Masa Israel Journey Energizes the Next Generation of Jewish Leaders

Masa Israel Journey Energizes the Next Generation of Jewish Leaders

March 9, 2010

There are more than 9,000 young Jewish adults currently on Masa Israel programs, and more than 50,000 alumni. Fifty six percent of them have also taken part in Birthright Israel.
"The nonprofit sector is at a major crossroads. After years of humming along at a familiar pace of ongoing programs, stable leadership, and status quo fundraising, a new wave of change is happening right before our very eyes. The thousands of idealistic baby boomers that started nonprofit organizations 20 years ago are calling it quits and retiring from their leadership positions in the coming years. You’ve no doubt heard about it, but I’ll just confirm it for you here: there is indeed a leadership crisis looming ahead for the nonprofit sector.”
Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles
 
Who will lead the Jewish community tomorrow?  As the baby boomer generation of leaders approaches retirement, Masa Israel Journey is setting the pace in leadership development for the next generation by tapping into the passions of thousands of outstanding 18-30 somethings searching for a deeper connection to the Jewish people.  There are more than 9,000 young Jewish adults currently on Masa Israel programs, and more than 50,000 alumni. Fifty six percent of them have also taken part in Birthright Israel.
 
Masa Israel alumni are taking on entrepreneurial leadership roles, from chairing national conferences tostarting their own organizations. Others have assumed positions as Jewish communal professionals, tackling the challenges facing the Jewish community today.
 
“Following their 5-12 month-long Masa-sponsored internship, volunteer or study experiences in Israel, Masa Israel alumni return to North America not with new skills and the capacity to compete in today’s global economy, as well as with deeply rooted (and often new-found) passion for Jewish life and the desire to become part of a lifelong network of committed and connected leaders,” says Avi Rubel, director of Masa Israel Journey North America.
 
Elina Moyn, having left Latvia to escape religious persecution, always had a strong Jewish identity but knew little about the traditions or history.  After a Birthright trip to Israel sparked her interest in her Jewish identity, Moyn decided to spend her senior year at CU Boulder at the Masa Israel-accredited Tel Aviv University.
 
“Until I went on my Masa program, I did not feel as personally invested in the land,” Moyn says.  “But as I developed friendships with Israelis and lived an everyday life amongst the history I learned about in the classroom, my Jewish identity grew, with Israel at its center.” Today, Elina works as an Operations Manager for a Boulder trading company and teaches Hebrew school.  In the future, she hopes to work in international business with an Israeli company.
 
The anti-Israel sentiment at Concordia University compelled Toronto-native Alan Herman to return to Israel for a longer period of time after his first Birthright trip.  “Finding myself at an increasing number of pro-Israel rallies, I knew I needed a way to incorporate my passion for Israel into my daily life,” he says.
 
At Ben Gurion’s Masters in Middle Eastern Studies (MAPMES), Herman studied the Arab-Israeli conflict under the guidance of the Israeli scholar, Benny Morris, helped organize excursions to UNSCO (the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process) and the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), participated in research on Jewish-Arab reconciliation, and took a course in the role of Canada in the Middle Eastern Peace Process.
 
After earning his Master’s degree, Herman returned to Canada and became a research associate at the Israel & Jewish Advocacy Research Institute, the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. A year ago, he was accepted to the Quebec-Israel Committee for their Quebec Parliamentary Program.
 
For Rachel Olstein, it was not until she was an adult working in the non-profit sector that she discovered her place in the Jewish community. Though Olstein grew up in a large Jewish community outside of Boston, her commitment wavered as a student at Vassar College as she became involved in social justices causes unrelated to the Jewish community.  But when she found a community of Jews dedicated to tikkun olam and Israel, Olstein reentered the community and decided to explore her own connection to Israel.
 
“For thousands of years, Jews have wanted to be in Israel,” Olstein says.  “Not only did I feel privileged to be born into an era when it was possible to visit Israel, I felt obligated to spend an extended period of time there.”
 
Olstein enrolled in the Masa Israel-accredited Hebrew University Masters program in Community Leadership & Philanthropy Studies, where she focused her studies on organizations that pursue social justice from a Jewish perspective, but work to help populations beyond the Jewish community. Today, Olstein serves as Director of Volunteer Services for the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda, a residential community for orphaned children in Rwanda.

Alumni Spotlight: Rachael Rubens, Iraqi War Veteran

<div class="masa-blog-title">Alumni Spotlight: Rachael Rubens, Iraqi War Veteran</div>

 
Service in the United States Army is anything but easy, and being a Jew in the military only complicates matters further. 
 
One of only a handful of Jews in the army, I was barraged with questions about Judaism, most of which I lacked the knowledge to answer adequately.  Upon completing my service, some of which I spent in Iraq, I headed back to the Middle East to learn Hebrew at the Masa Israel Journey-accredited Ulpan Akiva program, hoping to gain the necessary skills to learn more about my religion.  While in I
 

Masa Israel Reaches 9,300 Participants

Masa Israel Reaches 9,300 Participants

February 11, 2010

The number of Masa Israel participants has reached 9,300 in 2009-2010, up from 8,200 last year.
Masa Israel North America Director Avi Rubel says the increase is a direct result of the rising number of upcoming and recent college graduates and young professionals pursuing internship, community service and graduate academic opportunities in Israel.
 
“Today’s constricted economy has prompted many young Jewish professionals at the beginning of their careers to see Israel as a place where they can gain more professional experience before tackling the job market,” says Rubel. “Investing five to 12 months in an internship or volunteer experience in Israel differentiates them from their competition, and provides them with international experience that puts them a step ahead as they re-enter the workforce.”
 
Since August 2008, Masa Israel has received more than 9,000 inquiries about internship, service and study opportunities in Israel in reaction to its campaign, “Israel. A Better Stimulus Plan."
 
Adi Clerman, a 26-year-old Masa alumna whose story recently appeared in the Chicago Tribune , signed up for Career Israel after she lost her job as a recruiter at JPMorgan Chase in 2008. She interned for five months an American marketing firm in Tel Aviv, and filled a gap in her resume.
 
“When people asked me, ‘You got laid off in August 2008, what have you done since then?’ I had a really great answer,” Clerman told the Tribune. Now she’s back in Chicago working as an admissions representative at Harrington College of Design.
 
Masa Israel’s wide variety of internship, volunteer and study opportunities in Israel offer placement in leading international companies as well as in government and non-profit organizations. Graduate academic programs at Israeli universities offer North American students advanced degrees with professors who previously taught at Columbia’s Business School, NYU’s Stern School of Business, Duke University, the University of Chicago and other prestigious institutions.

Chicago Tribune: Americans chase internships abroad as a gateway to work

<div class="masa-blog-title">Chicago Tribune: Americans chase internships abroad as a gateway to work </div>

Last week, the front page of the Chicago Tribune business section had an above-the-fold story reporting on young adults heading abroad for professional experience. And guess what the lede of the story was? That’s right. Opportunities in Israel. Check it out:
 
By Julie Wernau, Tribune reporter
 

Israel Draws Young Professionals

Israel Draws Young Professionals

Israel Draws Young Professionals

December 29, 2009

They come from Prague, St. Petersburg, New York City and Columbus, Ohio, but the these young professionals all have one thing in common: They are living and working in Israel on Masa’s post-graduate program.
Masa participants met with Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky on December 24, 2009, at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Also participating were representatives from Masa the Jewish Agency, and the Begin Center.
 
Masa, a gateway to long-term Israel programs sponsored by the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel, offers a variety of programs for young people on their “Gap year,” the year immediately after high school graduation, as well as for post-graduates (ages of 21-30), many of whom have advanced degrees.
 
“The post-college program is our biggest growth industry,” said Alan Hoffmann, the Jewish Agency’s Director General of the Education Department. The 2009-2010 year brought 9,000 young people to Israel – 2,400 on the post-graduate programs. “Our goal is to bring one out of five young Jews from across the globe to Israel,” said Hoffmann.
 
The post-graduate programs offers a wide range of choices from working on an ecological farm in Modiin to training in a Kibbutz dance program. The Israel Government Fellows Program (IGF), for example, places young professionals in internships in a range of government ministries, including the Justice Ministry, Finance ministry, and Civil Authority. There are currently 24 fellows on the IGF program.
 
Another post-graduate program, the Masa Career Israel track, matches 250 young people each year with over 300 internships in places such as hotels, consulates, and the high tech industry.
 
“Israel wasn’t a target for professional internships before, but now this gives young people the kind of global experience that they can put on their resume,” said Ayelet Shiloh-Tamir, CEO of Masa.
 
Igor Zaystev, 24, is a good example. “My parents thought I was crazy to quit my job and come to Israel,” said Zaystev, a graduate of Baruch College in New York who is now interning at the Tel Aviv University Hillel. “But [this program] has enabled me to tell my parents that I am getting professional experience that I can put on my resume.”
 
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Zaystev moved to New York at the age of six.  He intends to return to the States after the completion of his internship. “I want to spread my experience with others and play a larger role in Israel advocacy to young people,” he said.
 
Like the other participants at the personal meeting with Sharansky, Zaystev expressed his gratitude for the scholarships offered through Masa. Scholarships range from $3,000 for a four month program to $7,500 for a 10-month program. “Without the Masa grant I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
 
For Jessica Jaffe, 28, participating in the Tikun Olam program in Jaffa has broadened her worldview.  “This has been absolutely amazing. It’s such a special program that has really opened my eyes. I wanted to deepen my experience and do something outside my comfort zone, and this struck my interest in getting closer to my Jewish identity in a way that was not forced. This program fosters coexistence. You live and work in a mixed community with Arabs, Sudanese, Ethiopians and Jews,” she said.
 
Before embarking on the post-graduate Masa program, Jaffee graduated from Rochester University and worked for five years in market research in New York.
 
Other post-graduate participants who attended the meeting included Matthew Goodman from New York who is currently on the WUJS program that offers support for artists and writers, Melissa Holcomb from Columbus, Ohio, who is on the Israel Teacher Corps,  Alexandra Kazen from St. Petersburg, who has an M.A. in physics and is participating in the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in northern Israel, and Stepan Kliment from Prague who is studying at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.

Masa Israel showcases career opportunities for young adults in Israel’s ‘green’ sector

Masa Israel showcases career opportunities for young adults in Israel’s ‘green’ sector

Masa Israel showcases career opportunities for young adults in Israel’s ‘green’ sector

October 31, 2009

Go Green in Israel campaign joins Hazon in cross-country eco-awareness tour
Masa Israel Journey recently launched ‘Go Green in Israel,’ an initiative to highlight opportunities for young adults in North America to study, intern or volunteer in the “green” or environmental sector in Israel. Masa offers programs ranging from environmental studies at Ben Gurion University and the Arava Institute, to internships at renewable energy startups, to volunteering on an eco-farm. Masa launched a microsite for these programs at www.gogreeninisrael.org.
 
To increase awareness of these opportunities, Masa partnered with Hazon, America’s largest Jewish environmental nonprofit organization, launching the Jewish Climate Change Campaign and Bus Tour at the United Nations Friday (Oct. 23). The bus, which was formally sent off by Janos Pasztor, head of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Change Support Team, is run entirely on bio-diesel fuels and loaded with seedlings to be planted by children in Jewish communities around the country.
 
Masa and Hazon staff will travel cross-country on the bus, making stops to promote Masa programs in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Kansas City, Atlanta, New Orleans, Texas, Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Monterey, California.
 
“Israel is a world leader in innovation in fields like sustainable development, water conservation, and renewable energy, and a great place fore young adults from North America to prepare for cutting-edge careers in the green sector, while also connecting to their Jewish roots,” says Avi Rubel, North American director of Masa Israel Journey.
 
Masa is a joint project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Government of Israel and was founded in 2004 under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to encourage Jewish young adults ages 18-30 to study, intern or volunteer for a semester to a year in Israel.

Masa Participants Win Israel’s "Queen of the Desert Journey"

Masa Participants Win Israel’s "Queen of the Desert Journey"

Masa Participants Win Israel’s "Queen of the Desert Journey"

September 25, 2008

Four Masa long-term Israel program participants won Israel’s first annual Queen of the Desert Journey earlier this week.
The week-long desert challenge, which included 60 women aged 21-64, was cosponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel, Partnership 2000 and the Geographic Company in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary.
 
Throughout the week-long journey, participants rode jeeps and bikes through the desert’s rocky terrain, explored Israel’s craters, visited a combat unit with both men and women, rappelled off mountains, and camped in Bedouin tents.  "I’ve spent a good deal of time in Israel, but it was incredible to experience it from the heart of the desert and in the heart of Israel," said one of the winners, Ronit Raier, 23, Bnai Akiva gap-year program alumna and former madricha from South Africa.
 
Tali Farkas, 22, from Germany, Hannah Zakon, 24, from New Zealand, and Ingrid Abler, 21, from Argentina joined Raier in her victory.  The desert challenge also included 10 participants from North America. 
 
Though participants faced many challenges along the way, including sleeping in areas exposed to foxes and then awakening to find their backpacks gone and their cell phones and chocolate bars scattered along nearby mountains, the Masa participants did not find the trek too trying. "We found so much support in the other 56 participants throughout our journey," said Tali, an IDC Herzliya student. "They were like mothers to us."
 
Winners of the competition received certificates and Columbia-brand sportswear. They were selected to be winners as a result of the spirited contribution they made to the desert challenge experience.  
 
"To see young girls taking such a huge step, leaving their homes, their comfort zones, their families and friends, and spending time in Israel made a huge impact on the other women," said Ronit. 
 
Our new "Queens of the Desert" truly appreciated their Negev victory. Hannah, from the Israel Government Fellows program, said, "The opportunity to bond with so many other Jewish women inspired me, and competing in the Negev made this experience even more unforgettable."

50 Masa participants take the stage in Jerusalem at the Presidential Conference 2008 - Facing Tomorrow.

50 Masa participants take the stage in Jerusalem at the Presidential Conference 2008 - Facing Tomorrow.

50 Masa participants take the stage in Jerusalem at the Presidential Conference 2008 - Facing Tomorrow.

July 7, 2008

50 Masa participants from the Building Future Leadership Seminar Series (BFL) were invited to share the stage in Jerusalem with Israeli President Shimon Peres during the opening ceremony of The Presidential Conference -- Facing Tomorrow. 
The participants joined 50 other Masa participants, 13 current or former heads of state (including President George W. Bush and and former Prime Minister Tony Blair) and 3,500 distinguished guests for a three-day event initiated by Mr. Peres for the purpose of "examining, confronting, and responding to three intertwining  futures: the global tomorrow, the  Jewish  tomorrow, and the Israeli tomorrow."
 
Attendees chose from a wide variety of lectures, panels, and discussion sessions lead by prominent figures in the academic, political, religious, scientific, business, technological and Jewish world covering a diverse range of topics. "It was something I never thought I would experience," commented Deborah Laks from Costa Rica. "Getting to see such prominent people up close.  It gave me the insight that anyone can achieve what they have if they have the ambition.
 
Peres has made clear that the development of such ambition was one of the desired outcomes of the conference as a whole. More than generating "talk," Peres writes, the conference strove to drive "action" by "encouraging practical initiatives intended to positively shape our future."

Masa Participants Attend Presidential Conference

Masa Participants Attend Presidential Conference

Masa Participants Attend Presidential Conference

May 13, 2008

50 Masa participants from the Building Future Leadership Seminar Series (BFL) were invited to share the stage in Jerusalem with Israeli President Shimon Peres during the opening ceremony of The Presidential Conference -- Facing Tomorrow.
The participants joined 50 other Masa participants, 13 current or former heads of state (including President George W. Bush and and former Prime Minister Tony Blair) and 3,500 distinguished guests for a three-day event initiated by Mr. Peres for the purpose of  "examining, confronting, and responding to three intertwining  futures: the  global  tomorrow,  the  Jewish  tomorrow, and the Israeli tomorrow."
 
Attendees chose from a wide variety of lectures, panels, and discussion sessions lead by prominent figures in the academic, political, religious, scientific, business, technological and Jewish world covering a diverse range of topics. "It was something I never thought I would experience," commented Deborah Laks from Costa Rica. "Getting to see such prominent people up close. It gave me the insight that anyone can achieve what they have if they have the ambition."
 
Peres has made clear that the development of such ambition was one of the desired outcomes of the conference as a whole. More than generating "talk," Peres writes, the conference strove to drive action by "encouraging practical initiatives intended to positively shape our future."

Masa Celebrates its Fourth Year, and Israel's 60th

Masa Celebrates its Fourth Year, and Israel's 60th

Masa Celebrates its Fourth Year, and Israel's 60th

April 29, 2008

Thousands of Masa participants, dignitaries and guests gathered in Latrun on Thursday night to celebrate Masa's 4th year and Israel's 60th anniversary.
Over 5,000 Masa Israel participants gathered in Latrun on the evening of May 22nd to celebrate their year in Israel and the contribution they have made while participating in a long-term Masa-affiliated program.  
 
Those in attendance were treated to a high-caliber show that included addresses by Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Ehud Olmert and the Chairman of the Jewish Agency Mr. Zeev Bielski, musical and visual performances by Israeli artists such as Teapacks and Tararam, and a laser light show and spectacular fireworks display finale.
 
"It was really cool that Masa went out of its way to put on something special for us," said Los Angeles native Jordan Kwok of OTZMA. "I was impressed by how big the event was and the whole energy it had about it. And it was great to see how many participants were there." 
 
0ver 25, 000 young Jews from around the world have participated in a Masa-affiliated program since Masa's conception in 2004. This year (2007-8) witnessed the largest participant numbers to date with over 8,000 participants coming to Israel from 50 countries.  
 
Deborah Laks of Costa Rica, who co-hosted Masa LIVE with fellow Building Future Leadership (BFL) participant Noah Serbin of the United States, confessed, "Living in Israel makes me feel I finally belong somewhere. Israel has given me so much. It has definitely become my home, and this has been all thanks to Masa."