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."

Masa Wins Campus Coalition Award

Masa Wins Campus Coalition Award

Masa Wins Campus Coalition Award

September 27, 2007

At the Fall Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) consultation, Masa was presented with the 2007 Outstanding Israel on Campus Achievement Award for its Campus Grants Program.
The Israel on Campus Coalition is a partnership of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, in cooperation with a network of national organizations committed to promoting Israel education and advocacy on campus.
 
The Masa/Hillel Campus Grants program provides up to 20 Hillels with $5,000 each to support programming that increases Masa program participation. Masa Hillel grants have been used to organize Israel cultural fairs, Masa program organizer fairs, and a variety of other activities.
 
This year, the Masa/Hillel Campus grant recipients are: U. Virginia, Rutgers, Northwestern, Maryland, Indiana, Emory, Binghamton, Arizona, UCLA, U. Illinois, Wisconsin, UMASS, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, George Washington, Queens College, Vanderbilt, Brown, American, and the University of Ottawa.

Masa Sets Multi-Year Commitment from Israeli Prime Minister

Masa Sets Multi-Year Commitment from Israeli Prime Minister

March 22, 2007

Today the Israeli government announced that it is making a multi-year commitment to support the Masa project, so that it can continue to bring thousands of young Jews to Israel for a five to 10 months to participate in volunteer and study programs.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened the meeting in which he stressed the critical importance of the project and pledged to support and continue the program whose goal is to bring more than 20,000 participants a year to Israel on long-term programs.
 
Since its start two years ago, there has been a 100% increase in the number of long-term Israel programs offering a wider range of options for young Jews from the Diaspora.  As a result, the number of young Jews that come to participate in these programs has more than doubled to 8,000.
 
The Prime Minister’s statement is a vote of confidence in the project and its ideals. 
 
Among the plans discussed for Masa over the next two years were increasing the number of participants to 20,000 a year, an emphasis on programming in the areas of the Negev and the Galilee, a fusion of the Masa programs with every facet of Israeli society, and the formation of a bond between Israelis and Jewish communities all over the world.
 
Executive Director of Masa Elan Ezrachi highlighted the project's values to the Israeli society: each participant of Masa contributes a minimum of 20 hours of community service. In total, the participants give about 200,000 days of volunteering to Israel, in a variety of social and cultural environments.  Moreover, each participant returns to his or her home community stronger, more committed and better equipped to succeed.  
 
Masa was created and is funded by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency. The budget for this year’s project was $36 million; half of which was allocated by the government of Israel and the other half by the Jewish Agency and private donors. This year, approximately $22 Million is being spent on scholarships and grants for 5,000 participants. In 2007-2008, Masa expects to bring 9,500 participants, the highest number ever, with a budget of $48 million.

Out of India

Out of India

November 22, 2006

Twelve post-college Jewish Indians came to Arad to learn about their own Indian Jewish history − and as well as those of other students from around the world
For many young Israelis, going to India is one of the most coveted dreams. The magic of this faraway country appeals to the nomadic and free nature of Israel's young men and women, and they stream in great numbers to explore the mysteries of India. Little is known about the other side of that coin − the young Jewish people in India who find the prospect of coming to Israel no less appealing.
 
This is the story of 12 post-college Jewish Indians, aged 19 through 29, who decided to leave their homes and come to Israel for a five-month program with Masa Israel Orot India (Hebrew for Lights of India ). The program, which is fully sponsored by Masa, is designed to teach the participants − some of whom are visiting Israel for the first time − the gist of Judaism and Zionism, as well as to give them a profound knowledge of Jewish tradition in India.
 
Back to basics
In Israel, the 12 excited university graduates became full-time students again, joining the World Union of Jewish Students program in Arad for spring semester. WUJS, which is part of Hadassah, brings young people from all over the world to learn about Jewish tradition and culture as well as Israeli society. Alon Friedman, director of WUJS Arad, says Orot participants studied Hebrew through the ulpan program, taking different Jewish courses and participating in seminars and hikes around the scenic surrounding region. "The best experience for them was integrating with the other Jews studying at WUJS," says Friedman. "There were students from the United States, Canada, Argentina and Estonia, and it was very interesting to witness the interaction between all these youths."
 
For the participants in the Orot India program, every day in Arad was a thrilling new experience. The students are from different regions in India, including Mumbai (Bombay ), Ahmedabad, Puna and Cochin − a city with a total Jewish population of 18. All the participants have bachelor's degrees but little to no knowledge of Jewish tradition and culture.
 
During their two and a half months in Arad, they learned a lot about Israel and the Israelis. "The WUJS program was absolutely fantastic," says Zohar, a participant. "It was an exhilarating experience to be with the WUJS people; we enjoyed it a lot, and had a lot of experiences involving the Jewish people, Israeli culture and Jewish ideologies."
 
Tackling the food problem
The interaction with Israeli society was sometimes difficult for the Orot participants, yet they all laugh when looking back at some of the more awkward experiences. Tzofia, who was their counselor in Israel,  says the Indians still find the issue of food to be problematic. "The first day they came to Arad," recalls Tzofia, "they met the reality of Israeli food face to face ... they were given trays and plates in the dining hall, and when they got to the salad bar they put the salads on the trays rather than the plates ... The kitchen workers were furious," laughs Tzofia. "They didn't understand that in India you put your food on trays and not on plates. Since then, the guys are really careful whenever it comes to food."
 
Among their many activities, the Orot India participants have met the Indian ambassador to Israel, Ramidar Singh Jassal. When the ambassador heard a group of young Jewish Indians was participating in the Masa program, he decided to invite them to meet him. The ambassador was impressed by the idealistic group, and even invited the participants to his home.
 
Having finished the first half of the program, the 12 students will now be participating in a variety of activities, from attending Jewish seminars in Jerusalem, working at kibbutzim, volunteering to help postwar rehabilitation efforts in northern Israel, and more. Some of them are already planning to stay and study in Israel, and to live here. As Zohar puts it, "It's good to be home, where it's okay to be Jewish."
 
The students are from different regions in India, including Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Puna and Cochin − a city with a total Jewish population of 18.

2,000 Masa Participants Take a Train Ride to Israel's North

2,000 Masa Participants Take a Train Ride to Israel's North

September 19, 2006

This year, 8,000 participants from all over the world will be spending a semester to a year in Israel in more than 150 Masa-affiliated programs -- the largest number of participants ever.
On October 26th, over 2,000 of these participants currently in Israel will celebrate Masa's third year by taking the train from Jerusalem to the port city of Akko (Acre) in northern Israel. 
 
The participants will travel by train, specially chartered by Masa for this celebration trip, accompanied by live entertainment – including, music, dance and performances - and experienced guides who will be on hand to explain the significant sites along the route.  Also on the train will be a display devoted to the recent war with Lebanon and its impact on Israel's northern communities.  Traveling with the participants will be soldiers who fought in the war who will answer questions and share their experiences wih the participants. 
 
Participants will also be receiving Masa welcome kits, including discount coupons, tour map and lexicon, dictionary and a Masa ID card entitling them to additional discounts and entry to special Masa event, all in a special Masa backpack. 
 
Upon arriving in Akko, they will join with other Masa participants making their way to the port city by bus.  Together, they will make their way on foot to Akko's Old City.  They will learn about its history, visit archeological landmarks, and 'lend a hand' by volunteering in a number of projects to help revitalize parts of the Old City that were damaged during the war in Lebanon.  The day's activities will conclude in the evening with a celebration on the walls of the Old City.