Seeking Diversity and Balance while Volunteering Abroad

Seeking Diversity and Balance while Volunteering Abroad

April 11, 2011

After graduating from Brandeis University, Chicago-native Becky Kupchan knew that she wanted to spend the year volunteering abroad and decided to enroll in the WUJS Peace and Social Justice program.
“I hadn’t yet spent time in Israel on my own,” says Becky. “At Brandeis, I sought out a more diverse community and studied abroad in Argentina. WUJS seemed like it struck a good balance with an independent internship and a group aspect.”
 
While living in Jerusalem, Becky interned at the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews. There she edited grant proposals, worked on North American donor outreach, and blogged about her experiences. She also had the opportunity to visit Ethiopian absorption centers and attend a Supreme Court case related to the Ethiopian population.
 
“I previously worked with Central American immigrants and I was happy to work with another community that needed help,” says Becky.
 
One of her most memorable experiences was the Sigd holiday celebration, which commemorates the Ethiopians’ return to Jerusalem. “It was a very powerful religious ceremony with the kesim leading prayers and everyone in white with decorated umbrellas,” says Becky. “It was incredible to take part in it alongside tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews.”
 
Aside from her internship, Becky took part in a Hebrew ulpan and trips throughout Israel, which included travels to Latrun and Hebron. She also roomed with three recent graduates, who became good friends.
 
“I learned about Israel in ways that can’t be taught or read in an article. By living there and going grocery shopping and doing things that one does in daily life, I was able to see how impressive Israeli society is and explore my own connection to Israel,” says Becky.
 
While in Israel for Yom Hazikaron, Becky experienced the country-wide siren in Tel Aviv. “I remember thinking that nothing like this would ever happen in America because there isn’t one thing that everyone would agree to have a moment of silence for,” says Becky. “It was beautiful that for once, Israelis, who are always so opinionated, were able to find common ground.”
 
After returning from Israel, Becky became program coordinator at Camp Ramah Wisconsin, the camp she attended growing up. She now works for Shorashim, a nonprofit organization devoted to building bridges between Jews in Israel and around the world, and helps coordinate its Birthright trips.
 
“My Masa Israel experience helped me prioritize the things that are important to me,” says Becky. “There’s something about Israel that really draws me in and I love being able to send others there.”

Digging Into the Connection between Food and Land

Digging Into the Connection between Food and Land

Digging Into the Connection between Food and Land

December 28, 2010

After four years of grassroots education and community work following her graduation from Brown University, Talya Oberfield decided to head to Israel.
“Israel was one of the places I wanted to spend time after college so even while working, it was in the back of my mind,” she says.
 
She enrolled in Eco-Israel, a five-month ecological program located on a farm in Modiin. “Having grown up in a home with a garden and compost pile, as well as working with an urban gardener and farmer through my job in Boston, I wanted to explore my own connection to food and the land,” says Talya. “I was also interested in learning about these issues in Israel.”
 
During those five months, Talya lived in a geodesic dome, took courses in permaculture, herbal medicine, mud building, and food growing, as well as Israeli history, and took part in communal living with Israeli, North American, and Australian peers. “It was great to live outside alongside a group of 10 other people and cook together and celebrate holidays together,” says Talya. “I also appreciated experiencing the Israeli calendar cycle and actually seeing that Sukkot was harvest time and that the almond trees blossomed on Tu B’Shevat.”
 
On group trips, Talya visited other agricultural communities around Israel and attended the country’s first Food for Thought conference. “I realized that we weren’t just doing isolated work on a farm,” says Talya. “We were connected to a much larger movement.”
 
Also during her time in Israel, Talya started dating a long time friend—now fiancé—who was studying at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Machon Schechter, another Masa Israel-accredited program.
 
Talya decided to stay in Israel after Eco-Israel ended to help the farm develop its community supported agriculture (CSA) initiative and work with other organizations that she learned about through Eco-Israel.
 
“Initially, I thought that my experiences would play a role in shaping my career and perhaps it will, but ultimately the impact was more holistic,” says Talya. “I’ve learned how to incorporate the things I gained into my daily life.”
 
Now in New York, Talya is working at iMentor, a creative mentoring organization based in New York City high schools and youth organizations throughout the country. She continues to remain environmentally engaged, growing tomatoes and other plants on the fire escape of her Manhattan apartment and taking part in the Hazon bike ride, with the help of Masa Israel funding. In addition to biking 130 miles in two days alongside her fiancé and sister, Talya learned how to make pickles and reunited with other Eco-Israel alumni.
 
“My time in Israel definitely strengthened and complicated my relationship with the country. I was able to get to know my surroundings and develop a connection to the environment,” says Talya. “I was also able to spend a lot of time with my Israeli friends and family, and I’m looking forward to seeing many of them soon at my wedding.”

Taking the Time to Experience Israel

Taking the Time to Experience Israel

December 27, 2010

After his Birthright trip to Israel during college, Brookville, Maryland-native, Josh Lichtenstein knew he needed to return to Israel for a longer period of time.
“Everything was so rushed and amazing,” says Josh. “I didn’t have time to take it all in and I knew I’d be back.” Upon graduating from George Washington University, Josh joined WUJS Intern in Tel Aviv.
 
In Tel Aviv, Josh interned at YNet News, where he wrote book reviews and blogged about his experience as an American Jew in Israel. “Unlike internships in the United States, Israeli companies give you a ton of responsibility,” says Josh. “At YNet, I wasn’t just doing busywork; I was actually writing articles that got published.”
 
Aside from wanting the long-term experience abroad he missed in college, Josh says, “I wanted to explore my identity.” Having attended a Reconstructionist synagogue and been active in the campus Hillel during college, Josh was surrounded by a Jewish community for much of his life but his friendships with international Jewish young adults proved to be the highlight of his experience. “I befriended participants from Sweden and Russia and I was amazed to learn that though we were all different, we had a real bond due to our shared religion,” says Josh.
 
Josh also established similar connections to Israelis who lived in his building. “On Fridays, before getting ready for Shabbat, all the guys in the neighborhood played soccer—guys who had been in the army and served at dangerous checkpoints,” says Josh. “Yet, there we all were, playing soccer and having a good time and I realized that, at the end of the day, we were all pretty similar.”
 
Aside from being able to get to know the people of Israel, Josh was able to experience the entire country through trips throughout Israel. “The whole country was beautiful—hiking in the north, sleeping outside, camping in the desert,” says Josh. “And just waking up every day only 30 minutes from Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world.”
 
Back in Washington, DC, Josh believes that Israel will continue to be an important part of his life. “As it’s the Jewish homeland, I’ll always feel a spiritual connection to Israel. I’ll always feel an obligation to keep an eye on it,” he says. “And I definitely want to go back.”

WUJS Israel Tel Aviv: A Gateway to Experiencing Israel

WUJS Israel Tel Aviv: A Gateway to Experiencing Israel

WUJS Israel Tel Aviv: A Gateway to Experiencing Israel

April 11, 2011

Jacob Shillman is the first to admit that he was a “typical American Jewish kid.”
After all, it was easy to be Jewish in his hometown of Roslyn, NY – where synagogues are as ubiquitous as Woody Allen at a New York Knicks’ game.
 
It wasn’t until Shillman attended the State University of New York at Buffalo that he was exposed to Christian America.  “I was driving around on my first day with my roommate and I said to him, ‘Wow! There are a lot of churches here!’ and he looked at me like I was crazy. But it was the first time I was exposed to the world outside of my little shell.”
 
After graduating in May 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, Shillman knew one thing: He wasn’t ready to jump into work just yet.
 
He first wanted to experience Israel.
 
“Everyone was always talking about Israel, about how much they love it, and it’s constantly in the newspaper, and yet I had never been here,” said the 22-year-old Shillman. “I wanted to come before I have a career and family. I needed this place to be tangible to me.”
 
He started searching online for the perfect program  – something that would be for a significant amount of time and that would give him hands-on life and working experience. He found it in the WUJS Israel Hadassah program.
 
“WUJS Intern Tel Aviv was the best fit because it combined a work internship in Tel Aviv with tiyulim (day trips). It’s really a nice balance between working and being on your own and exploring the country,” said Shillman.
 
The WUJS program is under the umbrella of Masa Israel, a joint project of the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel to bring young people on long-term programs to Israel.
 
Masa Israel enables thousands of Jewish youth to spend a semester or a year in Israel close to 200 different programs, helping them build a life-long relationship with Israel and a firm commitment to Jewish life.
 
Since arriving here in September, Shillman completed an intensive ulpan (Hebrew language instruction), participates in weekly trips across the country with the rest of the WUJS Israel Hadassah interns, and is an intern at Oppenheimer Financial Services Co., where he is getting on the job training and experience.
 
The WUJS program’s mission has always been to strengthen the connection between the participants and Israel, according to Mike Mitchell, Program Director of WUJS Israel Hadassah.
 
The internship programs were established in 2008, beginning in Tel Aviv and expanding into Jerusalem a year later.  For five months, participants study Hebrew, explore the country, and are exposed to experiential lessons in Israeli culture and history. Each participant on the Jerusalem Arts Track is paired with a mentor while those on the Jerusalem Learning Track explore their routes through Jewish text and discovery.
 
What is unique about the WUJS program is its “boutique, personal feel,” said Ricky Yihye, Program Coordinator for the WUJS internship program in Tel Aviv, which is reflected in the way they will tailor the internship to the interests of the participants. Shillman, for example, had interned at Merrill Lynch in the United States and so requested to continue in the financial arena.
 
The 26 current Tel Aviv WUJS interns hail mostly from the United States but also include participants from India, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Germany and Russia. They are working in a fascinating cross section of internships, including everything from interning in the make-up and costume department at Israel’s Cameri Theatre and writing for the Haaretz newspaper to nursing at Ichilov hospital.
 
“There are 150 opportunities for different internships and it is always changing,” said Ricky Yihye who will seek out new internships in response to participants’ requests.
 
For his part, Shillman is thrilled with his WUJS experience – and for its potential to boost his marketability to future employers.
 
“I wanted to do something different and add something different to my resume and in the process develop a whole new network. In the end, I strive for a good recommendation to take back with me to America,” he said.
 
And when he does return to the States in February, he will remember his time in Israel fondly.
 
“My main goal in coming here was to establish a real connection to Israel. I wanted to know what it is like to live here and to develop relationships with this place and the people,” he said. “And I am doing that. I really love Israel and understand now why everyone is so passionate about it.”
 
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.
 
The study found that the longer the time program participants spent in Israel and the more repeated the experiences, the greater the level of Jewish identification.
 
“We are convinced – and the data from this reports affirm – that a continuum of Israel experiences for young adults correlates directly to them feeling, thinking and doing more things Jewish and Israel with each step they take along the Israel experience spiral,” said Dr. Misha Galperin, president and CEO of Jewish Agency International Development.
 

Politically Correct

Politically Correct

December 7, 2010

Aaron Meninberg went from working at the US’s Capital Hill to working at the Israeli Civil Administration in the Judea and Samaria region to become an expert on Israel when it’s time to return home.
By Tamara Shavit
 
Aaron Meninberg is one of the 273 citizens working in the Israeli Civil Administration, an Israeli body operating in the Judea and Samaria region running all local civil matters for the wellbeing of the population. He is also one of the 71 non-Israeli Jews who make up the Government Fellows, a unique project in the variety of Masa Israel Journey programs (follow-up programs to Taglit-Birthright Israel).
 
For 27 years, he was American in every respect – he graduated from college and began his career in the political world at Capitol Hill. But for the last three months, he has been living in Jerusalem and spending his days at the very heart of the region.
 
His story is not the classic Taglit-Birthright story of a Jew who visited Israel, fell in love with the country and decided to move. “First of all, I am American,” he says, and in seven months he’ll return to his homeland. For the moment, he is here to contribute to Israeli efforts, to get to know the situation on a deeper level and to have an extraordinary experience.
 
The Road to Politics
He spent his first 27 years of life going between the State of Washington and Washington DC. “It is a place with a small Jewish community, which doesn’t really identify with Israel,” he explains about the Washington of his childhood.  “It is actually because this community is Jewish that it feels the need to relate to the Palestinian narrative and identify with it. To me this makes sense, but it is often taken to the extreme opposite. Ultimately, the atmosphere created, both in universities and synagogues, is largely anti-Israel.”
 
He got a bachelor’s degree in the social sciences without really knowing where he wanted to take it. During summer 2006, he began working as an intern at the Hudson Institute (a policy research organization). While he researched international accords and international law, the Second Lebanon War broke out. “With a last name like mine, people in Washington expect you to be very aware of and familiar with what is going on in Israel. They expect detailed arguments. I knew I was pro Israeli, I just couldn’t explain why.”
 
It was only the beginning. During the four following years, he left research and settled into the world of lobbying. He got a job at the giant IBM to promote military sales outside the US, through Congress. At a later stage, he even represented the US army for Congress. Of course, he cannot speak about the projects he worked on but when asked whether it was difficult to represent a fighting army, he answers, “The world is a complicated place. In my eyes, trying to make it black and white is naive. None of us loves planes, missiles and bombs but the fact is they have a stabilizing influence. When we are stronger, we are actually less destructive. We are more capable of keeping the quiet.”
 
In the summer of 2009, he decided that US foreign policy interested him, especially in the Middle East. For a short time he was an independent, pro-Israel lobbyist, going from place to place and developing ideas. Alongside his lobbying activities, he also studied independently. “I read thousands of pages on the topic of Israel and foreign policy,” he explains, “and the more I learned, the more confident I became.” When he decided to do a master’s degree in international relations and economics, he heard of the Masa Israel Journey programs.
 
Work in the Civil Administration
Masa is a joint project of the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government, offering Jews from all over the world the chance to spend between five to ten intensive months in Israel, getting to know the country intimately. They travel, volunteer, learn Hebrew and take part in seminars, many also doing professional internships in fields ranging from medicine, to law and cooking. The program through which Aaron came, Government Fellows, is run by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and offers its members internships in the government.
 
“I wrote a short article, filled out a paper, was interviewed on Skype and I was accepted,” he recalls. “I didn’t know I would get a chance to work with Palestinians, I had no clue I would be in that region but I knew I would work in conjunction with the Israeli government and that was enough.”
 
Unlike the summer of the war in 2006, in the fall of 2010 he understood very well why the relations between America and Israel are so critical, “Today, Washington is debating the very complex question of whether Israel is still an asset or if its become a burden. To me, the answer is clear. From an ideological and political standpoint, Israel’s presence in the Middle East is vital to the US. It is a sagacious and stabilizing center of democracy and, in addition, it is an American ally in an area where the US is very much in need of a foothold. Economically, half of the activities going on in Silicon Valley would not be possible without Israel.”
 
As a result, despite the difficulties of moving to Israel, he is highly motivated in his job. “This is an excellent opportunity to learn and to work from the other side,” he says, “to contribute to the Israeli government today and simultaneously acquire a wealth of knowledge for my future in Washington.” He has been in the office for two months, under the officer in charge of agriculture in the Administration. His job consists of documenting and explaining to the international community the operations carried out in the Civil Administration. In practice, he does a lot of research.
 
“My job is to write documents about this activity and to attract as much as attention as possible. Gradually you learn that the information will not always be available to you and that you need to go out on the field to find it,” he explains. “You observe, you ask, you compare data, and you write accordingly. The intention, ultimately, is to change the way we are portrayed in foreign media and in foreign governments. To raise awareness about the extraordinary activity that is done here in the Civil Administration, which the foreign press doesn’t hear about.”
 
Israelis, Palestinians and one American
And what is this activity? Samir Mu’adi, head of the department, readily explains, “This is a department composed of 15 people, 3 Israelis and 12 Palestinians. Together we are in charge of protecting just below 42,000 acres of forests in the Judea and Samaria region, controlling all the agricultural products leaving the territories, and granting import permits to Palestinian farmers. Beyond that, we carry out tens of projects. Most of them are long-term projects that we take on with Palestinians for a few years at least. Strawberry growing in Qalqilia, peppers and cherry tomato growing in the valley, development of irrigation systems, funding of fertilizers, elimination of flies,” and the list goes on.
 
Aaron’s work plan is realistic: “I won’t change overnight the way foreign representatives vote, I know that. But I believe that many people would be happy to read and learn. My goal is not turn anyone pro Israel but rather to avoid decision making out of ignorance. We have a serious problem of lack of knowledge in the world, and all in all it makes sense. Nobody can be an expert in everything. Therefore we need to know to provide the right and relevant information. Just like a good lobbyist doesn’t try to push messages aggressively, he is just a reliable source of information. Someone whose advice you can trust.”
 

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."

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.

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.
 

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.