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Out of Chaos, Total Clarity">Out of Chaos, Total Clarity

Posted May 4th, 2016

A Yom Ha’Shoa tribute to my late grandmother (Esther Klein, 1918-2011), who did more than survive Auschwitz and Ravensbruck:  She defeated them.

 

To truly do justice to Esther Klein, I ought to invite you to my kitchen as I tell you about her. I would seat you in the corner on a rickety step stool, play some swing music, and let you peel some potatoes for my soup, or very slowly add the ground nuts into the egg whites for the highest rising Pesach cake in Bayswater, if not all of Queens.

 

While you were on that step stool, I would tell you stories about my childhood and my sisters and my parents, all gone. I would never cry. I would tell you in a way that never scared you or depressed you, but instead compelled you to bring the story forward, to your own kitchens, later.

 

I would sing along with the music and laugh at your jokes, whether or not they were funny, and I would tell you my distinct opinion on family life, world politics, fashion, economics, literature, or social etiquette.

 

Later, we would play Rummikub and I would scratch your back until you fell asleep. I would tell you stories about your father, when he was little, and how he reminded me in this way of my own father, and in that way, of you.

 

Without too much effort, I would tie you generations back, and tie myself generations forward, completely by the way, as you were dozing off.

 

You would never guess that my own wonderful childhood ended at the train tracks, until I would tell you that part, too. There was a perfect sense that nightmarish evil was absolutely real, and also that, most decisively… “Ve Von.”

We won because, when you are not sitting on that step stool, I am using it, well into my 80’s, to climb to reach things from the top cabinet, teaching you that it’s all about balance.

 

I tell you about my very religious and learned father who learned at the Shabbat table with my mother, back when most European women were learning the Tzena Re’enna. Who sent his sons to yeshiva and expected them to work, like he did. I would tell you how my mother, Nechama, prepared blueberry jam for stomach ailments, because she was known as something of a medicine woman around town, and, like my father’s dry-goods store, her kitchen was a regular stop for the local poor.

 

I would create a seamless flow from the Hershkowitz’s charitable and intellectual kitchen in Seredna to my short but horrific stay in Auschwitz and then Ravensbruck, where I was sustained by my nieces, teenagers of whom my sisters put me in charge… and then right back to the kitchen where we now sit, making potato soup.

 

Which, if I were my grandmother, would bring me back to my mother, who told me on our first day in Auschwitz, when we were being processed into our potato sacks, to ignore the SS, just as I had ignored the goats and the cows back home. My mother had reminded me, in those two weeks we were together before she disappeared in a cloud over Poland, who was the human being in this situation, and what that demanded of me. I remembered, and reminded, every day since.

 

What it meant to be human was to have both determination and balance. Empathy and a sense of justice. Respect for the dead and a total dedication to the living. To living. A sense of reverence and a sense of humor. Balance. Living modestly but mindful of aesthetics. A dedication and deep gratitude to America, and a complete devotion to and support of Israel. Work outside the home well into her 70’s, and family always first. Being equal parts emotional, intellectual, and physical. Torah classes, survivor’s meetings, family events, the gym. Shul and the beach, both healing.

 

Being realistic and optimistic – living on that delicate edge of facing down yesterday and expecting a reversal tomorrow, while completely in the present, today. My Grandma was Zen before anyone knew what that was, except maybe my uncle.

 

My grandmother’s life, you would soon see, was a “Dayenu” story. Thankful and disbelieving of every victory, and also always pushing the envelope toward the next one, the one that her father demanded that she pursue.

 

Esther Klein did things on her terms. She accepted God’s will. But to the greatest possible extent, it would be God’s… and Esther’s.

 

It was the endless winter that began 1945. My grandmother and her nieces had just been marched through the snow from Auschwitz to Ravensbruck. The Nazis felt that the end was near, and the final solution needed final solving. To accelerate matters, they put the women in an outdoor tent in sub-freezing weather. The calculations were correct. Half died the first night there. The survivors, my grandmother told me, slept very little, and when they did, it was standing or sitting, huddled in groups.

 

They also didn’t let go of their tin cups, because that way, they could drink hot soup, when it was available. Being and asthmatic since age 13, my grandmother got sick. Very sick. She did the forbidden and fell asleep. She thought she would not wake up. But then something crazy happened. She had a dream.

 

In that dream, her father, whom she had not seen since getting off the train on Shavuot of 1944, was standing near a window in a long white robe. She said it looked like a kittel. He asked her to come look out the window. He pointed actively to a tree with white blossoms, and told her: When the trees start to blossom white, you and Ibby and Helen will be free. Please wait.

 

So she woke up. She stood up. And she waited. And encouraged others to do the same. As her father promised, they were liberated in spring. The Swedish Red Cross took my grandmother and her nieces back to Sweden. When they disembarked this more benevolent train, they found that they had arrived in an orchard in full bloom. On every tree, white flowers.

 

This story, which every Klein grandchild has heard more than once, was Grandma’s way of saying that you need an inner guide, one that is firmly planted in your own authentic roots, but that you make yours, and tell it your way. You need to hang on and believe in God, but you need to do your part to make it so. She believed in Divine miracles made real only via human effort, which is the message of the first Esther, too. She believed in bearing witness to the past, and she believed in writing your own story going forward.

 

Grandma, I miss you terribly. A world without you is a strange place. But you taught us what your idyllic life before Auschwitz, and your unthinkable time there, taught you: how to balance on a rickety step stool while singing and reaching higher.

 

What more could we have asked to know?
 

 

JERUSALEM > COPENHAGEN: 4 REASONS WHY ANCIENT STREETS ARE BETTER THAN SNOW">JERUSALEM > COPENHAGEN: 4 REASONS WHY ANCIENT STREETS ARE BETTER THAN SNOW

Posted May 1st, 2016

 

Copenhagen may be a top study abroad destination, but wouldn’t you rather spend your semester abroad immersed in a 5,000-year-old city accompanied by a gorgeous Mediterranean climate?

 

We thought so and here are 4 reasons why ancient streets are better than snow:

 

The Culture

Copenhagen welcomes a great European culture which is worth seeing at some point in life. When you’re young and looking to have the best 5 months ever, you spend it amongst as many cultures as possible. There’s nowhere better to do this than in Jerusalem. The city streets are bursting with people from around the world, both locals and tourists. Don’t be surprised if one moment you’re talking to someone from France then the next someone from Yemen, this is an everyday occurrence here. The plus side, everyone your programs speaks English, even if they’re from other countries.

 

The Language

As if Danish will come in handy throughout your life, why not spend 5 months speaking the language you already know… English. Bet you didn’t know that English is the 3rd unofficial language of Israel. Plus, if you want to learn Hebrew, every study abroad program in Jerusalem offers language classes.

 

The Nightlife

Yes, most countries in Europe are known for great party scenes. However, when you’re walking in Machne Yehuda (the Shuk) and the sun begins to set you won’t know what has hit you. All of a sudden fruit stands turn into wine bars and cheese stands turn into beer gardens and before you know it the entire shuk is a club. It’ll be a snapchat story like never before.

 

The Location

In Denmark, you may be miles from multiple seas at any given time, but only in Jerusalem can you be a hop, skip and a jump from floating in a sea, The Dead Sea. There’s no better way to fill your Instagram up than with pictures of yourself doused in mud while floating in an ancient sea. Plus, the sea and the mud are great spa treatments so you’ll go home with a just-got-back-from-studying-abroad-glow!

 

 

 

By: Lauren Katzenstein

 

Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Gidon Frank">Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Gidon Frank

Posted April 28th, 2016

From a very early age, Gidon Frank has had a strong connection to the Jewish community in his hometown of Toronto, Ontario Canada.

 

A graduate of Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto and Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, Gidon graduated from Brock University in 2011. During his time in university, he helped grow the Jewish Student Association and became very involved with several local Jewish organizations.


With the help of Masa Israel Journey, he spent the 2013-2014 school year in Israel, earning his MA in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Throughout his time at Hebrew U, Gidon was involved with over 50 different Israeli nonprofit organizations.

 

What inspired you to become a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow?


Masa allowed me to truly experience my personal Israel journey, which I truly treasure. I want to help young Jewish adults experience their own Israel journeys, as well. Nonprofit and Jewish communal work, as well as Israel have always been passions of mine. This in combination with my many years of experience and skills and knowledge gained along the way, will allow me to help guide others toward a positive experience.

 

Each Masa Israel Alumni Fellow is required to create an Impact project to bring back to their local community, either to increase local alumni involvement or help recruit new participants for Masa Israel programs. What ideas do you have for your Impact project, should you be chosen as a Fellow?


I’d love to run a sports event. Like many other Jewish young adults, sports is a big part of my life as well. I have been involved with other successful Jewish sporting events such as Hoop 4 Israel and would like to start a similar initiative. 
 

 

Learn more about the Masa Israel Alumni Fellows Program.

 

The Jerusalem Post: For those looking to explore Israel, emerging cities">The Jerusalem Post: For those looking to explore Israel, emerging cities

Publish Date: 
April 26, 2016

By Shaina Oppenheimer

 

Integral to the choice of coming to Israel is the eagerness to give back to its people. Masa hopes to inculcate a sense of shared responsibility.

Every year, Masa Israel Journey enables thousands of young Jewish adults to come to Israel on various programs and experience the country as a local, diving deep into Israeli culture. However, the dynamic of these programs is starting to change; as more participants gravitate towards smaller cities, the focus is shifting from “my Israel” to “our Israel.”

 

A service and learning program incorporating gap years, study abroad, volunteer work and other post-graduate work contexts, Masa is starting to radiate waves of change throughout the Jewish community in moderately-sized metropolises, such as Beit She’an, Petah Tikva and Beersheba.

 

Read the full story on JPost.com. 

The Jerusalem Post: Hey America, 'ma Nishtana?'">The Jerusalem Post: Hey America, 'ma Nishtana?'

Publish Date: 
April 24, 2016

By Liran Avisar, CEO of Masa Israel Journey

 

Today, there are more options available than ever before for young people to experience Israel, whether for days, weeks, months, or an entire year.

Every spring, Jewish people across the United States and around the world sit at a table with their friends and family to retell the story of our exodus from Egypt. The first leg of our journey back in time begins with the “Ma Nishtana” (“What has changed?”), also known as the Four Questions.

 

As we prepare to retell the story of the liberation of the Israelites and the birth of the Jewish people, it is also worth exploring the current state of our Tribe. This Passover, I have four slightly different questions for the American Jewish community.

 

These are the four major questions that are worth asking:

 

1. How can we increase young American Jews’ interest in Jewish life and Israel? 

 

If you just read the headlines, it might seem that engagement is on the decline and anti-Israel activities are expanding. But the sky isn’t exactly falling.

 

One thing we do know is that it takes a transformative Israel experience with a lasting impact for Jewish young adults to reestablish, or even establish for the first time, their personal connections to the Jewish people and to Israel – to discover the Tribe.

 

Now, I am not talking about a single event, happening, or “aha” moment. Though for some it may only take one spark to reignite the Jewish fire inside. I’m not talking about the classic structure of organized Israel trips that include a bus tour of the country’s sites like Masada and Yad Vashem, meeting Israelis, learning to count to 10 in Hebrew and stuffing your face with more hummus and falafel than you ever thought possible.

 

These are clearly cornerstones to a young Diaspora Jew’s introduction to Israel – the state, the land and the people. However, the personal moments, conversations and observations enabled by a long-term Israel experience are the lasting connections that help our young people realize they are part of something bigger than themselves – Am Yisrael.

 

I’m talking about your first trip to an Israeli mall, when you see the clothing and accessories covered in Stars of David instead of crosses. The grandmotherly women you encounter on the bus that offers unsolicited life advice and a bite of their snacks as if you were their own grandchild.

 

The way in which everyone wishes you “Shana Tova” in the fall, not because they’re religious or on the way to synagogue, but because it’s as natural as wishing someone “Happy Holidays” in the winter in America.

 

These are the local Israeli moments that stay with young Jews as they go back home and reflect on their experience and newfound connection to Israel and their Jewish identities. They are what make that connection durable.

 

2. How do we empower our students to authentically change the Israel conversation on college campuses across the country?

 

Young Jews who spend substantial amounts of time living in Israel are much more equipped to deal with the often hostile anti-Israel rhetoric and activities on campus. Having spent significant time in Israel, they know more about what’s happening (and has happened) on the ground. As such, they are not only able to take part in discussions and debates, but also have the knowledge and tools to change the tone and content of the conversations.

 

By bringing their own Israel stories and experience into campus dialogue, these students have the power to change a combative debate into a personal conversation. Having a trove of deeply personal experiences on the ground in Israel allows individuals to speak more knowledgeably and comfortably about Israel and its politics.

 

Spending significant time in Israel also enables young Jews to better differentiate between legitimate criticism and uninformed, misguided hatred. Rather than feeding into the entrenched, polarizing propaganda war, these students are empowered to respectfully confront dissenting viewpoints. They can go beyond traditional hasbara (public diplomacy) efforts and pro-Israel talking points to have nuanced and intellectual conversations about the reality of the challenges facing the State of Israel, its leadership and its people.

 

3. What will the US Jewish community’s professional and lay leadership look like in 10 years?

 

With the number of unaffiliated Jews in America on the rise, one might think that the American Jewish community’s professional and lay leadership is shrinking or narrowing. However, the pipeline is actually expanding. One key indicator of young Jews who remain engaged and take on leadership roles in Jewish life are those who have spent an extended amount of time in Israel.

 

The variety of opportunities to spend meaningful time in Israel has consistently grown over the past several years. Today, there are more options available than ever before for young people to experience Israel, whether for days, weeks, months, or an entire year.

 

In 10 years, the majority of Jewish adults in the United States will have participated in an immersive Israel experience. We are talking about an unprecedented reality for the American Jewish community.

 

Throughout my and my American colleague’s meetings with our numerous Jewish communal partners, from Jewish Federations to Hillels to synagogues and beyond, it becomes more and more apparent that alumni of immersive Israel experiences, particularly those who have spent between five to 12 months in Israel, are overrepresented in the Jewish professional world. They are everywhere, in every organization, and they are the future leaders of the Jewish community.

 

As a result, they are and will continue to be more determined to connect Israel to all aspects of Jewish life. More than anything, they will make Israel travel an integral part of Jewish life and Jewish experiences. That, my friends, is revolutionary.

 

In a decade, these same young leaders will hold influential positions, whether in the Jewish world, business world, the philanthropic world and beyond. They will be the ones calling the shots and making important decisions. To have their Israel stories to tell and an unforgettable experience to look back on will mold these discussions and decisions before they even begin.

 

4. Yalla, nu, when are you coming?

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

Image: 

5 Ways to Explore Environmentalism in Israel">5 Ways to Explore Environmentalism in Israel

Posted April 21st, 2016

From desalination to solar energy, irrigation, and literally making the desert bloom, Israelis know a thing or two about green tech and sustainability.


Masa Israel Journey’s environmental programs provide academic, volunteer, and professional opportunities for young adults to gain hands-on experience in sustainable building, organic farming, permaculture, and more.


In honor of this year's Earth Day, grab your hiking boots and get ready for one of Masa Israel’s incredible environmental experiences:


Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

Image Source: Miriam Grunfeld

Located on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel’s Negev desert, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is the Middle East’s premier research and environmental studies institution. Accredited by Ben-Gurion University, the Arava Institute brings together students from America, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and from around the world to study environmental ethics and policy, ecology, water management in the Middle East and sustainable agriculture. Students also participate in a unique weekly Peace-Building and Environmental Leadership Seminar.


Eco-Israel

Image source: Eco-Israel

Eco-Israel combines coursework and hands-on fieldwork to give participants an in-depth experience in sustainable living and permaculture. Upon completion of the program, participants receive an internationally recognized certificate in permaculture design. 

 

Eco-Israel also emphasizes community-development as participants live and work together on the Hava and Adam Farm, Israel’s first multidisciplinary center for sustainable living and education, just outside of Modi'in.

 

LaMidbar: Desert Learning Community

Image Source:  neot-sedemar.com

LaMidbar offers participants the unique opportunity to pursue environmental and artistic interests. Located on Kibbutz Neot Semadar in the Negev, LaMidbar allows participants to truly immerse themselves in the kibbutz community. Working with kibbutz members and program staff, participants gain experience in organic farming. Participants may also choose to participate in an apprenticeship in carpentry, metal work, stained glass, pottery, weaving and other media with local artisans in the kibbutz Art Center.

 

Tel Aviv University MA in Environmental Studies

Tel Aviv University’s Porter School of Environmental Studies offers a three-semester MA in Environmental Studies, taught in English. This multidisciplinary program emphasizes the unique geographic and geopolitical challenges facing Israel and the broader Middle East. Courses cover a broad array of topics including sustainable development, marine conservation, and environmental policy. The program specializes in water issues, one of Israel’s most pressing environmental challenges, from both a scientific and political approach.

 

Environmental Internships

Looking for an environmental internship? Our internship programs offer a wide variety of opportunities for college graduates to gain hands-on work experience in environmental nonprofits, green tech companies, government agencies, and more. Click here to browse available positions.

 

 

9 MUST-READS BEFORE STUDYING ABROAD IN ISRAEL">9 MUST-READS BEFORE STUDYING ABROAD IN ISRAEL

Posted April 20th, 2016

 

By Andria Kaplan Aylyarov

 

 

 

1. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East, Sandy Tolan

Sandy Tolan dives deep inside the relationship of Bashir Khairi, a Palestinian and Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, an Israeli college student. The book breaks down the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the relationship of this unlikely friendship and proves hope and transformation does exist.

 

2. ‘Catch the Jew,’ Tuvia Tenenbom

Written by Tuvia Tenenbom, a Jewish journalist, who disguises himself as a German reporter so he can wander Israel for seven months. Tenebom visits Gaza, the West Bank and numerous Israeli cities to break bread and mingle with people of all kinds to unfold the unknown truths of the Holy Land.

 

3. My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, Ari Shavit

Ari Shavit is one of the most influential journalists in the Middle East and in this book, a personal narrative we are introduced to Shavit’s great-grandfather, a British Zionist who comes to Israel on a Thomas Cook tour in 1897. The book will help grasp your personal understanding of “why did Israel come to be, how did it come to be, and can Israel survive.

 

4. Startup Nation, Dan Senor and Saul Singer

Have you ever wondered how a country so young, surrounded by enemies on all sides is able to produce more startup companies than any other country? Authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer examine the adversity-drive culture and workplace informalities that shape the great country that is now called, Startup Nation.

 

5. Commander of the Exodus, Yoram Kaniuk

The books describe the story of a man, Yossi Harel, known to some as a modern-day Moses, who commands a ship carrying 24,000 Holocaust survivors to the shores of Palestine despite what the British Mandate says.

 

6. In the Land of Israel, Amos Oz

The famous Israeli novelist Amoz Oz interviews dozens of his fellow countrymen from every corner of Israel, every cultural background to paint a diverse portrait of their fears, hopes and prejudices.

 

7. Our Man in Damascus- Elie Cohen, Aaron Eitan Meyer

Calling all espionage enthusiasts! This book is the amazing story of of Elie Cohen, who managed to infiltrate the hierarchy of an enemy nation to a degree completely unheard of.

 

8. Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

If you’re coming to Israel and looking to travel to countries close by for the low then this book is a must-read. Twain’s book describes his journey on a charted vessel with numerous stops in Marseilles, Israel, Rome, Odessa and Morocco.

 

9. The Seven Good Years, Etgar Keret

Etgar Keret, one of Israel’s most well-known authors, wrote The Seven Good Years, his first memoir to document his life between the birth of his son and his father’s death. The New York Times says it’s a brilliant, life-affirming, and hilarious memoir from a genius.

 

 

 

 

 

Andria Kaplan Aylyarov is a Masa Israel Alumna and content marketing specialist for Masa Israel Journey. She loves a good glass of white wine and wishes she was 85-years-old and living in Boca, but she currently resides in Brooklyn.

 

Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Molly Radler">Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Molly Radler

Posted April 13th, 2016

alt="molly radler"After graduating, Molly did a Masa Israel Volunteer Program, for 10 months in the city of Akko, as well as various Druze villages in the North. There she taught English and other subjects in both formal and non-formal settings to young Jewish, Arab, and Druze teenagers. The connection Molly built with the students from different backgrounds was what lead her to want to further facilitate connections for students in the United States. Soon after she joined The David Project and became a Senior Campus Coordinator with, working with college campuses throughout the state of Florida. She helped guide pro-Israel college students to advocate for Israel on campus to the non-Jewish community, speaking on behalf of their own narratives and connecting those to their peers, making the Israel discourse on campus more inclusive and relatable.

 

Molly will be going to graduate school to pursue a Master's in Social Work with the Greater Rochester Collaborative Master of Social Work (GRC MSW) Program of Nazareth College and The College at Brockport, SUNY. 

 

 

What was the most meaningful aspect of your Masa Israel experience?


The most meaningful aspect of my Masa Israel experience was the network of people and connections I was able to take with me after my year with Masa. The bond that we formed while doing the truly amazing and unique work of our program is something that has bonded me to the group of my peers that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. In addition, Masa provided opportunities to connect with other Masa participants throughout the whole country of Israel, and some of my closest friends and some of the most inspiring people I have met are ones I met on Masa.

 

What inspired you to become a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow?


I have become a very passionate advocate for Masa and have actively been suggesting that my students and friends apply for Masa programs. I was very active in all the opportunities that Masa provided in addition to my actual program, and love to share my experience with others to hopefully get them involved as well. I hope to help connect the network of Masa alumni across the country in years to come after their volunteership, as well as advocate for many other Jewish people to be able to have a similar experience.

 

Each Masa Israel Alumni Fellow is required to create an Impact project to bring back to their local community, either to increase local alumni involvement or help recruit new participants for Masa Israel programs. What ideas do you have for your Impact project, should you be chosen as a Fellow?

 

I would love to create a network between the various Israel and Jewish organizations for young adults to learn about ways to get back to Israel through Masa. In Boston, there are already things in place for this to be successful, but on a very broad scale. If chosen I would love the opportunity to use this as a resource to start a specific project for students to find their perfect program to get back to Israel and explore their Jewish identity and connection to Israel through Masa.

 

To learn more about Masa Israel Volunteer Programs, Click Here. 
 

 

Masa Israeli: The journey into yourself">Masa Israeli: The journey into yourself

Posted March 29th, 2016
By Jane Mustova, PMP Nativ Technion
 
A considerable number of people believe that those who wander are lost, however I believe that it is through traveling that you discover your true self.  With that being said, I believe that the main goal of Masa Israeli is to help each of us realize what we really want and where we stand in life.
 
“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.”- Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
 
Throughout our Masa Israeli journey, we hiked along Jerusalem hills, trekked through the desert, strolled along the ancient streets of the Old City, built at the times of King David. We visited the place where David conquered Goliath, walked the streets of Tel Aviv and even spent Shabbat in Jerusalem. And each day, as we were discussing questions such as “Why are we here?” and “What does Judaism means for each of us?”, we started noticing how much do we actually have in common. Aside from the obvious fact that we all came from the FSU, we found that we shared much more: family history, interests, traditions, and beliefs. It was incredible to feel how over the course of a few days we went from being acquaintances to feeling like family.
 
One of the highlights of the trip was the night in the desert. Sitting around the fire, looking at the stars, we felt like characters of the Lion King movie, thinking how “the great kings of past look down on us” and although we have all been running away from our past, and our history, it is the time to learn from it.
 
While in Tel Aviv we attended a solo theatrical performance “Apples”, based on the story by Dina Rubina, and directed by Nadezhda Greenberg. The play tells the story of a typical Jewish family, whose history went through the devastating years of Second World War and the holocaust. This story raises the question of memory, which is universal to all of us, regardless of where we came from. When I was standing next to the Kotel in Jerusalem, I thought about my own family, particularly about my great-grandmother, who came to Jerusalem as a pilgrim, over a hundred years ago. Throughout history, there were people who were coming here, regardless of the politics, wars, and struggles. These people built the foundation on which the Israeli society stands todaya nation connected through language, culture, and the history of Jewish people.
 
In our fast-paced environment, full of hi-tech developments and scientific achievements, it is necessary to take a step back once in a while and think of the important things in life. This is what programs such as Masa Israeli are made for.
 
Masa Israeli is a beautiful journey, which leads you to your roots, gives you the opportunity to walk the paths of your ancestors, re-think why you are here and what your next step in life is. It is the chance to experience the individuality of each person, and at the same time, to feel as a part of something greater. All this is possible to due to the tremendous work of the talented guides and madrichim, as well, as the personal contribution of each participant.
 
Thanks to all of you! It was spectacular!
 
 

MEET RAFAEL MAZUZ, SOFAER INTERNATIONAL MBA ALUM">MEET RAFAEL MAZUZ, SOFAER INTERNATIONAL MBA ALUM

Posted March 24th, 2016

 

At the time I enrolled in the Sofaer International MBA program at Tel Aviv University, I had completed an undergraduate business degree in the US, worked as a management consultant for a major US firm, and was near completion of my military service as a combat medic. I had always enjoyed business and decided that earning an International MBA would valuable for transitioning back to the private sector. I also wanted to leverage my medical and military training to focus on biomedical and healthcare-related business, with an emphasis on commercialization of innovation and startups. I thoroughly researched several international programs and was confident in my decision to choose Tel Aviv University.

 

By then, the Israeli start-up scene had already developed a global reputation as an innovation leader. Within a few months of me starting the program that perception was further articulated and became a brand with the release of the book, Start-up Nation, which formally explored, documented, and named the phenomenon of the Israeli start-up culture. In the years since, international business delegations, investment, and deals coming to Israel have exploded, particularly from Asia. It has been an amazing trend to witness and be a part of.

 

Beyond traditional business coursework (taught by leading professors from both Israel and abroad), the MBA program provided a unique opportunity to be exposed to innovation and start-up-focused learning opportunities. These included courses such as Hi-Tech M&A and Innovation in Healthcare, hosting of international business delegations, visits to local start-ups and innovative multinational firms, and participating in an international business case competition (our team won first place in the country!).

 

I also had the opportunity to work on investment diligence projects for a leading Israeli healthcare venture capital firm evaluating medical investments. The program even provided the opportunity to join a business delegation and pursue a student exchange study abroad program, which I took advantage of.

 

After witnessing firsthand Asia’s growing hunger for Israeli innovation, I chose Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (“The Gateway to Asia”) for my student exchange. I took regionally relevant courses such as Sun Zi Art of War Applications to Business, Asia Pacific Business Law, and Mandarin Chinese. Joining Nanyang’s water polo and biathlon teams, as well as traveling throughout Asia during that period were unique and valuable personal and professional experiences as well, no less useful to my career than the formal studies.

 

One of the most cherished aspects of the Sofaer International MBA program was the opportunity to simultaneously explore both the start-up side of a business and how those innovations interface with the multinational corporations and international markets where commercialization happens. This is a crucial “missing link” that many startups and larger corporations alike do not have an understanding of. The results are that frequently, 1) the startups create solutions that lack understanding of their market and end-users, and 2) the larger corporations (and even entire cities and countries) squander tremendous resources attempting to promote “innovation,” without actually understanding how that comes about.

 

Upon completion of the program, I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of healthcare systems to understand better which innovations would add the most value. So I accepted a US-based director position with the world’s leading provider of wound care management services.

 

There, I spent over five years leading and managing multi-million dollar hospital and clinic-based departments specializing in the treatment of advanced wounds. This period was priceless for two reasons: First, it gave me an expertise in the clinical and business aspects of wound care, regenerative medicine, and related medical specialties (vascular, orthopedic, and plastic surgery, infectious disease, etc.). Second, it exposed me to broader trends, challenges, and opportunities in the healthcare sector, regarding both the management and delivery of care and the market for medical devices and other products.

 

Eventually, wound care and related start-ups began to approach me for insights and assistance on solutions they were developing. At first, they were primarily Israeli startups that heard about me through word-of-mouth, but that quickly expanded to other countries (especially the U.S.).

 

At the same time, top executives of medical device companies (whose products are used in the wound care units I managed) would perform ride along with their sales teams and product managers, visiting the centers I managed. They would find value in the meetings because we would provide invaluable feedback on their current and planned products and strategy. Several successful advanced wound care products on the market today heavily incorporated our feedback in their designs and business models.

 

Some of those same executives (and others I would meet at industry conferences and trade shows) would also connect me with their colleagues managing overseas divisions, given my experiences in those markets. On multiple occasions, I would connect them with overseas partners or facilitate deals, especially in Israel and Asia. A Tel-Aviv University MBA colleague from China and I have collaborated on some of these engagements, too.

 

As my dealings with both startups and multinational corporations intensified, I eventually left my wound care director position to pursue those opportunities full-time.

 

I am currently based in Washington, DC, but I spend significant time overseas (including Israel and Asia), engaged in both business and advisory, which are equally divided among multinational corporations and startups.

 

In fact, I am writing this entry from Southeast Asia right now, where I am performing due diligence for a multinational medical device company’s planned product launches here. I am also a part-time co-founder of a US-based chronic care management startup, and actively advise several other startups, including ones working on innovative surgical dressings, wound care diagnostics, and medical laser solutions.

 

I credit the Sofaer International MBA at Tel Aviv University for providing opportunities and opening doors for me. However, many of my friends in traditional MBAs indeed received more “hand-holding.” So those looking to simply attend class and have a coordinator set them up for internships and job interviews with minimal initiative may want to look to other MBA programs. However, for those who are eager to roll up their sleeves and seize an opportunity to fuse innovation and commercialization (whether to work with startups, larger firms or to bridge both), the Sofaer International MBA from Tel Aviv University is worth serious consideration.

 

 

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Written by Rafael Mazuz, Sofaer International MBA | Tel Aviv University Alumnus