Out in full force at AIPAC's Policy Conference

<div class="masa-blog-title">Out in full force at AIPAC's Policy Conference</div>

By Avi Rubel, Masa Israel North American Director
Masa Israel was proud to be out in full force at AIPAC's Policy Conference this week in Washington, DC.
Of the more than 13,000 participants there were approximately 2,000 young adults--a very large number of them Masa Israel alumni.
It is wonderful to see that the growth in Masa participation is leading

Masa alumni Hebrew conversation club comes to Brooklyn!

<div class="masa-blog-title">Masa alumni Hebrew conversation club comes to Brooklyn!</div>

By Rachel Sales, Masa Israel Director of Alumni and Public Relations
This past week, Moishe House DUMBO and the Masa Israel alumni culture committee launched the bimonthly Hebrew conversation club.
Over delicious borekas, pita and hummus, we got excited for Purim–describing our past celebrations in Israel and trading ideas about mishloah manot.

Ynet: American Jews teach Israeli kids English

Ynet: American Jews teach Israeli kids English

March 6, 2012

Young adults from US Jewish communities teach their mother tongue in Israeli schools while learning about State of Israel, strengthening bond between world Jews.
Petah Tikva's Yad Lebanim elementary school acts under the banner of excellence and courtesy and emphasizes these issues among its students. In addition, the school has chosen to break the language barrier by having native English speakers teach its students English.
These studies were made possible thanks to the Masa project, which brings young Americans to Israel to voluntarily teach English in schools across the country.
Some 70 young Americans have arrived in Israel for this purpose and will stay in the country for a year.
Masa is a joint project of the government and the Jewish Agency together with the Education Ministry.
According to Jewish Agency Deputy Chairman Rani Trainin, the Masa project brings thousands of young adults from Jewish communities to Israel for a period of voluntary work.
"Many Masa participants make a significant contribution to education in Israel by teaching English and other subjects, thereby helping increase the level of education in the country while strengthening the interrelation between Israeli youth and Diaspora youth and the partnership between the State of Israel and the world's Jewry."

Alexis Gitman

Alexis Gitman

Tel Aviv University MA in TESOL
New Jersey native Alexis Gitman has always loved the theatrical arts.
After completing a Fine Arts degree at Rutgers University, she worked as a freelance stage manager for plays, musicals, operas and dance shows, and even spent a year as an events planner in the casinos of Atlantic City. But beyond the glamor of the stage, she felt drawn to another calling — teaching.
While working toward a Master's in order to teach English, a Birthright Israel trip opened her eyes to the possibility of teaching it to speakers of foreign languages instead. "I realized that we're becoming increasingly global, and right now, English is the world's primary language of communication," Alexis says. "Communication is at the basis of understanding — it is how we get to know the 'other.' And it's at the heart of the arts."
Within 24 hours of landing in the U.S. after her Birthright experience, she found TAU's Master's in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and applied.
As part of the program, Alexis works two to three days a week at a high school in Holon helping students to better their English skills — an experience that she finds tremendously rewarding, noting that speakers of other languages are often highly motivated to learn English, and make for enthusiastic students. And the freedom of choosing her own lesson plan allows for a great deal of creativity, she says. As long as students are learning the language, just about all topics and activities are welcome in her classroom.
Though the course has a demanding schedule that combines class time and teaching experience, Alexis feels lucky to be learning in such an inspiring environment. "The staff is globally known in the field of linguistics. They are at the top of the field and very passionate about what they do. Really, it's an honor to work with them."
Once she finishes her Masters, she'll pursue a teaching certificate. In the long-term, she hopes to combine her passions for teaching and theatre at schools that are oriented towards the arts, where she can teach the English language through drama programs.

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Maksim Berenshteyn

In-your-face Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">In-your-face Israel</div>

By Rachel Sales, Masa Israel Journey Director of Alumni and Public Relations
In Amos Oz’s memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, he writes that the real reason his grandmother died was not a heart attack, but rather an “excess of hygiene.”
Having arrived in Jerusalem from Vilna, she “took one startled look at the sweaty markets, the colorful stalls, the swarming side streets full of the cries of hawkers” and spent the rest of life constructing defenses against her new country&

Young Jews Enjoy an Expanded Israel Experience

Young Jews Enjoy an Expanded Israel Experience

Young Jews Enjoy an Expanded Israel Experience

February 22, 2012

As OTZMA kicks off its 27th year, young Jews seeking to join Jewish Federations’ premier Israel experience program can now embark on a five-month journey of leadership and service throughout the Jewish state.
This new OTZMA program will offer an additional experience to the signature 10-month OTZMA program, in which young Jewish adults, ages 20-30, can live in Israel, learn Hebrew and volunteer in small communities in partnership with their local Jewish Federations.
“By expanding our program options, OTZMA is able to provide a greater link between the North American Jewish community and Israel,” said Michele Sackheim Wein, chair of OTZMA. “We are excited to bring even more young Jews to Israel to enhance their leadership skills, explore their personal Jewish identities, travel the country and gain a deep understanding of Israel and the North American Jewish community.”
This year’s OTZMA program will also introduce new ways for young Jews to get involved in Jewish Federations. Participants will maintain a relationship with their Federation’s Young Adult Department (YAD) from their first interview to their return home, with extensive interaction in between. By helping to establish a connection between participants and their local YADs, OTZMA alumni will find a natural home within their Federation upon their return.
OTZMA participants will also visit programs and sites of Jewish Federation partner agencies, like the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and learn more about Federation’s work throughout Israel. OTZMA will offer optional internship programs for returning participants at their local Federations. 
“Our OTZMA participants return home with such a passion for Israel and a love for the Jewish people,” said Beth Mann, associate vice president of JFNA. “With these new ways of connecting to their communities, Jewish Federations have an unprecedented opportunity to harness that excitement by mentoring and developing these young leaders.”
OTZMA has been helping develop young leaders for years. Since its inception in 1986, more than 60 percent of alumni have served as professionals or volunteers in the Jewish community after returning home.
Plia Cohn is an OTZMA alumna who is now the Israel Engagement Coordinator at the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. “I couldn’t have predicted the impact of my decision to participate on OTZMA, both personally and professionally,” she said. “Through the lens of OTZMA, the place of Israel within my Jewish identity was strengthened in a very special way. As a parent and a professional, I have a passion for Israel that I share with my family, colleagues and community, and that passion was sparked by my OTZMA experience.”
The program also develops a connection to Israel and the Jewish Federation world. Ninety-six percent of OTZMA alumni call themselves supporters of Israel, while nearly 60 percent have donated to Jewish Federation.
“OTZMA has long been a premier Israel service experience for young Jews seeking to enhance their leadership skills, but this year OTZMA participants will have even more opportunities to connect our community,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations. “OTZMA is a vital part of our effort to engage the next generation, offering an incredible opportunity to actually see and feel the powerful impact of Jewish Federations."

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Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Israel Teaching Fellows - Ma'ase Olam