University of Haifa alumna Elana Weil addressed 400 Building Future Leadership participants in Jerusalem, including Israeli President Shimon Peres and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
Shalom. My name is Elana and as a Masa and Building Future Leadership alumna, I would first and most importantly like to say, תודה! Thank you! Thank you, Masa. Thank you President Shimon Peres…for your dedication to us, the next generation of Jewish leaders. And I want to thank all of you, my fellow peers, who made the important decision to come to Israel on a Masa program, to come to the Building Future Leadership Seminar to invest in yourselves, and in the future of the Jewish people.
I was asked to speak to you today, about how Masa and BFL were so critical in setting me on an exciting path of Jewish leadership and Israel advocacy.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, recognized a need to strengthen the bond between Diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews: “Yesh li chalom” he said.
In English: “I have a dream, that all Jewish youngsters spend at least one year of their lives in Israel. A vision, where thousands of young people come on an independent voyage for a life-shaping year. …I believe that every one of the thousands of youngsters joining the “journey” will enrich his humanitarian, Jewish and professional experience…[and] will strengthen the community he comes from.”
By dedicating five to ten months of our lives living in Israel, we are among the thousands of Masa participants, helping Sharon’s dream come true.
I am so grateful for Sharon’s vision – without it, I would not be who I am today. My Masa experience strengthened my affinity with Israel, and that is a gift. By immersing myself in day-to-day life here, I grew to feel in my heart that I belong here…that this is my home.
I embarked on my Masa Israel Journey two years ago to study abroad at Haifa University. Everyday was a chance to soak up new knowledge and push myself to new limits. My Hebrew skills improved in Ulpan. I learned about the history of Israel in my classes I hiked the Negev and the Golan. I volunteered teaching English to children who had immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia.
When a Masa representative came to the Haifa campus to present Building Future Leadership, I jumped at the opportunity to participate – I saw it as an avenue to becoming a stronger and more effective advocate for Israel.
Deligitimization and demonization of the Jewish State are spreading at an alarming rate. I did not serve in the IDF, therefore, as a Jew living outside of Israel, I wholeheartedly believe it is my duty to be vigilant, and educated, to protect, defend, and promote peace for Israel however I can.
Through the BFL seminars, tours, discussions and debates with my peers, I was challenged and grew tremendously. Masa brought in well-respected figures most people would pay hundreds of dollars to hear speak. I connected with other Jews like myself from around the world. My BFL peers and I had so much fun together. We developed a sense of community and long-lasting bond around our shared passion for Israel.
I returned home from Israel inspired to continue contributing to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. And thanks to BFL, I was equipped with the tools I needed to do this effectively.
As a senior at The University of Arizona, I served as the Masa Israel Engagement intern, in addition to undertaking a Hillel Fellowship for Advancing Campus Engagement. I sought the mentorship of visiting Professor, Asher Susser, a key intellectual contributor to the Israel-Jordan peace agreement. I continued my work in Hasbarah, Israel advocacy, by working closely with AIPAC, CAMERA, and Christians United For Israel.
Working hard as a young Jewish leader opened doors to opportunities I never dreamed of. My fellow Israel activists and I were invited to conferences in St. Louis, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., and now Jerusalem. We were inspired by the speeches of great leaders: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama, President Shimon Peres and many more. We had the fortune of meeting Tzipi Livni and Natan Sharansky as well. These remarkable experiences only increased our motivation to continue working tirelessly to bring about positive change for the Jewish people.
After graduating college last May, although my involvement on campus came to a close, my involvement and leadership development in my new city of Boston, was just beginning. In my spare time outside of work, I continue to educate myself about Israeli current events, volunteer as a lay-leader for AIPAC and serve as the Boston Masa/Jewish Federation Fellow. By the way, if any of you are moving to Boston, please come and talk to me this week. I would love to meet you!
I am proud to be Jewish. Proud to be a Zionist. I LOVE this country. I admire its founders. I want to share with you a quotation I find impeccably well suited for this special plenary of the Building Future Leadership Seminar. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, one of my greatest heroes, (may his memory be a blessing), once said:
“Here, in the land of Israel, we returned and built a nation. Here, in the land of Israel, we established a state. The land of prophets, which bequeathed to the world the values of morality, law and justice, was after two thousand years, restored to its lawful owners – the members of the Jewish people. On its land, we have built an exceptional national home and state.”
The “we” Rabin referred to, were young Jewish idealists with a vision, who played a critical role in building the very Israel we know today. Decades ago, they, were very much like us! Passionate, dedicated, proactive young Jews who answered the call to lead, without looking back. Many, just like us, were born outside of the land of Israel. Including, President Shimon Peres, who we are honored to have with us today. President Peres, you give us guidance and inspiration. We are in profound gratitude for the sacrifices you have made and the gifts you have given to the State of Israel and to the Jewish people.
The brave founders of the State of Israel are now passing on the torch of leadership to our generation. Building Future Leadership, the flagship of Masa, was established for this very reason. You were chosen for BFL, because you were recognized as the most promising Jewish leaders of tomorrow, with unbound potential.
My sincere hope for each of you, is to believe in yourselves as the leaders of tomorrow. Absorb as much as you can over these next days. When you return to your home communities, apply what you learned through your creative and entrepreneurial initiatives, and you will make a difference.
President Peres recently addressed our generation in his powerful new video, Be My Friend For Peace on Facebook. He says to us:
“I call upon you not just to guess what tomorrow will look like, but to pave the way for its arrival.”
Let us heed the President’s call! We are vital partners in shaping a bright future for Israel, the Jewish People, and the entire world. The responsibility rests on us to stand up, be leaders, and make a positive change. That is why we are here. Am Yisrael Chai. Todah Rabah.
Kick off the TribeFest celebrations with a toast alongside other Masa Israel alumni.
Indulge in champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, meet other fabulous young professionals who are passionate about Israel, and find out what’s in store for the alumni community nationwide. Free for Masa Israel alumni!
Visit the Masa Israel booth at TribeFest to RSVP and get the event location.
TribeFest Session: Take on Israel - Original Films and Photography by Masa Israel Alumni
Take on Israel: Original Films and Photography by Masa Israel alumni will feature 3 - 4 young North Americans who’ve spent time living and working in Israel and the original films and photography they created during their immersion experience.
See Israel through the eyes of these young adults as they experience living in Israel for the first time. Learn about their challenges, successes and the questions raised during their time in Israel - from issues of religion and state, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to everyday life, these authentic, personal views of Israel will present nuanced perspective and set the stage for open discussion.
Israelis are the masters of body language. With the movement of a hand, the flick of the wrist, or the jutting of a chin they can communicate a whole series of complex emotions without saying a word. Pay attention to those hand gestures because science has proven there is more to body language than meets the eye.
Masa Israel subsidized participation of 10 Masa program alumni at AIPAC’s 2012 Policy Conference, chosen based upon their demonstrated Israel advocacy leadership in their communities.
Read what some of them had to say about their experiences at the conference:
"The single greatest achievement of Masa Israel Journey (and Israel programs generally), is to create, nurture and cement the connection between Israel and young Jews around the world. I came back from Masa wanting to learn how I could be a better Israel advocate in the community.
AIPAC is an unparallelled 72 hours of learning and networking precisely on how we can achieve that. As my first AIPAC Policy Conference, it has not only met, but it surpassed all my wildest expectations–first class world speakers, government leaders, seminars and participants from around the world and all walks of life. As a result, I will now be a more effective advocate for Israel, and the importance of the U.S.-Israel alliance."
"The annual AIPAC Policy Conference is an incredibly important way to show support for the incredible country that I was fortunate to work in while on Career Israel and now work for in Chicago. While I have been to many Policy Conferences, this year’s is more important than ever and I greatly appreciate Masa Israel’s assistance in allowing me to attend. I have always traveled to DC in March with my family, but it is wonderful to be here this year with alumni and close friends from Career Israel. I hope and would be more than willing to help make sure the Masa contingent doubles at next year’s conference."
"My Masa experience studying abroad at Hebrew University introduced me to the power of a passionate network of Jewish friends and colleagues. Ever since then, I’ve been diving deeper and deeper into the Jewish world, and I’ve had exponential rewards. For this reason, I wanted to attend AIPAC Policy Conference, because it is a premiere hub for Jewish leadership. I was not disappointed, with over 1,200 college students and over 13,000 pro-Israel community leaders in attendance, and I came away with dozens of exciting new connections and opportunities to continue helping Israel and fixing the world."
"AIPAC demonstrated a Jewish unity like none other. We were all there for a common cause, common purpose, and there was nothing to add. Well presented, thoughtful, and it gave me recollections of my time in Israel."
Practice your Hebrew while making mishloah manot, Purim baskets for friends!
If you are interested in practicing your language skills in an informal setting while delighting in Purim delicacies come join us for our second Ivrit meet-up. Food and drink will be served, and (Hebrew) dialogue encouraged.