A Unique Gap Year Experience With Aardvark

<div class="masa-blog-title">A Unique Gap Year Experience With Aardvark</div>

by Miranda Levingston, from Philadelphia, PA.  


My ravkav (Travel fare card) and I have a love/hate relationship.  I’ve been to the ravkav offices on 3 different occasions to issue a new card, because I’m always losing it for some reason. I also happen to look homeless and confused in my ravkav ID photo, because the last time I got a new card, the apathetic employee didn’t clearly indicate when the picture was being taken, and where I was supposed to be looking. But, I love my ravkav nonetheless.

 

I love my ravkav because it’s an essential tool to adventure. No matter where you want to go, you usually need some kind of public transportation to get you there.  Riding the bus is an essential part of living in a different country, any gap year kid will tell you that.  And, while public transportation can seem like a major inconvenience, it’s actually taught me a lot about my surroundings and myself. So, here are the 3 things I’ve learned this year from the bus.

 

 

Lesson one: Be present. Be present because every second of your life is an experience, good or bad, and its up to you to make the most out of it.  Your adventure begins the minute you leave the apartment, not when you arrive at your final destination.  Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had have been on the bus on our way to some weekend excursion. For however long your bus ride is, your life is at a thrilling halt.  There you are, hurdling forward down the highway, while also stopping time.

 

And that’s kind of like this year. We’ve hit the pause button of the western education system, and this year feels like it’s flown by.   On Aardvark, feeling present extends further then just bus rides. Last month, we took a giant Aardvark camping trip in honor of Julia’s birthday.  It was open invite and so many awesome people showed up. For 2 whole days on the shores of the Kinneret, our mornings began when the sun came up, and the only thing on our to-do-lists was to chill.  I got to know so many people on a deeper level because everyone had one thing in common-we were all present, not just physically, but also mentally. Everybody brought such a genuine energy to the campsite that weekend, and it was beautiful to be a part of it.

 

Even when we don’t go all the way to the Kinneret to chill, we preserved that mentally-present quality of our down time in Jerusalem. One of my favorite activities this semester has been Saturday afternoons at the park, playing sports, music, and Cards Against Humanity. Those are the times when we are all collectively present.  We are all focused on living in the moment, and it’s so much fun to be part of such an authentic and joyful group of people.

 

 

Lesson Two: Say yes to adventure.  I love riding the bus with my roommates, planning on going to the shuk or something, and then ending up somewhere else just because we passed by somewhere cool and impulsively decided to get off.

 

Saying yes to adventure means being open to exploring the world around you at any moment. Saying yes to adventure means being ready to take risks, in pursuit of a potentially wonderful experience. Saying yes to adventure means to welcome the feeling of leaving your comfort zone in honor of the magic and authenticity that comes with spontaneity.

 

This year, I’ve found that stepping outside your comfort zone is the best way to experience not only the world around you, but also your true self.  It’s in the moments when you’re genuinely excited, seriously scared, and full of energy that you learn the most about who you are and what you are truly capable of.

 

And, it’s safe to say; we’ve all made a habit out of going on random adventures and taking unplanned detours. I’ve loved exploring and living in two of the most interesting and diverse cities in the whole world. I’ve learned from impulsively going to cities near and far and roaming around.  I’ve relished having out-of-body experiences when jumping into different bodies of water, and sleeping tent-less under the stars.  All of these experiences have taught me something about the world around me, and brought me closer to myself.

 

 

Lesson three: Everything is better when shared with people you love.  Even when there aren’t any seats on the egged and you have to sit on the floor for six hours, it becomes an adventure and a bonding experience, rather then a burden. At every twist and turn this year, I’ve been so grateful for the family that all of us have created.  For the highs and the lows, we’ve become an unbreakable net of support that ebbs and flows to meet each-others needs.

 

When experiences are shared, they become better. Hard times strengthen relationships.  Ordinary things become great. Great things become extraordinary.

 

This gap year was an incredible adventure, and it was largely because of the positive, creative, hilarious, and kind people I was surrounded with.

I want to end this speech with a quote from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.

 

“How wonderful it is to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

 

To learn more about Aardvark Gap Year Program, click here. 

 
 

Technion - BSc in Mechanical Engineering

Program Description

 

Tel Aviv University - STEM Semester

Program Description

 

Tel Aviv University - STEM Semester & Internship

Program Description

What We've Been Up to in 2016

<div class="masa-blog-title">What We've Been Up to in 2016</div>

It's hard to believe we're almost half-way through the year! 

 

So far, 2016 has been an extremely exciting year for Masa Israel Journey. Here's a look at what we've been up to in Israel and the United States:

 

January

 

alt="Masa at the Birthright Mega Event"

Birthright Mega Event

Masa staff, participants and partners met thousands of Taglit-Birthright Israel travelers and helped them learn how to get back to Israel.

 

February

 

alt="Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Enrichment Day"

MITF Enrichment Day

Masa Israel Teaching Fellows from across the country came to Jerusalem to develop their professional skills and share best practices for teaching inside and outside of the classroom.

 

alt="Israel on Campus Fair for Gap Year Participants"

Make Your Journey Matter

Masa brought a delegation of Israel on campus professionals to Israel and hosted a back-to-campus fair where gap year participants met representatives from AEPi, AIPAC, CAMERA, Chabad on Campus, The David Project, Hillel, Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), Jerusalm U, JNF, J Street U, Stand With Us, and more.

 

alt="Israel Tech Challenge Hackathon"

Israel Tech Challenge Hackathon

Israel Tech Challenge CTO Coding Bootcamp held its first hackathon at Google Campus Tel Aviv. 

 

alt="Team Masa Runs the Tel Aviv Marathon"

Samsung Tel Aviv Marathon

Every year, Masa participants run in marathons and other races across Israel. This year, for the first time ever our participants, staff and partners ran the Tel Aviv Marathon together as #TeamMasa.

 

alt="Ambassador Dan Shapiro addresses Masa and CCAR"

An Evening with CCAR and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro

Masa participants and staff met with the members of the Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in Tel Aviv for an evening of networking and entertainment.

 

March

 

alt="Gap Year Leadership Seminar"

Gap Year Leadership Seminar

Participants from various Masa gap year programs gathered in Jerusalem for a day of workshops and field trips to help them prepare for the challenges they may face on college campuses in the fall.

 

alt="Welcome to the AIPAC Village"

Photo by Michael Robinson, Masa Israel alumnus

AIPAC Policy Conference 2016

Masa brought 40 American alumni to the AIPAC Policy Conference - our largest alumni delegation yet!

 

alt="Masa-GLI Global Leadership Summit"

Masa-GLI Global Leadership Summit

Each semester, Masa, in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel's Global Leadership Institute brings post-college program participants from from around the world together for the Masa-GLI Global Leadership Summit. a five-day intensive leadership training seminar, the Leadership Summit gives participants the opportunity to join a network of Jewish leaders and organizations that support their personal and professional growth in Israel and beyond.

 

April

 

alt="Find us on Snapchat"

Snapchat

April tends to be a quiet month for us with our staff and participants taking vacation over Passover, but this year, we joined Snapchat! Follow us at masaisrael.

 

May

 

alt="Yom HaShoah"

Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

Hundreds of Masa participants attended the offical State of Israel Yom HaShoah Ceremony at Yad Vashem on the evening Wednesday, May 4.

 

alt="Yom HaZikaron"

Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror)

On the evening of Tuesday, May 10 Masa hosted its annual Yom HaZikaron ceremony at the Yad Lashiryon Memorial at Latrun is the Armored Corps’ Memorial Site and Museum. Masa's annual ceremony is the largest English language Yom HaZikaron ceremony in Israel.

 

alt="Yom Ha'atzmaut"

Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day)

In Israel, Memorial Day is immediately followed by Independence Day. As the sun set on Wednesday, May 11, the entire country transitioned form a state of mourning to one of celebration. From dancing the night away on city streets, to the unofficially traditional mangal (barbecue) the next day, Masa participants celebrated Israel's 68th birthday like locals.

 

alt="Masa-GLI Wilf Family Holocaust Education Program in Poland

Masa-GLI Wilf Family Holocaust Education Program in Poland

Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Wilf family, Masa is able to bring a select group of oustanding participants to Poland to explore the local Jewish community's tragic history and its incredibly inspiring revival.

 

alt="Jewish American Heritage Month with Bibi"

Jewish American Heritage Month

On Wednesday, May 25 Masa participants attended a special ceremony at the Knesset in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month. Some were even lucky enough to snap a selfie with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

 

alt="Masa Israel Culture Event"

Masa Israel Culture Event

Approximately 2,000 Masa participants gathered in Jerusalem on Thursday, May 26 for our annual cultural event, which featured interactive workshops and performances by Amos Oz, Tom Franc, Cafe Shahor Hazak and many more.

 

5 Reasons to Attend Grad School in Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">5 Reasons to Attend Grad School in Israel</div>

With more than 2,000 years of history, Israel is a place where ancient meets modern. There’s no better way to get an education than exploring your passions while immersed in an exciting new culture. Besides the historic and cultural experience, there are many benefits of getting an advanced degree in Israel. From lower tuition to building a global network, your grad school experience will be like no other for these 5 reasons:


1. Low Tuition

 


Getting an MBA, MPH, MSc, LL.M., and Master’s degree is a big decision. Many questions arise when deciding which degree to pursue such as what, where, and most importantly how much? Israel offers top notch degrees in world renowned universities for almost half the price of a US Institution. Most importantly worldwide recognition is a guarantee due to the prestige and high reputation of most Israeli universities around the world.


2. Length

 


You want to pursue an advanced degree but you don’t want to take many years to do so? In Israel, top universities offer one year programs in various fields. Yes, one year programs that dive right into the subject and provide you with real life experience in the field.


3. Global Community

 


In Israel, classrooms are made up of people from all over the world. You will be exposed to global perspectives and real-world applications that allow you to master the complexities of today’s demanding and evolving world. Not to mention, the next time you want to go to Italy or New Zealand you will most likely find a place to crash.


4. Expertise

 


One thing that Israelis do best is become experts in their fields. If you look at the start-up nation there are breakthroughs in almost all areas. From security, archeology, sustainable living, tech, diplomacy, social work, medicine, you name it. Israeli universities are made up of the best of the best, it’s no surprise everyone flocks to Israeli universities.


5. Language

 


As you're walking down the street in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv you will most likely hear various languages. From Russian to Arabic, in Israel you can explore many languages and cultures in every way. Many Israeli graduate programs offer Hebrew or Arabic courses in order to immerse you in Israeli society and of course learn to bargain at the shuk!


To learn more on how to pursue a higher education degree in Israel, click here.

 

Top Concerts in Israel this Summer 2016

<div class="masa-blog-title">Top Concerts in Israel this Summer 2016</div>

Are you going to be in Israel this summer? Get ready for a jam packed schedule of amazing performances from world renowned artists. There is something for everyone from EDM to Jazz. Thanks to Tourist Israel, we've compiled a list of what you can expect this summer: 

 

Elton John, Tel Aviv, Israel. May 26, 2016

 


“This will be the fourth concert in Israel for the British singer. Sir Elton John is one of the most famous and successful singers in the world and has sold over 300 million albums. Some of his hits include “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Your Song” and “Candle in the Wind”. Sir Elton John is expected to perform at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv, Israel on May 26, 2016. Tickets are on sale now.”

 

Oasis Festival, Arad, Israel. June 10-11, 2016

 


“The first edition of the Oasis Dub Reggae Festival is taking place near Arad, in the Negev Desert in Israel in June 2016. With the backdrop of the scenic Negev desert, the festival is setting out to bring together all of Israel’s reggae lovers and fans. The set list includes both international and local artists, amongst which Ohnny Osbourne, Ziggi Racado, Skarra Mucci, Mista Savona, Los Caparos, Jah Bless and many more.”


Wiz Khalifa, Tel Aviv, Israel. June 25, 2016

 


“American rapper Wiz Khalifa has announced one concert in Tel Aviv, Israel in summer 2016. Wiz Khalifa is one of the hottest names in the U.S. rap scene at the moment. His most popular song “Black and Yellow” has reached the #1 Billboard Hot 100 in 2010, and has been later remixed featuring Snoop Dogg, Juicy J and T-Pain.”


Sunbeat Music Festival. June 23-25, 2016

 


“The Sunbeat Music Festival is Israel’s leading summer music, global beats event. Taking place over one weekend in June in a beautiful green parkland setting in the green mountains of the Northern Galilee region of Israel, Sunbeat draws some of Israel’s biggest home-grown musicians, as well as a diverse array of international musicians.”


Tel Aviv Blues Festival, Israel. July 13-16, 2016

 


“The Tel Aviv Blues Festival returns this summer for its third edition, with four days of concerts in twenty different locations in the city. Opening the festival is the concert of legendary guitarist Buddy Guy, in Caesarea Amphitheater on July 13. The festival will continue in different clubs and bars in Tel Aviv, hosting the captivating sounds of Blues.”


AVICII in Tel Aviv, Israel. July 22, 2016

 


“International DJ sensation, AVICII, will be returning to Israel in July 2016 for a concert in Rishon, just south of Tel Aviv. AVICII is one of the world’s hottest DJ’s, ranked 3rd in the world in 2011, 2012, and 2013 following the release of his mega-hits ‘Levels’, “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother”. His music and his music has been well received around the world in EDM circles and beyond. AVICII will return to Israel to perform once at the Live Park in Rishon LeZion, just south of Tel Aviv on July 22, 2016.”


Tomorrowland in Jerusalem, Israel. July 23, 2016

 

 

“The king of all electronic music festivals, Tomorrowland, is taking place for the first time in Israel this summer! “UNITE – The Mirror to Tomorrowland” is an international event taking place simultaneously in 7 countries (Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico and South Africa) “mirroring” the father event, the Belgian festival which has become a cult amongst electronic music fans. Broadcasting live from the Belgium stage to the Israeli festival will be huge names of electronics such as Axwell & Ingrosso, AFROJACK, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Nicky Romero and many more.”


Bruce Springsteen, Tel Aviv, Israel. July 2016

 


“American rock legend Bruce Springsteen, the Boss, is expected to give a concert in Tel Aviv, in July 2016. Springsteen has not yet given any concerts in Israel despite a large fan base here, and a one of concert will likely draw thousands of eager Israeli fans.”


Sia Concert in Tel Aviv, Israel. August 11, 2016

 


“Sia gained international success with her sixth album “1000 Forms of Fear” and the hit “Chandelier”, made famous also by the video clip with dancing performance by Maddy Ziegler. Other hits are “Elastic Heart” and “Big Girls Cry”. Sia wrote songs for international superstars as Beyonce, Rihanna, Eminem and she released a new studio album “This is Acting” on January 29th. The singer will perform her first Israeli concert in Park Hayarkon.”


Red Sea Jazz Festival, Eilat. August 27-30, 2016

 


The Red Sea Jazz Festival will take place again in 2016, first happening in 1987 and running every year since in the last week of August. The Red Sea Jazz Festival is a four day international festival with 8 to 9 concerts per evening, 6 clinics with guest artists and nightly Jam sessions, featuring a showcasing a broad spectrum of jazz music from New Orleans jazz to the contemporary, including Latin and World music.


Beyonce Concert in Tel Aviv, Israel. August, 2016

 


“Beyonce is in expected to give a performance in Tel Aviv, Israel in August 2016. It’ll be Beyonce’s first concert in Israel. Her fans can hardly wait as this announcement follows years of rumors about her performing in Israel. Beyonce is one of the world’s largest pop stars, most famous for her hits “Halo” “Single Ladies”, and “Crazy in love”.”


Pharrell Williams in Tel Aviv, Israel. Summer, 2016

 


“American music sensation, Pharrell Williams is expected to give a concert in Tel Aviv, Israel in summer 2016. Pharrell Williams began his career in the 90’s but it was in recent years he rose to mass fame, in large part for his viral mega-hit, ‘Happy’, which caused waves on a global scale. Aside from his solo work, Williams has collaborated widely, and won multiple awards including nine Grammy awards as artist, and three as producer.”

 

To learn more about Study Abroad programs in Israel, click here. 

Visit touristisrael.com for more information on events, tours, and concerts. 

 

What Israeli Universities Does Masa Israel Partner With?

<div class="masa-blog-title">What Israeli Universities Does Masa Israel Partner With?</div>

Did you know that Masa Israel provides grants and need-based scholarships to students who study abroad in Israel?

 

Whether it's a semester abroad during undergrad or a masters program after college we can provide up to $7,500 in grants and need-based scholarships to make it easier for you to study abroad in Israel.
 

 

Tel Aviv University

Tel Aviv University, Israel’s largest and most comprehensive academic institution, boasts a diverse and dynamic student body and a faculty of nationally and internationally renowned scholars and scientists. It consistently ranks in the top 20 universities in the world in terms of scientific citations and among the top 100 universities internationally. It is conveniently located in the vibrant city of Tel Aviv, a start-up hub, a cultural capital with a thriving arts scene, rich history, and world-class museums and galleries, not to mention incredible nightlife and scenic beaches.

 


Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Hebrew University is an internationally renowned institution with a rich history. It’s Israel’s second-oldest university and home to the world’s largest Jewish studies library. Four of Israel’s prime ministers are among the university’s notable alumni. With an incredible location in Jerusalem, one of the most dynamic and historic cities in the world, you’ll learn as much outside the classroom as in it. Just walking through the city streets and looking at ancient walls and buildings is a lesson in archeology.

 

 

Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is the oldest academic institution in the country and a world-class university with students from Israel and around the world. It is ranked among the world’s top 50 technological universities and has been recognized for being a leader in creating a special ecosystem that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship. It is home to three Nobel Laureates and is also the birth place of many of Israel’s most exciting tech innovations. To enhance its international presence, Technion has established academic partnerships, including: the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute for applied science being built in New York City; the planned cooperatively run Technion-Guangdong Institute of Technology (TGIT) with Shantou University being built in Shantou, Guangdong; and research laboratories in Singapore under the CREATE project of the National Research Foundation of Singapore.


Technion is located in Haifa, a diverse port city where you’ll find stunning views, the magnificent Baha’i Gardens, and amazing cultural diversity: Arab, Christian, and Jewish cultures have coexisted here for centuries. In recent years, Haifa has emerged as an “Israeli Silicon Valley” with a booming tech industry (Microsoft and Google set up shop here not so long ago).

 

 

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Ben-Gurion University is a pioneering teaching and research center with more than 19,000 students, a large campus, and a welcoming dorm life. Located in Beer-Sheva—a growing city on the edge of the Negev desert that retains the feel of an exotic, distant land—this university is a great choice for students who want more than just the “same old, same old.”

 

 

University of Haifa

The University of Haifa is one of Israel’s most diverse academic institutions, with a student body of Jews, Arabs, Christians, new immigrants and native Israelis, all deeply committed to social responsibility and academic excellence. It also offers state-of-the-art research centers and boasts a renowned faculty. A diverse port city located on the Mediterranean Sea, Haifa offers stunning views, the magnificent Baha’i Gardens, and amazing cultural diversity.

 

 

Arava Institute of Environmental Studies


The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, located in Southern Israel, is the only institution which brings together students from America, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and from around the world, to cooperatively study the region’s environmental challenges. Accredited through Ben-Gurion University, the Arava Institute houses academic programs, research centers, and international cooperation initiatives focusing on a range of environmental concerns and challenges.

 

 

IDC Herzliya

Study with world-renowned faculty, engage with students from around the world and enjoy a wide array of extracurricular activities.
The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya was established twenty years ago as Israel’s first private university.  IDC Herzliya believes in ‘start-up academia’ and encourages its students to initiate, innovate, invent and create. Many successful startups in Israel today first came together on the IDC campus.

 

 

Bar-Ilan University

A world-class institution, Bar-Ilan University offers students a challenging and rewarding academic experience that emphasizes social responsibility and Jewish values. It’s currently the second-largest academic institution in Israel, with a dynamic student body and a renowned faculty.

 

The university is located just outside of vibrant Tel Aviv, a cultural capital with a thriving arts scene, rich history, and world-class museums and galleries, not to mention incredible nightlife and scenic beaches.
 

To learn more about Masa Israel's study abroad and post college programs, click here. 

 

Career Israel: Daniel Vapne Profile

<div class="masa-blog-title">Career Israel: Daniel Vapne Profile </div>

Career Israel participant Daniel Vapne gave us an insight on his Masa Israel Journey and how it helped him grow professionally. After getting his B.A in Exercise Science from Kennesaw State University, Daniel decided to take an internship with Medix, a private physical therapy clinic in Israel.


During his internship, he was able to apply his knowledge as well as skills from his college experience. His personal struggle and understanding of taking initiative makes him stand out as an exemplary leader of his community. He developed a passion for helping people.  Israel’s diverse population requires more than the typical Hebrew skills but the understanding of different cultures and languages as well. His commitment to gaining knowledge helped him bridge that gap.


Daniel gained more than just experience; he developed a plan to give back to people back home and Israel. We asked him some questions about his journey and how it shaped his Jewish identity as well as leadership skills.


How did you end up on a Masa Israel program?


I did Taglit Birthright in December of 2013. A Masa Israel rep came on the bus one day and said, “if you liked Taglit, there’s a longer term program you can do.” They explained that you can choose what you want to do and that there are many options.


I was very touched by the whole Israel experience, so as soon as I got home I did my research. I saw all of my options and thought it would be great to go back and work in Israel. It seemed like I’d get a more hands on experience than I would in the U.S.


I couldn’t treat patients in the U.S. like I did in Israel. In Israel, I did whatever the physical therapists told me to do. In the U.S., I would’ve just been an aid.


In Israel, I was able to use my critical thinking, create treatment plans and facilitate them for my patients. I worked in a multi-lingual environment, speaking English, Hebrew, and Russian.
I think the patients trusted me more. In the U.S., if you don’t have Doctoral degree in Physical Therapy, patients won’t take you seriously.


In Israel, your bosses give you as much opportunity as you want. It’s up to you to prove to them that you’re capable and able to do the job. I’m treated more as an equal than as a tool. It was there where I was able to get the experience that helped me in grad school. There I was exposed to more and actually worked with patients. Now I know how to approach the American population, but also those from other countries. I’ve learned how important the patient relationship is.

 


You said you treat patients in English, Hebrew and Russian. How are you able to do this?


Before I came on this program, I knew very minimal Hebrew. But after two weeks of ulpan and learning every day at work, on the bus to work and struggling to learn the language, I’m able to actually treat patients in three languages.


My Hebrew is still pretty minimal, but I’m able to communicate with patients and give them directions on exercises and their treatment. In a month-and-a-half of work I was able actually do this already.


And where did you learn Russian?


I grew up speaking Russian at home, and I’m really lucky that I was able to use those skills and talents in Israel. It’s not common in the U.S., at least in my experience, for my Russian to be so useful.

 

Did you have any experience working in PT before you came to Israel?


I worked at a few different clinics before. During and after college, I helped out in the sports medicine department at my college, working alongside trainers and sports doctors that treated student athletes, on both rehabilitation and injury prevention


I also worked at PT solutions, a physical therapy chain back home. I was an aid there and worked with great young physical therapists who were just a year or two out of grad school. They coached me through the grad school application process.


I mostly just observed what they did and asked as many questions as possible, but I utilized the knowledge I gained from working there in Israel.


I also volunteered at the local Jewish Home, where my grandma lives, and the hospital nearby with in-patient rehabilitation unit. I met a lot of great professionals there that actually motivated me to pursue this path even more.


So, did you defer grad school for a year to come to Israel?


No. Before I went to Israel, I started the application process and I got my first interview at NYU. I also got my first rejection letter four hours before that, so it was a nice surprise.


What was your involvement in the Jewish community, or Jewish life – if any – growing up?


I had mild involvement in Hillel on my college campus. There weren’t many Jews at my college. I also went to young professional events, and went to events at my synagogue.


I went to a modern orthodox Jewish high school and really found my Jewish identity there. I played basketball there and really felt like part of the community. Even though I was very secular, they really accepted me.


(As I said, I was really secular, so I learned a lot of traditions and values there. My parents are beginning to become more observant. They started keeping a kosher kitchen and my mom isn’t working on Shabbat anymore – she runs her own business teaching piano lessons, so it’s kind of a big step for her. My dad still wants to be secular and we’re fine this way. We have a nice Jewish balance at home and it’s nice to have Shabbat and stay at home together.


You say you grew up secular, how did you end up in a modern orthodox high school?


I got a scholarship for basketball and academics – I was really good at math and the school liked giving scholarships to kids in the community, even if they weren’t religious.


Does your connection to Israel also come from your high school experience?


I had a slight involvement in NCSY, but I’d say my Jewish involvement really increased after Taglit Birthright. I wanted to be more involved in the community. I do have some family in Israel, but really, this is my homeland. I feel more connected to Israel sometimes than the U.S.


What was it like living in Israel?


It was great because every day I was able to use my Hebrew and even if I couldn’t get my idea across, everyone knows English and can help me out. I also got to live in the city, I’ve never really lived ‘in the city’ before, so that was great. I lived with five other people, around my age, in the center of Tel Aviv!


And how did Career Israel treat you?


Career Israel was great and my madrichim (counselors/residential advisors) were great. I don’t know if you know Itzik, but he’s the best. He’s tried to help my girlfriend find a job in the U.S. so we can continue the romance after the program (she’s Canadian).


I’ve also learned a lot about myself and what I can give back to the community, as well as what the community can give me.  I made tons of new connections. That’s one of the reasons I loved Birthright. Being in a college that didn’t have much of a Jewish life – it’s what I felt like it was lacking. I was in a fraternity, I was in Hillel, I was involved in academic clubs, but I felt different. I was still a leader of all of these clubs and student groups, but I couldn’t relate to people on a deeper level.


When I told people I was coming to Israel, all of my professors told me to be careful. They didn’t understand that I felt safer in Israel than in the U.S. or in Atlanta. I feel more with my people here.

 

 

What do you think of the Leadership Summit ?


So far it’s great, I have a great group – I mean they’re not too bad (looking back at friends sitting behind us)


It’s really thought provoking and relates to something I’m personally working on. I have the tendency of not asking questions and just taking control. I’m trying to be more of a facilitator and understanding people’s perspectives. For one thing, not trying to control the conversation all the time and trying to see where they’re coming from and accept it. It’s something I was really lacking before as a student leader on campus. It made it hard for people to work with me. I’m trying to learn how to be a more adaptive leader and how to adapt to the group. You know, get a sense of personalities in the group and figure out my own role, instead of asserting myself and claiming a role first.


Something I also learned, especially from the speaker the other night, is to adapt to your audience – the people who you’re with, your coworkers. Not everything is set in stone. Things are done differently,in Israel than in the U.S. So I’m trying to find a role – it doesn’t have to be big – to try to make the group dynamic work.


How do you plan to stay involved in the Jewish community when you go back to the U.S.?


I did get a letter from the Atlanta Jewish community – the Jamie A. Tritt Family Foundation Volunteers an Action Leadership program from the Jewish Family and Career Services for the Young Adults Division of this organization to run events.


It’s very hard to tell what my involvement will be because I hope I won’t be in Atlanta for too long when I get home. I’ve always been close to the JCC there. It’s where I worked out and played basketball. It’s where my first job was; at the concession stand and then as a lifeguard. It helped me find my interests, professionally, in aquatic therapy and orthopedic therapy. That’s where it all started.


My long term goal is to open up physical therapy clinics in the U.S. and open one that’s more nonprofit in Israel, somewhere where people need access to that kind of care.
I’ve noticed here that the best care comes from private companies. There is public physical therapy but when I ask patients, they say the care isn’t here. I know it’s hard to have a clinic in Israel; that’s why I want the capital to come from running clinics in the U.S. to open something in Israel. I want to give back to the State of Israel in my own way, but it’s not easy. That’s one of the sad things about Israel: there is a struggle  for people to take risks and in order to take those risks and be successful you have to have the large amount of capital.


That’s what I want to give back to Israel – my knowledge of medicine – to help those going through something traumatic – get back to the way of life that they want.

 

Is there anything else you wantto share about your Masa Israel experience?

 

Growing up I had a communication disorder – I guess that’s what you call you it – I stuttered. Ever since I was in junior high I tried to put myself out there to overcome it so I could become a leader. I’ve always looked up to leaders – activists, politicians, etc. I worked really hard to overcome it. It still comes up when I’m really nervous like in job interviews and stuff.


Because of it, I’m always taking a strong role and working harder than the person next to me, putting in hours of preparation. This is what sort of made me a leader. This attribute that I thought I was lacking – I wanted to be able to be out spoken and be able to be a leader and inspire people to get out there and take action. It’s very important to me because growing up you get ridiculed for that. Now that I’m older I try to be eloquent and stand up for the people who can’t’ speak for themselves. So, that’s something that’s always been something close to my heart and every chance I get I try to work on it.


For example, the first day of the conference I volunteered to speak in front of 250 plus people. I try to get over that fear – it’s there for you to overcome it and it’s just another thing I’ve had to face in my life.


Also, and more related to the community thing, I tried getting extra scholarship from the Atlanta Jewish Federation, because I’d heard that some Federations do that, but they don’t give it. I found it very strange since it’s an affluent community. That’s something I’m trying to make happen because so many young people in Atlanta leave the community, but if they contribute more to this, these people will come back to Atlanta and give back to the community.

 

What Mothers are saying about Masa Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">What Mothers are saying about Masa Israel</div>

In the USA, Mother’s Day is a special holiday meant to celebrate your mother and shower her with compliments and gifts. Sometimes, a great gift can consist of you going on a long term program in Israel. In honor of Mother’s Day, our gift is to highlight how much impact a Masa Israel participant gives to their parent and the Jewish people. 

 

By Nancy Iankowitz

 

 

 

 

Happy Mother's Day from Masa Israel! 

 

To learn more about Masa Israel programs, click here.