Learning about religion and state in Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">Learning about religion and state in Israel</div>

By Rachel Barton, Career Israel
 
At the Religion and State seminar held in Jerusalem on November 18, Career Israel participants were met with a series of stimulating and thought-provoking speakers which left everyone pondering questions of Jewish identity and what it means to have a Jewish state. The day was set up in a way that made sure all sides were represented, but also so that no viewpoint on the spectrum of religion and state went unchallenged.
 

Adventure and connection on Desert Queen

<div class="masa-blog-title">Adventure and connection on Desert Queen</div>

 
Last month, four Masa Israel participants joined our Desert Queen team to challenge themselves with a trek through the land of Israel.
 

8 crazy nights (or days) out for Hannukah

<div class="masa-blog-title">8 crazy nights (or days) out for Hannukah</div>

 
With eight whole days of celebration, you’re probably looking for ways to make the most out of the festival of lights—Israeli style!
 

Life on Ahaliya Street

<div class="masa-blog-title">Life on Ahaliya Street</div>

By Rachel Zieleniec, Yahel Social Change Program
 
The Yahel program sits on a few guiding principles: humility, collaboration, cross-culture, empowerment and sustainability.
 
Although these might seem like they are just “buzz words” – this program is truly unique in the fact that we are making each one of these principles come to life throughout our work in Gedera.  This program isn’t a typical American-l
 

First reflections from Desert Sports Challenge in Nitzana

<div class="masa-blog-title">First reflections from Desert Sports Challenge in Nitzana</div>

 
By Eli Newman, Desert Sports Challenge
 
I decided to join the Desert Sports Challenge program because I loved every aspect of it. I came to Nitzana because I missed the way I felt from the first time I came to Israel. The thoughts of living permanently in a community in the middle of the Negev hadn’t really crossed my mind.
 

Otzma’s education day in the Negev

<div class="masa-blog-title">Otzma’s education day in the Negev</div>

 
By Nikki Avershal, OTZMA, Philadelphia, PA
 
OTZMA is more than Americans volunteering in Israel.
 

Masa Israel forges new partnerships with global service organizations

Masa Israel forges new partnerships with global service organizations

Masa Israel forges new partnerships with global service organizations

November 24, 2010

With young adults’ growing interest in international volunteer opportunities, Masa Israel is making Israel a global hub for service programs.
Representatives from leading American service organizations, including Teach for America, Peace Corps, City Year, Repair the World and other organizations traveled to Israel this week to explore volunteering opportunities offered through Masa Israel Journey.
 
A participant on one of the Masa Israel service programs, Yahel Social Change Program, had the opportunity to meet with the delegation:
 
"This past week we had the opportunity to host the Masa Delegation in Gedera and tell them a bit about what Yahel is doing here. The Delegation was made up of Jewish and non-Jewish directors, presidents and founders from some of the top direct service organizations in the world including City Year, Peace Corps, Joint Distribution Committee, American Jewish World Service and Teach for America. Out of about 150 Masa programs, they chose Yahel as one of the five or six programs to come visit. We were honored, excited and nervous all at the same time. A few of us created a presentation that exemplified our experience so far and in what ways we’ve incorporated the words of empowerment, humility, initiative, cross-culture, sustainability and collaboration into our time here. In times of contentment and/or confusion, I look to these words and figure out how or if they connect to the situation.
 
After our presentation, community members made the delegates a traditional Ethiopian meal. During our meal together, we spoke to them about our lives, how we got to where we are and where we hope to be in the future. The feedback that the program and we received was incredibly uplifting."

Watching trauma through the lens of a camera

<div class="masa-blog-title">Watching trauma through the lens of a camera</div>

 
By Sarah Hindman, Career Israel
 
Sarah Hindman is a senior at the University of Southern California studying film.
 

Learning from a Jewish hero

<div class="masa-blog-title">Learning from a Jewish hero</div>

By Cara Frazin, Masa Israel Campus Intern, University of Illinois at Chicago
 
On September 15, 2010, I had the rare opportunity to meet Natan Sharansky before the annual Jewish Federation Annual Meeting Luncheon where he was the main speaker.
 
As an active participant with the Levine Hillel at the University of Illinois at Chicago and as the Masa Israel intern for my campus, I spend a lot of time educating people about Israel and promoting Israel advocacy. When I was invited by The Hillels o
 

Sharron Topper-Amitai: Bringing Greater Phoenix to Israel and Israel to Greater Phoenix

Sharron Topper-Amitai: Bringing Greater Phoenix to Israel and Israel to Greater Phoenix

April 12, 2011

Now on her second shlichut in Phoenix, Arizona, Sharron Topper-Amitai had her first taste of international Jewish communal work 10 years ago in Manchester, England.
“I was there for two years and I loved every minute of it,” she says. While there, she created Jewish and Israel-related programming for Jewish community members of all ages and started a youth from the northern Jewish communities of the UK.
 
“My husband and I were both born in Israel and it’s been very important for us to work in Jewish communities outside of Israel,” she says. “I love being able to learn about diverse Jewish identities, while sharing my own experiences as an Israeli.”
 
Following her return to Israel, Sharron worked as a JCC director in Israel before setting out on her second shlichut in Phoenix. There, she works to bring Israel into her community’s daily life through concerts, movies, lectures, discussions, and other cultural events.
 
One of Sharron’s main aims has been to introduce college students and young professionals to Israel through Birthright trips and Masa Israel programs, experiences that often follow each other.
 
“When they decide they want to go, we sit together and discuss their options. Then they go and I’m so excited because I know what Israel does to people,” she says.  “They return with sparkles in their eyes and tell me that it was ‘amazing.’ What I love is when they ask me how they can contribute to their local Jewish community and how they can return to Israel.”
 
To keep the momentum going from their Israel experiences, Sharron created an Israel alumni group where Phoenix-based Birthright and Masa Israel alumni meet to take part in Israel-related events. “The work isn’t finished when they enroll in their programs. It’s just as important to keep them connected to the Israel Center when they return,” says Sharron.
 
At a recent Arizona State University graduate fair, where Sharron represented Masa Israel academic programs, Sharron felt especially prideful about her work. “I’ve gone to many recruitment fairs, but I was shocked when I entered a huge hall filled with tons of representatives from universities throughout the United States,” says Sharron. “My first thought was, Israel al-hamapah, which literally means, Israel is on the map. It was incredibly exciting see that Israel had a presence among all those institutions. Lots of people stopped by to show their support and learn about graduate programs in Israel.”
 
Sharron is thankful for the opportunity to be a shlicha today. “We live in an era when Israel and Judaism are changing so quickly. Although it’s a challenge to influence what’s happening, it’s a privilege to be able to try,” says Sharron. “I believe that Masa Israel programs certainly make a huge difference.”
 
Sharron is being honored with Masa Israel’s “Outstanding Achievement in Recruitment” award the this year’s Kenes Shlichim, a conference for Israeli emissaries from across North America.