israeli school system through our teaching fellowship. This program offers young teachers the rare opportunity to develop their professional skills and engage in self-discovery while having a deep impact on the ground in Israel. We invite all educators to join us for this rewarding experience.”


All teaching fellows will have the opportunity to boost their resumes while immersing themselves in Israeli culture through tailored trainings, certificate programs, community service projects and guided tours across the country.


Nitzah Santiago-Horseman served as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in the city of Ramla in 2013-2014. Today, thanks to her experience as a fellow in Israel, she teaches high school special education in Syracuse, N.Y., while pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood special education at Syracuse University. Nitzah was a public school teacher before working in Israel, but as she shared, “After my Masa Israel teaching fellowship, I’m a different teacher. I experienced significant personal and professional growth and change in a very short amount of time. As a teacher today, I’m more confident, more capable—and grateful for the time I spent alongside teachers and students in Israel.”




Masa Israel Journey is the leader in immersive international experiences in Israel. Masa Israel connects young people ages 18-30 who are seeking to enrich their personal and professional growth with the top gap year, study abroad, service-learning and career development opportunities. An initiative of The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Government of Israel, Masa’s subsidized, individually tailored programs immerse participants in the community as they embark on a journey that will change both the course of their lives, and of the Jewish people’s future. More info at @MasaIsrael and on Facebook.

eJewish Philanthropy: From Israeli Start-Ups to NYC Success: Masa Israel Journey Builds the Next Generation of Digital Entrepreneurs

eJewish Philanthropy: From Israeli Start-Ups to NYC Success: Masa Israel Journey Builds the Next Generation of Digital Entrepreneurs

February 13, 2017

Representatives from Israeli start-ups with a presence in New York, including WeWork, the shared workspace innovator, and Playbuzz, the interactive storytelling platform, convened in Playbuzz’s Manhattan headquarters last week to discuss the benefits of working in Israel’s tech industry. The gathering was co-hosted by Masa Israel Journey, which offers students and young professionals career development opportunities across the “Start-Up Nation.”

Gal, Guy and Adi Hila

(l-r) Gal Sela, Associate Community Manager at WeWork; Guy Franklin, General Manger of SOSA and Founder of Israeli Mapped in NY; and Adi Hila Yoffe, Director of North American Business Development at Masa Israel Journey converse about the Israeli and New York start-up ecosystems, during a February 8, 2017, New York gathering co-hosted by Masa Israel Journey and Israeli start-up Playbuzz. Photo by Axel Angeles/Masa Israel Journey.


Among those in attendance were Guy Franklin, general manager of SOSA (South of Salame), a multi-dimensional platform for global start-up ecosystems, and founder of “Israeli Mapped in NY,” an interactive map of Israeli start-ups in New York; Shachar Orren, VP of Content at Playbuzz; Michael Sadan, a content licensing specialist at Financial Times; Chris Schembra, founder of the 747 Club; and Jonathan Poor of Startupbootcamp FinTech.


Adi Hila Yoffe, director of business development for North America at Masa Israel Journey, together with Adi Barel, Masa’s director of international business development, convened the gathering to deepen the organization’s collaboration with the global Israeli ecosystem in order to further create a global community that provides the best opportunities for Masa participants and alumni. It is one of several such events happening around the country.


Yoffe kicked off the conversation, describing how only recently have internships become a regular part of the Israeli business model. In 2007, with a breakthrough partnership between Masa Israel Journey – an initiative of The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Government of Israel – and the Ministry of Economy and Social Security, the internship program concept was introduced into the Israeli workplace. Every year since, thousands of U.S. interns have been hired by Israeli firms, where they develop critical skills that allow them to advance their careers when they return home.


Interns in Israeli start-up companies have intensive, hands-on work experiences unlike anywhere else in the world. “The mentality in Israel is completely unique,” said Yoffe. “Risks are encouraged, and mistakes are brushed off. Israeli start-ups, across the board, are safe spaces where all employees, and interns especially, are encouraged to be critical and to improvise. They are asked to be outspoken, and they are listened to. As a result, Masa Israel Journey alumni enter the U.S. job market more confident, and more knowledgeable, than they would otherwise be.”


Margot Touitou is one such alumna. Now a Playbuzz content account manager in New York, she told the group that it was her Masa Israel internship at Tel Aviv tech company Brayola that helped her secure her current job. “I would never be where I am today if it wasn’t for that experience,” she commented. “It was absolutely what made me, and my resume, stand out when I was applying for positions in the U.S.”


The old cliché of interns getting coffee could not be further from the truth in Israeli start-ups, said Shachar Orren, Playbuzz’s vice president of content. “While in most companies around the world, an intern and a CEO wouldn’t even be in the same room as one another, in Israel it’s not uncommon to see them sitting alongside each other, sharing feedback and ideas.”



The conversation also turned to shared office space, a trend that WeWork pioneered. Members don’t just share office amenities, but, inspired by the Israeli kibbutz system, they also pool together resources, creating a community of entrepreneurs. It is a community that Masa Israel Journey joined earlier this year, when WeWork became its newest official corporate sponsor. Together this fall, they launched the WeWork Masa-GLI Business & Innovation Leadership Fellowship, a training program for Masa Israel program participants.


Originally published in eJewish Philanthropy

The Forward: The 5 Best Dating Apps To Use While In Israel

The Forward: The 5 Best Dating Apps To Use While In Israel

February 9, 2017

By Amy Albertson


Romantic Beach Picnic



This piece was contributed by Masa Israel Journey — for more information, click here.


We’re sure you’ve heard the news—there is an app for everything. Finding love (or at least a date) is no exception. And in the “startup nation,” we obviously believe in the swipe-to-like revolution. Here in Israel we have not one, but five, popular dating apps to lead us to the good Jewish boy/girl of our dreams. With that many options, it seems silly not to take your chances. After all, what would be better than falling in love in the Holy Land?

Of course not all dating applications are created equally and like with just about everything else, there are cultural differences. Lucky for you we’re here to breakdown Israel’s most popular dating apps.




Courtesy Tinder


The pioneer of the swipe-to-like revolution, Tinder, like in most places, is probably the most well-known dating app on the market. I suspect Israelis enjoy it for the same reason as everyone else—it is simple. You swipe right to like, left to dislike, and profiles contain only minimal information. Predominantly visual profiles leave less room for a language barrier initially, but be ready to practice your Hebrew skills as soon as the messaging starts. Ma at mehapeset? What are you looking for? Although constantly debated, Tinder in Israel is not the most recommended place to find true love. Swipers here are most likely looking for something much more casual, so keep that in mind.






We have our own country, so why shouldn’t Jews have their own dating app? We do! Jswipe is commonly referred to as “the Jewish Tinder” because its similar format. However, Jswipe profiles have some extra categories, such as kosher or not kosher and level of observance—super handy things to know when searching for one’s beshert (soulmate). For those of you not so confident with your Hebrew skills, a high percentage of Jswipe users are either non-Israeli or speak English. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a Hebrew tutor in addition to a match? Either way, Jswipe is Israeli tested and Jewish-mother approved.






OkCupid is basically the yenta (Jewish matchmaker) of the Israeli dating app world. The app matches couples using an algorithm and matches are determined by your answers to specially designed questions. Although the mobile version includes a swiping feature, OkCupid is has a reputation for being the best app for finding a serious relationship. Profiles include a lot more personal details and space for in-depth information. Luckily Israelis love to talk about themselves and tend to fill out a majority of the profile, giving you lots of information to consider before making contact.






The newest addition to the Israeli dating scene is Bumble, known for its feminist features. Like most of the other apps you swipe one way or another to like or dislike. However on Bumble, females have to message first (when set for heterosexual relationships). Additionally, males have 24 hours to respond to a message before the match expires. If you’re interested in dating native Israelis, Bumble might not be the right app for you. A bit new to Israel, it is mostly full of hulnikim (non-Israelis). Yalla, ladies!






If an Israeli were a dating app, they would be Jfixx. If you are looking to immerse yourself into a truly Israeli dating app scene, this is it. Jfixx is filled with almost exclusively native Israelis and only works in Israel. Pros: you browse rather than swipe, are more detailed profile options than Tinder (including what kind of relationship you’re searching for and those trusty Jewish-specific questions), and has more dynamic options for liking profiles or just specific photos. Cons: the interface is completely in Hebrew and most of its users only speak only Hebrew. Think you have the chutzpah? We say go for it.


Amy is Masa Israel Journey’s Creative Content Manager. Originally from California, this Masa alumna and new Jerusalemite spends her days out in the field gathering and creating content for Masa, walking her dog Mindy, and bargain hunting. She’s addicted to social media, coffee, puppies and all things Israeli.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.


Originally published in The Forward

Jewish Insider: Daily Kickoff

Jewish Insider: Daily Kickoff

February 9, 2017

SCENE YESTERDAY IN NYC -- Masa Israel Journey hosted a panel yesterday featuring representatives from Israeli start-ups with a presence in New York, including WeWork and Playbuzz.

Among those in attendance were Guy Franklin, founder of "Israeli Mapped in NY," an interactive map of Israeli start-ups in New York; Shaul Olmert; Co-founder and CEO of Playbuzz; Shachar Orren, VP of Content at Playbuzz; Jonathan Poor of Startupbootcamp FinTech; Gal Sela of WeWork; Adi HIla Yoffe, Director of Business Development at Masa Israel Journey; Adi Barel, Director of International Business Development at Masa Israel Journey; and Meara Razon Ashtivker, COO at Masa Israel Journey. 


Originally published in Jewish Insider and republished in Haaretz

Life as an Introvert in an Extroverted Country

<div class="masa-blog-title">Life as an Introvert in an Extroverted Country</div>

By Alicia Schneider, Masa Israel Teaching Fellow, Rishon Letzion
Read more by Alicia on her personal blog.

Maybe it’s the kibbutznik foundation of the place, or maybe it has something to do with the teamwork ideals instilled during formative years in the IDF, but if Israel were an individual on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, it would undeniably fall under the latter. With that being said, Israel is still a place that attracts everyone, introverts and extroverts alike, so what is it about this land that manages to bring introverted people to an intimidating extroverted country and have them settle in comfortably?


A few months ago I moved to Israel, and while I had a few concerns such as the level of my Hebrew and the funds in my bank, I didn’t think to account for the overall personality differences between Canadian and Israeli society, however, that has proven to be the most challenging part of living here. As a self-described introvert who prefers a quiet night in with Netflix and a tall glass of wine, keeping up with the extroverted Israeli lifestyle has been testing.


Israel, a country roughly the size of the state of New Jersey, has a population of 8 million people. With over half of the country being desert, that’s a lot of people to cram in to a small space, and trust me, it is definitely noticeable. Like the stereotypical pictures you see of the shuk (market) full of dark-skinned men hollering sale prices and trying to sell you their produce before the neighboring cart gets to you first, Israel lives up to the cacophonic image of a Middle Eastern country. The morning bus ride to work becomes a social activity. Grocery shopping is an opportunity to get scolded by another customer about how she was definitely in front of you in the makeshift line, and a small quiet family dinner is not even a concept that exists here. Often mistaken for rudeness, people’s natural state is loud, assertive, and unapologetic. For this out-of-town introvert stumbling into this type of society, everyday life can seem a little daunting.


Yet, with all the balagan happening on every street in every city, Israel, and Tel Aviv in particular, still seem like a safe haven for all those introverted foreigners who come here in search of something different. What is it about this country that appeals to a mass of personalities instead of scaring them away?



Life as an introvert in Israel can be overwhelming. On more than one occasion, I have felt not only emotionally but also socially exhausted, which is not something I’ve dealt with before. Between constant required activities run through my program, my job as a volunteer English teacher, spending time with my very large and very loud Moroccan family, and trying to maintain a regular amount of personal relationships with friends, I’ve often found myself at the end of the week with no more fuel in my social tank when my roommates ask me where we’re going out that night. If this exact situation were to play out at home in Canada, I would apologize and choose to stay in for the night with a book or a movie almost every time. Yet here in Israel, much to my own surprise, I choose the opposite despite the fact that I’m running on empty, and the question is: why? Why this obvious and sudden change in personality and social habits?


I could chalk this up to me constantly coming more and more out of my shell, the Canadian winter affecting my mood or socializing opportunities, or how travelling has made me in to a more spontaneous person, but I don’t think any of those are the right answers for this situation. I’m not turning in to an extrovert, rather, I view myself as an introverted person with occasional extroverted tendencies and I believe that a lot of it has to do with integrating in to Israeli society. 


As an introvert in the Western world, it’s easy to stay on the outskirts of the action while still semi-participating. However, in Israel, if you’re not a part of the action the surrounds you it seems as if you’ve missed some crucial part of living here. Back home, when we stand at the edge of a bustling party, back to the wall and uncertain about whether or not to dip a toe in, we’re left alone by our peers. Here in the Holy Land, if you’re at a party and you’re not on the dance floor someone else is likely to pull you in. The difference is that one society is raised with the view that each person is an individual with their own personality type, while the other is brought up with the idea that you’re at your strongest when you’re together. Neither is completely wrong, and neither is completely right.


I can’t help but wonder how different my personality might be if I was brought up in Israel instead of in Canada. I’m not for a second ashamed of being an introvert, I’ve grown to recognize my strengths as an introvert and focus on developing those instead of the extroverted traits I lack. It’s appealing to think about who I might be had I been raised in a society that prides communal growth in place of individualized attention. But for now, I’ll have to concentrate on how to move between being an apologetic Canadian and an opinionated Israeli.


Wednesday, February 8 in NYC: Start-up Execs to Discuss Benefits of Working in Israel’s Tech Industry at Panel

Wednesday, February 8 in NYC: Start-up Execs to Discuss Benefits of Working in Israel’s Tech Industry at Panel

February 7, 2017



February 6, 2017



Sara Koenig, West End Strategy Team; Cell: (917) 420-0303

WeWork, Playbuzz, Masa Israel Journey and more will participate in Masa Israel Journey-hosted luncheon panel at Playbuzz Headquarters in Chelsea


NEW YORK – At a panel in Chelsea this week, representatives from WeWork and Playbuzz, as well as other tech entrepreneurs who launched their careers in Israel, will share how their experiences in the “Start-up Nation” helped them find success in the competitive U.S. job market. The event will be held at Playbuzz’s office, 147 W 26th Street, 5th floor (between 6th and 7th Avenues) on Wednesday, February 8, 2017, from 12 – 2 p.m., and will offer industry influencers a first look at Masa Israel Journey’s new international professional development model.


The panelists, young professionals who manage content, sales and educational initiatives at various start-ups, each studied in Israeli universities or worked at Israeli firms.


Ari Jacobovitz, a Masa Israel Journey study abroad alumnus who returned to New York and secured a job as Senior Sales Lead at WeWork, will speak to how the shared workspace innovator was inspired by the kibbutz, Israel’s communal living system. WeWork is one of Masa Israel Journey’s many corporate partners; together this fall, they launched the Masa-GLI Business & Innovation Leadership Fellowship, an intensive training program for young people ages 18-30 who participate in Masa Israel’s top gap year, study abroad, service-learning and career development initiatives.


Adi Hila Yoffe, Masa Israel Journey’s Director of North American Business Development, and Adi Barel, Director of International Business Development, will lead the conversation and provide information on Masa Israel Journey’s different opportunities. Lunch and cocktails will be served.


Panelists include:



Masa Israel Journey is the leader in immersive international experiences in Israel. Masa Israel offers young people ages 18-30 the top gap year, study abroad, service-learning and career development opportunities. An initiative of The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Government of Israel, Masa Israel’s subsidized, individually tailored programs allow participants to immerse themselves in the community and embark on unique journeys that enrich their personal and professional growth.

Secrets of the Machane Yehuda Market

<div class="masa-blog-title">Secrets of the Machane Yehuda Market</div>

On weekdays, the alleyways of Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market are a bustle of shoppers and sellers, a place bursting with sights, sounds and smells. Weekday evenings are similarly busy, with recently opened restaurants and bars attracting young people out for a night on the town. But on Saturdays, the Jewish day of rest, the market has traditionally been empty and silent, with the shutters of the stalls rolled down and locked.
When the shutters are down and the market is closed, it becomes just as colorful as it is when it is open because of one artist, Solomon Souza. He started this project in January 2015 and throughout 2015 and into early 2016, Souza has painted over 140 of the shutters — some are of famous people, and others are of biblical and other scenes. Up until now, it hasn’t been difficult to get the permission of the shopkeepers to paint their shutters. Some have asked Souza to paint a favorite rabbi or the family patriarch who was the original owner of their stall.
Albert Einstein

Scar Face

Crazy Lady

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:

The Times of Israel: Masa Holds Startup Event for Young Professionals

The Times of Israel: Masa Holds Startup Event for Young Professionals

January 17, 2017

By Shoshanna Solomon


350 young professionals from Masa’s long-term programs got an inside look at Israel startup ecosystem

Even Fankel at Masa Fast Forward

Even Frankel, Educational Programs Manager of the nonprofit organization Start-Up Nation Central, front and center, gives young professionals an in-depth look at Israel’s tech industry during Masa Israel Journey’s “Masa Fast Forward” conference at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv on Sunday, January 15, 2017 (Courtesy)


Close to 350 young professionals from around the world got an inside look at Israel’s start-up ecosystem while learning how to build their networks, resumes, and personal brands at “Masa Fast Forward,” a professional development conference organized for hundreds of Masa Israel Journey participants this week.


Fej Shmulevitz, Vice President of Community and Operations at the global navigation app Waze, opened up the gathering, held at Tel Aviv’s Yitzhak Rabin Center.


Throughout the evening, recent college graduates who are participating in Masa Israel’s long-term internships, English language teaching fellowships and post-college programs, attended interactive workshops facilitated by industry leaders that were designed to help advance their careers. Topics ranged from “Parallel Roads to Success: Developing your Social and Business Career” with Sagi Shahar, CEO and co-founder of Nachshonim Ventures, which connects young business professionals with volunteer opportunities at nonprofits, to “Body Language: Tools to Engage & Mobilize” by Ben Baginsky, Director of the Masa-GLI Global Leadership Accelerator program, which recently launched a new partnership with WeWork.


“From building your personal brand through social media platforms to acquiring a set of networking skills, the sessions I attended gave me new, necessary tools to apply as I move forward in my professional career,” said Dylan Simmons, a Canada native and participant in Masa Israel’s Destination Israel program.


Yuval Shafir at Masa Fast Forward

Yuval Shafir, founder and CEO of i Decide – Center for Career Development, shares best practices and resources with 350 young professionals during Masa Israel Journey’s “Masa Fast Forward” conference at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv on Sunday, January 15, 2017 (Courtesy)


Israel is looking to leverage Masa activities to draw young professionals to its high tech sector as the industry faces a shortage of skilled workers. Israel on Sunday approved the hiring of 500 foreign high-tech workers in a bid to forestall a severe shortage in qualified programmers and internet experts and proposed increasing the number of students in high-tech academic programs by 40 percent in the next six years.


Masa is an initiative of The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government, that aims to bring Jewish communities in North America closer to Israel via education and career development experiences in Israel. Currently, more than 2,000 students and young professionals are interning across Israel through Masa Israel Journey, at start-ups, hospitals, venture capital firms, schools, small businesses, media outlets and more, the organization said.



Originally published in The Times of Israel

The Jerusalem Post: New Lessons From My Old Elementary School

The Jerusalem Post: New Lessons From My Old Elementary School

January 7, 2017

By Liran Avisar-Ben Horin


The fellows lead small group instruction and tutoring, providing a more specialized study environment and increased personal attention.


Students in a classroom [Illustrative]. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Students in a classroom [Illustrative]. (photo credit:REUTERS)

I recently returned to my sleepy northern Israel hometown of Migdal Ha’emek to see my old elementary school through different eyes. My first-grade teacher is still teaching first grade, offering the same hugs, and two of my former classmates are now leading classrooms of their own.


All of them are working together these days with the school’s Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, a program developed in partnership with the Education Ministry to bring in young Jews from around the world to help teach English in schools the ministry has identified as in need of additional support.


My visit was more than just a nostalgic trip home. I stepped through the doors of Giyora Yoseftal Elementary School as an executive of Masa Israel Journey, an initiative of The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government and the leader in immersive international experiences in Israel, which I am proud to now lead.


Now in its sixth year, MITF is one of the flagship programs of Masa Israel. My mission was to see MITF’s impact firsthand. In 12 communities across Israel, including at my own school in Migdal Ha’emek, these fellows are at the forefront of helping children in undeserved communities learn English early so they can succeed in school and in their lives long after.


I am honored to be able to facilitate young Jews from around the world in spending long periods of time in Israel positively impacting local communities while enriching their personal and professional growth.


Our joint goal, together with the schools’ teachers and principals, and the government, is to ensure that Israel’s next generation has the language and study skills needed to excel in a global workplace.


The fellows – most of whom come from the United States, and all of whom are college graduates between the ages of 21 and 30 – spend 10 months in Israel teaching English as a second language to Israeli schoolchildren while immersing themselves in Israeli culture and daily life. More than 100 fellows are currently working in schools across Israel. Some of these schools rank among the lowest performing and rely on teaching fellows for critical additional English teaching expertise. Simply having more teachers in the room inspires students in their learning and helps them realize the value of their education.


The fellows lead small group instruction and tutoring, providing a more specialized study environment and increased personal attention.


Migdal Ha’emek is a perfect fit. It warmed my heart to see students who reminded me of myself at their age, in the same classrooms where I too learned English for the first time. The school’s walls are lined with art crafted by the students’ hands, and the courtyard is still noisy with their laughter at recess.


Migdal Ha’emek is a small town with a population of only 28,000.


Many of its residents are immigrants from Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, North Africa and South America. This mishmash of cultures has led to many challenges for the community. Its school system has traditionally lagged behind those in other parts of Israel.


But the MITF participants are helping to change that – change I experienced directly as I watched them at work in my former classrooms.


What struck me in Migdal Ha’emek, as it does every time I visit a Masa Israel Teaching Fellows site, is the way in which the fellows not only teach their elementary and middle school students, but also learn from them at the same time.


They may come from opposite sides of the world, but they share the same love of learning. The MITF participants and students find themselves in a sort of language exchange: “I’ll teach you English, if you teach me Hebrew. We’ll both sound funny.” The fellows are modeling adaptive leadership, and the impact is dramatic, with students often far more willing to speak English with their new American friends than they would be comfortable doing so with their teachers alone.


They also find themselves in a cultural exchange, including through the opportunity to volunteer in the community. Our fellows are helped to feel at home and to get to know the local community through BINA, the Jewish movement for social change, a longtime Masa partner.


The success of MITF is more than just teaching a new language to students who need the most help. It’s about teaching courage. It’s about the power of creating change, simply, quietly, one day at a time.


Not everyone is as fortunate as I am to lead an organization that is positively and directly impacting the community that molded me into who I am today. But as our teaching fellows program expands across the country, we can all welcome these fellows into our communities, supporting them and the students they serve. Together, we can help build a positive future for our schools, and for all of our students, that is just as bright as the ones we remember so well.


The author is CEO of Masa Israel Journey, the leader of immersive international experiences in Israel, including gap-year programs, study abroad, service-learning and career development opportunities, and an initiative of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the government of Israel.


Originally Published in The Jerusalem Post