A slice of life in Israel on OTZMA

<div class="masa-blog-title">A slice of life in Israel on OTZMA</div>

 
By Lauren Zink, Otzma, Berkshires
 
This time last year I was just beginning my senior year of college at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. Like every student getting ready to graduate, I was thinking ahead to what I was going to do after I received my degree in public relations and marketing.
 
I thought about choosing the more typical path and looking for a job. But I knew in my heart that this was not the path I wanted to take yet. Ever since I was little I had wanted to carve out some time in my life to volunteer, and I wanted that volunteer work to be done in Israel.
 
Growing up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts I had attended Hebrew School until I was 18. I was also an active member of United Synagogue Youth (USY). One summer I participated in USY on Wheels, a six-and-a-half week cross-country journey with other Jewish young adults. It was this trip, along with Birthright, which made me realize how much I love being in an environment with Jewish peers, learning and sharing new experiences.
 

Extended Stays in Israel Create Leaders

Extended Stays in Israel Create Leaders

November 15, 2010

Participation in semester or year programs in Israel is directly linked to stronger Jewish affiliation and leadership — regardless of the Jewish background growing up, a study commissioned by Masa Israel Journey finds.
Masa Israel, a joint project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government which serves as an umbrella for 180 semester and year programs in Israel, commissioned the study to measure the efficacy of long term Israel programs for future Jewish involvement and affiliation.
 
The study was conducted by Prof.  Steven M. Cohen, director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner and research professor of Jewish social  policy at the Hebrew Union College, and Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz, principal of Research Success.
 
The study found that the longer the program on which participants spent time in Israel and the more repeated the experiences, the greater the level of Jewish identification.
 
The study surveyed more than 13,000 Israel program participants, more than 11,000 of whom were Americans, and most of whom had been on either a short-term experience or a Masa program from 2005 to 2010, or both.
 
It compared three groups who had been on short-term programs:
 
  • those who been on Birthright and not returned to Israel
  • those who returned to Israel for another short term; and
  • those who had been on Birthright, and then went on a Masa Israel program.
 
The study also examined two other groups who had been on long term programs only: those non-Orthodox young adults who had been on Masa without going on Birthright, and those who were raised Orthodox and had been on Masa.
 
These two groups reported far stronger Jewish background and childhood Jewish education than did the three Birthright groups.
 
The study found that with each subsequent Israel experience, the level of Jewish engagement rose significantly.
 
For example, for the married respondents, among those who did Birthright and had not returned subsequently to Israel, 50% married a Jewish spouse; among those who did Birthright and returned to Israel subsequently for a short term, 70% married Jews; among those who did Birthright followed by Masa, as many as 91% were in-married.
 
In other words, short term program graduates who never returned to Israel reported intermarriage rates close to the national Jewish average for people their age.
 
In contrast, those who went on to participate in a Masa program were far more likely to marry Jewish, doing so in more than nine out of 10 instances.
 

Security Issues Shabbaton

<div class="masa-blog-title">Security Issues Shabbaton</div>

 
Last weekend ten of our program participants went to Jerusalem for a Security Issues Shabbaton sponsored by Masa Israel. The weekend featured speakers from security, military, and journalistic perspectives who brought professional expertise and personal experience to the conference.
 

Photo Essay: MK Shlomo Molla visits Yahel Social Change Program

Top American Service Programs Explore Volunteer Opportunities in Israel

Top American Service Programs Explore Volunteer Opportunities in Israel

November 11, 2010

Teach for America, Peace Corps, and City Year travel to Israel to explore opportunities for young adults.
Representatives from leading American service organizations, including Teach for America, Peace Corps, City Year, and other organizations will travel to Israel in next week to explore volunteering opportunities offered through Masa Israel Journey. With young adults’ growing interest in international volunteer opportunities, Masa Israel, a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, is making Israel a global hub for service programs.
 
Masa Israel collaborated with Leadership Development at City Year to develop a study tour that will enable American and Israeli service organizations to share best practices in leadership development and community service. Among the 19 service organizations participating in this study tour are Teach for America, Peace Corps, City Year, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the American Jewish World Service, UJA Federation of NY, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, JCPA, Avodah, Hillel, Jewish Funds for Justice, New Israel Fund, Repair the World, Uri L’Tzedek, and Ve’ahavta.
 
“I haven’t heard of another country pulling together people for this purpose,” said City Year’s Director of Leadership, Dr. Max Klau.  “The study tour has the potential to impact the American service movement and the Israeli service movement.”
 
This year, Masa Israel will bring 10,000 participants to Israel on 180 five-to-12-month volunteering, career development and academic programs. Masa Israel participants invest thousands of hours of community service to Israeli society each year and Masa Israel offers 16 post-college programs exclusively dedicated to service.  Many participants parlay their volunteering into jobs in North America. In the last two years, Masa Israel has seen a surge in recent graduates participating in volunteering and career development programs; Masa Israel’s “A Better Stimulus Plan” continues to engage thousands of recent college graduates in exploring these opportunities in Israel.
 
“As a community service activist and a former Peace Corps volunteer, I know there’s great potential to increase the number of Americans volunteering in Israel,” says Masa Israel’s North American Director, Avi Rubel.  “It’s important to give young adults the opportunity to express their idealism through volunteering, and for a Jew, it’s especially meaningful to volunteer in Israel.”
 
The tour and the emphasis on growing volunteer and social activism opportunities in Israel reinforces the new direction of the Jewish Agency as reflected in its strategic plan. The operative part of the plan, approved last month in Jerusalem, calls for the Agency to focus its work into two areas of activity: one, to increase the number of young adults on experiences in Israel, including Masa; and second, to increase opportunities for social activism in Israel—precisely what this tour for representatives of leading American service organizations aims to facilitate.
 
The weeklong tour will include visits to volunteer programs in the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas and consultation sessions with policymakers and senior practitioners.
 
For more information about the study tour, contact Avi Rubel at (212) 339-6938 or avir@masaisrael.org.

Friend, You Are Missing

<div class="masa-blog-title">Friend, You Are Missing</div>

 
Rabin memorial, marking the 15th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination.
 
חבר אתה חסר
 
Bailey Spagat is photo-blogging for New Voices Magazine while participating in Career Israel
 

Photo Essay: Masa Israel North America Yom Kef

<div class="masa-blog-title">Photo Essay: Masa Israel North America Yom Kef</div>

 
Before winter hit, the Masa Israel North American team decided to have a Yom Kef (staff day). Being part of an Israeli organization, we did what any Israelis would do—a hiking trip! We woke up early and headed up to Bear Mountain.
 
After scaling the rocks, we stopped for a break.
 
Of course, no staff day would be complete without a snack and a call to our Israel office.
 
 
Halfway through the hike, are we having fun yet?
 
 
We made it to the top—what a view!
 
 
Now, if only we knew how to get back. Trail markers aren’t as good as they are in Israel…
 
 
Rescue arrives!
 
 
We had a great Yom Kef, spending time outside the office and enjoying the tail end of fall.
 
Now back to work getting more people on Israel programs!
 

No Longer a Void

<div class="masa-blog-title">No Longer a Void</div>

By Jake Shillman, WUJS Intern Tel Aviv, Roslyn, NY
 
There is a fitting passage written by Yair Lapid in describing my early thoughts on Israel: “It’s the only country where, if you despise politicians, abhor clerks, hate the situation, are disgusted with the taxes, loathe the standard of service, and detest the weather, it’s a sign that you love it.”
 
My name is Jake Shillman and I was raised in R
 

התקווה

<div class="masa-blog-title">התקווה</div>

 
This wasn’t my first visit to Kikar Rabin but it was definitely the most meaningful and one of the most meaningful moments I have had in Israel thus far.
 

Reflection and growth on Dance Journey

<div class="masa-blog-title">Reflection and growth on Dance Journey</div>

By Judit Eliosoff Ferrero, Argentina, Dance Journey
 
In all honesty, its very difficult to write about something so relevant that modified the lives of each one of us that who became involved with it.
 
My name is Judit, and I’m 23 years old and arrived to Israel from Argentina.  At the very beginning of the program, no participant actually knows what will be happening.  You know that you will dance the entirety of every day. People, languages, a beautiful place, massive studios… The body hurts, the mind is confused and the soul feels full, happy.
 
Slowly things start to become homey, because your true house is far away. Suddenly your neighbor and fellow participants becomes your sisters, and the teacher reminds you of an aunt. The kibbutz’s cafe is your meeting place and the forest becomes a place to relax.
 
The night. Friday night (Shabbat) dinner. And around you everything is dance, dance, dance.   Surprises arrive all time and make the journey more interesting. Trips and performances, new classes or opportunities to push yourself higher. Experienced teaching and professional dancers are a few of the things that make this a professional place to study.
 
Life during this 5-month period moves by so quickly that being thankful for it should be said every morning.  And when its all done, you discover that it was so intense and has most definitely left a strong mark on yourself. Between each step, people that you never imaged knowing abated your tears and shared your happiness. Progress and growth are noticed, body changes…
 
Israel is around you and shows its face daily, with a lot of amazing people who help show you the way, or the difficulties to live in the incomprehensible conflict. Beautiful places stay in the eyes, and tradition knocks the door of the room from time to time.
 
Decision. The best decision that I could ever have done. A trip to the inside. A trip to discover your body. A trip to push your limits… and the best thing? Being in the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company´s home.
 
Together… always it will be like this.