Study: Longer Experiences in Israel Linked to Sharply Increased Jewish Engagement, Leadership, and Marrying Jews

Study: Longer Experiences in Israel Linked to Sharply Increased Jewish Engagement, Leadership, and Marrying Jews

April 11, 2011

Masa study finds Israel fills gap for those with weaker Jewish background
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 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 Professor Steven M. Cohen, Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner and Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College, and Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz, principal of Research Success.
 
The study found that the longer the time  participants spent in Israel and the more repeated the experiences, the greater the level of Jewish identification. The study surveyed over 13,000 Israel program participants, more than 11,000 of whom were Americans, and most of whom had been on short term experience or Masa Israel program from 2005 to 2010. It compared three groups who had been on short term programs: 1) those who been on Birthright but not returned to Israel; 2) those who returned to Israel for another short term program; and 3) those who had been on Birthright and then went on a Masa program. The study also examined two other groups who had been on long term programs only — 4) those non-Orthodox young adults who had been on Masa Israel programs without going on Birthright, and 5) 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 ten instances.
 
This pattern repeated itself for numerous other measures of Jewish engagement. These included Jewish organizational affiliation, taking leadership in Jewish life, interest in working professionally in the Jewish community, attachment to Israel, and, for a small but significant minority – making aliyah. In other words, the study found that, on these measures of Jewish engagement, Birthright coupled with Masa can, in effect, provide a viable alternative route to very high levels of Jewish engagement for young adults with only moderate or limited Jewish background.
 
When asked if they had given thought to pursuing a Jewish professional career, 45% of those who did Birthright followed by Masa said yes, nearly identical to the 46% of Orthodox Masa graduates who said the same. Among those who had been only on Birthright, 12% indicated giving a Jewish career consideration; the number doubled among Birthright graduates who returned for a short term to 26%; and almost doubled again, to 45%, for Birthright graduates who did Masa. These patterns are similar to the evidence found in the recent Avi Chai study of Jewish leaders which cites a long term Israel program as one of the most widespread experiences shared by young American Jewish leaders, along with day schools and Jewish camp participation.
 
Relating to Israel attachment, the Birthright/Masa cohort scored similarly to the Masa Orthodox cohort, as they did on other measures. When asked if they had recently gone to a lecture or class related to Israel, 72% of those who participated in Birthright/Masa said they had, similar to the 80% of Orthodox Masa graduates who also had. (When it came to reading Israeli newspapers the Birthright/Masa cohort actually outscored the Orthodox Masa group by 61% to 43%).
 
Significantly, 18% of Birthright/Masa graduates are currently now living in Israel, a slightly higher figure than the 17% of Orthodox Masa graduates now living in Israel.
 
“Over the years, a body of evidence has established the value of the short-term trip to Israel. This study is one of a small number that points to the significant added value of the long-term trip,” said Professor Cohen, who co-authored the study. “If ten days in Israel is very good for Jewish engagement—and it is—then ten months in Israel is even better. This finding points to the strong policy interest in promoting return travel to Israel among Birthright alumni, and the even stronger interest in advancing long term return travel, such as that sponsored by Masa Israel Journey.”
 
Last week, the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors approved the operational part of its strategic plan which calls for the organization to focus its work around two main areas of activity—the first, a spiral of Israel experience for young adults. These would start with short term programs, like Birthright, through longer term programs like Masa, and include developing intermediate-length programs like summer school in Israel, with the overarching aim of strengthening Jewish identity and increasing attachment to Israel among today’s youth.
 
“The data from this study show that we are on the right track with our strategic plan,” said Dr. Misha Galperin, president and CEO of Jewish Agency International Development. “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.”

For Applicants

For Applicants

Here we are having fun masa.org
 
Masa Israel recognizes that spending five to 12 months interning, volunteering or studying abroad is a big commitment.  Before you select your program and apply for a Masa Israel grant, it’s important that you learn as much as you can about where you’re going and what to expect – both before you go and after you return. 
 
Talk to an alum to get a feel for how unique each person’s Israel experience can be. Learn more.
 

Israel Government Fellows Give Participants an Inside Look at the Israeli Government

Israel Government Fellows Give Participants an Inside Look at the Israeli Government

Israel Government Fellows Give Participants an Inside Look at the Israeli Government

April 13, 2011

23-year-old Caroline Reder has spent the past 10-months working for the Debt Unit of Israel’s Ministry of Finance.
While her friends back in America are pounding the pavement looking for work or taking refuge in graduate school, 23-year-old Caroline Reder has spent the past 10-months working for the Debt Unit of Israel’s Ministry of Finance where, among other things she was instrumental in the behind-the-scenes work for a EUR141.0 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) for the State of Israel.
 
Reder is one of a select group of highly talented young people from around the world participating in Masa’s Israel Government Fellows program of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, which offers them an unprecedented entrée into the Israeli Government.
 
“Nowhere else can you intern or work in government unless you are a national,” said Reder, a Boston native and 2009 graduate of the University of Maryland College Park. “Nowhere else can you be a part of such an amazing group of people from all over the world. This has really been a unique and fulfilling experience.”
 
Founded by the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel in 2003, Masa Israel enables young Diaspora Jews to experience life in Israel for a semester or a year on any of over 160 programs to strengthen their Jewish identity and their connection to Israel.
 
The Israel Government Fellows program is a Menachem Begin Heritage Center program operated under the umbrella of Masa Israel, established in 2007. The program works in cooperation with the Israeli Government, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Civic Service Administration to offer young people (ages 22 to 30) internship and work experience in departments that run the gamut from finance to international and foreign affairs, with positions available in such places as the Department for Combating anti-Semitism and Holocaust Remembrance at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
 
Fellows are offered financial scholarships funded by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center up to $3,500 – which is on top of the grants and scholarships available to all Masa Israel participants that vary between $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the country of origin, length of the program and financial needs.
 
It’s not just the Fellows who gain from this partnership.
 
“This is the second time we’re taking part in this program and we’ve been very happy,” said Gil Cohen Director for the Foreign Dept Unit of Israel’s Ministry of Finance.
 
Cohen said they look for Fellows who are fluent in English, since this is the international language used in the financial arena, as well as experience in finance or economics. Fortunately, Reder had made all the requirements and more.
 
“We interviewed six or seven candidates and Caroline was our first choice. She is very smart and nice and willing to work hard.”
 
Not surprisingly, the Fellows who are accepted are all highly talented and accomplished.
 
“It’s really a very selective program. We choose the best candidates to really serve and work on the inside of the Government of Israel,” said Israel Government Fellows Director, Tamar Darmon.
 
In addition to the work itself, participants study Hebrew in an ulpan, learn about Israeli history, society and politics, and participate in regular seminars and day-trips, where they meet with some of Israel’s most influential thinkers and policy makers.  Even the hikes and day-trips that are built into the program are more than just a fun way to tour the country. So it is that a visit to the Golan Heights also involves meeting with former minister and General Effie Eitam to discuss the strategic of the area.
 
“These participants are really exposed to the professional side of working in government and the decision-making process. Through the seminars and trips we organize, Fellows meet and are exposed to prominent figures from the academic arena and the public sector, to discuss the serious questions and issues facing Israelis today,” said Darmon.
 
For her part, Reder feels the program has opened her up to a whole new world of ideas and experiences.
 
“The Israel Government Fellows program has given me a wonderful perspective on Israel and on the greater Middle East, provided us with the opportunity to remold or reinforce our previous opinions about Israel and has given us enough information and resources through speakers and seminars to better represent Israel when we return to our home communities,” she said.
 
In the meantime, she is enjoying living in Israel.
 
“Living here has opened my eyes to day-to-day life in Israel,” said Reder. “This kind of true perspective is only possible by actually living here and seeing daily interactions. It’s arresting to see how normal it is for Jews and Arabs to live together and how on the fringe the news stories we read about really are.”
 
After her stint at the Ministry of Finance ends, Reder intends to stay in Israel for a while and then go on to graduate school in international relations.
 
Darmon is proud of the fact that many Fellows go on to prestigious graduate schools and jobs in Jewish and Israeli organizations.
 
“We are delighted that the experience that the program gives the Fellows helps them to start successful professional careers, whether they choose to return home or to stay in Israel,” she said.

Sharansky Addresses Masa Israel Participants

Sharansky Addresses Masa Israel Participants

Sharansky Addresses Masa Israel Participants

May 10, 2010

The following is an update from the Jewish Agency for Israel
Ian Carchman was disconnected from Jewish life.
 
But Masa Israel Journey changed all of that. “Living in Israel for a year has been an eye opener,” said the 18-year-old from Maryland, who came to Israel
 
“I never really felt a connection [to Jewish life]. My parents are not connected and I grew up in an interfaith community. I think Masa is so important because it is not a trip or a vacation. We’re living here,” said Carchman who has been spending the year on Nativ, a Masa program that is dedicated to inspiring Conservative Jewish leaders.
 
Carchman was one of over 3,000 participants who attended the Masa Israel Journey mega-conference in Jerusalem on May 2, 2010, a day-long event featuring seminars on “next steps” for participants, many of whom are preparing to leave Israel and return to their Jewish communities across the globe. The event also featured addresses by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
 
 
Founded by the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel in 2003, Masa Israel enables young Diaspora Jews to experience life in Israel for a semester or a year on any of over 160 programs aimed at strengthening their Jewish identity and their connection to Israel. Since its inception, Masa Israel has brought 45,000 young Jews between the ages of 18-30 from 60 different countries to live, work, study and volunteer in Israel.
 
During his address to an auditorium of over 1,000 Masa participants, Sharansky stressed the importance of a strong Jewish identity, which empowered him during his years as a Soviet dissident, including nine years incarcerated in a Soviet prison.
 
“People with absolutely no roots have no strength,” said Sharansky. “My fight for my people comes from my identity. Once I discovered my roots, my people, my identity, I had the strength to fight.”
 
Such a strong sense of Jewish identity will fortify Masa participants who are headed to university campuses where anti-Israel feelings are wide-spread.
 
“Those of you who decide not to stay in Israel but to go back have a very important mission. We expect you to be proud ambassadors of our country, proud Jews, who know how to debate and how to stand up against hooligans. You must know the facts and you should not be afraid,” said Sharansky.
 
Sharansky also dismantled the prevalent notion on college campuses that a commitment Jewish identity is in conflict with a commitment to human rights. “They are going to try to convince you that you have to choose between being loyal to humanity or loyal to Israel, and this is a false choice. If you want to be a strong supporter of human rights then first you must be a proud member of the Jewish community,” he said.
 
“Look who is fighting on the forefront of the struggle between democracy and dictatorship, it is the state of Israel and the Jews who are proud of this state,” Sharansky continued. “As the Jews of the Diaspora become stronger in their identity when they are exposed to Israel, the Jews of Israel will also become stronger in their identity when they are engaged with Jews of the Diaspora. The goal of the Jewish Agency is to be a bridge between Jews of the world and Israel.”
 
Sharansky concluded his talk by crediting Masa Israel with doing “critical work.”
 
For his part, Carchman agrees. “We will take these experiences back to campus with us and to our communities,” he said.
 

Record Number of Students in Israel on Masa Programs

Record Number of Students in Israel on Masa Programs

May 6, 2010

More than 3,000 participants in the Jewish Agency's Masa Israel Journey programs celebrated the end of their year in Israel at a mega event attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
This academic year a record 9,400 young adults ages 18-30 spent a semester or year studying, volunteering or interning on programs in Israel, with some two-thirds of the participants from North America. This represents a 15 percent increase over last year, and a similar significant increase is forecast for the 2010-2011 school year.
 
“It is hard for this generation to imagine a world without Israel,” Netanyahu said, speaking Tuesday (May 4) to thousands of Masa participants in Jerusalem. The Jewish people returned to their homeland and built a country, a stunning achievement, he continued, “but it is not enough. The main thing is our identity and spirit as a people which goes back 4,000 years.”
 
Masa was established as a joint project by the Jewish Agency and the Prime Minister’s office under Ariel Sharon in 2004 to enable thousands of Jewish young adults to spend a semester to a year in Israel on over 160 approved programs. Since its inception, Masa has made it possible for 45,000 people to live, work, study and volunteer in Israel, doubling the number of young adults on programs annually, from under 5,000 to nearly 10,000 a year today, with the goal of reaching 15,000 participants a year.
 

Address by PM Netanyahu to Masa Participants

Address by PM Netanyahu to Masa Participants

Address by PM Netanyahu to Masa Participants

May 5, 2010

Transcript of Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to a group of long-term Israel program participants.
"One of history's greatest empires, the biggest one, was the Soviet Union. At the height of its dominion, brave men and women – many of them Jewish – challenged this enormous power with the force of their conviction, faith and raw courage. And foremost among them was my friend and your patron, Natan Sharansky. Natan was put in jail, in a cellar, before being put on trial and sentenced to a long prison term. The judges asked him what he had to say on his behalf and he answered: “I have nothing to say to you, but to my wife Avital and to my people, I say – Next Year in Jerusalem!”
 
That’s a pretty important statement, and it expresses the basic idea.
 
You and your parents are all young. But your grandparents and great-grandparents remember a world without a State of Israel. It was a very different place and, for generations, Jews hoped for a change. They prayed and yearned for only one thing – “Next Year in Jerusalem!”
 
62 years ago, the most remarkable transformation in the history of any nation took place. A "dead" people resurrected itself and returned to Zion. They rebuilt their national life, their state and their army, and reassumed control of their collective destiny. This is the story of the Jewish people, and it's unlike the story of any other nation in history. Many other peoples have disappeared. In fact, most of the nations we know from antiquity no longer exist. Many were exiled or dispossessed, and many were killed. No people has ever come back from the dead. But this is our people and, through a remarkable transformation in our history, we have recreated the Jewish state – with its own government, territory, army and amazing economy. There's still more to do, but we're doing better than many of the places you’ve come from.
 
You may be too young to know this, but 20 years ago, people used to say that it’s impossible to do business in Israel. And we would reply that Israel can actually be an attractive place – a home for Jewish business, Jewish entrepreneurs and brainpower. We could even envision Jews making money in Israel. You’re not laughing, but this used to be a joke. It isn't anymore. Today, we have a country, a government, an army and a thriving economy, and we’re quickly becoming a global power in technology.
 
This is all crucial, but it’s not enough. The most important thing is our spirit, and the most critical part of spirit is identity. And there's a great revolution taking place right now within the Jewish world. It's a revolution of spirit and identity – and you’re all a part of it. I salute you for being here and expanding awareness – your personal awareness and that of young Jews everywhere. What a privilege it is to be a member of the Jewish people! What a privilege it is to come to the Jewish State! What a privilege it is to shape the future of the Jewish people! These are all great privileges.
 
How do we strengthen identity? By appreciating who we are. Studying our past to understand our present and chart our future. Suppose you didn’t know your family. Suppose you didn’t know the story of your parents – where they came from, what they did. If you grew up isolated from your personal history, you’d be a very different person, very confined and narrow. And you’d be missing a tremendously important part of your identity – who you are and what you can be.
 
We share a collective identity and a great history, not like that of any other nation. It goes back almost four thousand years. Imagine that you didn't know about it. Imagine that you had such a privilege, but weren't aware of it. What we’re doing right now, all of us together, is making people conscious of our rich past. And once you know the past, you can understand how the Jewish people has arrived here. We can shape our future. But you can only know where you’re going, if you know where you've come from.
 
We all came from here. And we all come back to here. And I want you to consider this fact: Your identity is not simply a function of your individual character. Your uniqueness, part of your unique identity, is also a function of your membership in the Jewish people.
 
And I also want you to consider how you feel. You’ve already been here for a while and had an opportunity to see the country and participate in various programs. But you've had another opportunity – whether you've come from the United States, Canada, France, Russia, Mexico or Australia
 
These are all great countries, but this is your country. This is your country! And when you walk here, I'm sure you don’t even wonder who else around you is Jewish. Right? It’s a perfectly natural question, but not one that you ask here – because this is your country. There are other countries that are also free and democratic, but this is your country! This is your Jerusalem! This is your home!
 
So I just have one request.– Explore your deeper self and ask yourself – I know that this is a tough question for someone who is only 18 or 22 – where you feel most at home. The time you've spent here has been valuable, but I think you'll find even greater value in deciding to stay here permanently. We invite you to join us in building the future of the Jewish people in our land. Welcome home to the Land of Israel, the State of Israel and Jerusalem."

Contributing to Israeli Society and Jewish Identity

Contributing to Israeli Society and Jewish Identity

Contributing to Israeli Society and Jewish Identity

May 4, 2010

Sharansky: Masa Israel Makes it Possible for Tens of Thousands of Young Jews to Strengthen Their Own Identity
The following is an update from the Jewish Agency for Israel
 
May 3, 2010 / 19 Iyar 5770
 
Masa has been good to Israel.
 
Founded by the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel in 2003, Masa Israel enables young Diaspora Jews to experience life in Israel for a semester or a year on any of over 160 programs to strengthen their Jewish identity and their connection to Israel.
 
2010 marked a banner year for the program – with a 15% increase in participation from 2009. A total of 9,400 young Jews from around the world will come to Israel through Masa Israel (from September 2009 through June 2010) as opposed to 8,200 participants from last year.
 
The increase can be broken down as follows: 64% increase in the number of young people who came to Israel from the Former Soviet Union, a 45% increase in the number of participants from France, and a 33% increase in the number of participants from South America. Also, there was a 10% increase in the number of participants from the United States. Further data revealed that the percentage of participants who came to Israel on Masa Israel programs immediately after graduating from colleges and universities abroad has increased from 7% since the beginning of the project to 28% today.
 
Since the project’s inception, Masa Israel has contributed $560 million to the Israeli economy and has significantly contributed to leading academic institutions, as well as to the local tourism industry. During this period, Masa Israel has brought 45,000 young Jews, between the ages of 18-30, from 60 different countries to Israel.

Masa "Fingerprints" Exhibition at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem on 4/21

Masa "Fingerprints" Exhibition at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem on 4/21

April 14, 2010

Masa program students to hold exhibition at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem.
A group of thirteen students from the USA and worldwide will be unveiling a special exhibition of their art and design work later this month at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, that reflects their variety of influences and the unity of their Israel experience. The grand opening will take place at the Academy at 6.30pm on 21 April, and the exhibition runs until 2 May in the main galleries of the Academy's Fine Art department.
 
The students – eight from the USA, two from Australia, two from Russia and one from Denmark – are closing the time they have spent at Bezalel on the 2009/10 Masa program with their exhibition, entitled "Fingerprints". The exhibition showcases their work based on the notion that we come from all over the world with very different influences and backgrounds, but through art we are all united.
 
The work on show spans all the creative disciplines on offer at Bezalel, from fine art to screen-based video art, via photography, ceramics, industrial design, photography and fashion. It serves to demonstrate the full range of exposure that students on the Masa program receive at Bezalel to all forms of art and design, and reinforces the Academy's ethos of expanding horizons and developing understanding through the mixing of techniques and cultural influences.
 
The Bezalel Art experience for Masa students is designed for young international artists aged between 18 and 30 who are yearning to pursue their passion abroad. The program offers students an opportunity to discover the world of art and design in a setting that emphasizes both academic and cultural growth in the holy city of Jerusalem. Students on the program choose either a Fine Art track, involving courses on sculpture, drawing, painting, printing, performance and illustration, or a course of advanced arts and design studies for applicants with at least two years of university-level art and design experience.
 
Both program tracks at Bezalel provide a dynamic supplementary curriculum, including field trips, tours, mifgashim – encounters – with Israeli peers, celebrations of Jewish and Israeli national holidays, social and cultural events throughout Israel, and educational seminars on topics ranging from Jewish and Israeli identity to religion and the Jewish state, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and trends in the Israeli job market.
 
The Masa program, which is sponsored by the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel, enables young Jews (18 to 30) from around the world to build a lasting relationship with Israel, strengthen their Jewish identity, and gain meaningful and beneficial experiences by participating in a long-term program in Israel. Masa provides young Jewish adults with connections to programs, grants and scholarships towards program fees, as well as support, activities, workshops and resources while here in Israel.
 
Liv Sperber, Director of International Relations at Bezalel says: “We're excited to be hosting the Fingerprints exhibition which showcases some of the most important aspects of Bezalel's work – nurturing talent, bringing people together from a diversity of backgrounds and sharing the heritage that our world-class Academy offers. Fingerprints also demonstrates the wonderful opportunity offered to young people from overseas to come and experience the Bezalel Academy and take positive impressions of Israel back to their countries of origin. We are particularly proud that many of the Bezalel Masa participants choose to remain in Israel after their semester or year-long stay, and apply to be accepted to a full degree program at Bezalel.”

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.

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.