Feeling Jewish Again

<div class="masa-blog-title">Feeling Jewish Again</div>

By Ben Ackerman, Tel Aviv University
This past week, I attended the General Assembly for Jewish Federations of North America held in Jerusalem. When the counselor from the administrative office at Tel Aviv University first asked me to go as a Masa representative, I had no idea what she was asking me to go to.

An Awesomely Awesome Adventure

<div class="masa-blog-title">An Awesomely Awesome Adventure</div>

By Deryn Harbin, WUJS Israel Intern Tel Aviv
The Jewish spirit lives in human beings of many shapes and sizes across almost every continent. The very definition of what it means to be Jewish is pluralistic in nature. It is said that if you leave two Jews in a room to argue, there will be three different opinions.

JPost: Two Jews, five opinions

JPost: Two Jews, five opinions

JPost: Two Jews, five opinions

November 12, 2013

By Allie Freedman


Israelis and international Jews join forces for a weekend in the Negev exploring issues of religious and national identity.

“What do you mean Jewish identity comes before solving Israel’s image in the media?” barks an Israeli soldier.


“All I am saying is that we have to come together in the Diaspora first to help come together as an Israeli nation,” responds a native Russian hoping to make aliya.


 “But what about the religious and secular divide? We need to come together as a religion before we can even think about coming together as a nation,” argues an American yeshiva boy.


Amid the silent desert air rages a fiery debate over the future of the Jewish people. The task was simple: rank several issues from most to least important. The outcome sparked a cross-cultural debate from Jewish voices from around the globe.


Last weekend, 100 Jewish participants between the ages of 21 and 27 ventured to the Negev for the Masa-Partnership2Gether Face-to-Face Encounters program. Masa is a joint project between the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel. With over 250 programs, Masa brings young adults between the ages of 18 to 30 to Israel for five months to a year. The weekend seminar named Mifgashim, run by Masa and the Jewish Agency, is the first of a three-part series.


“The Mifgashim Seminar series introduces Israelis to Diaspora Jews,” says Program Director Ilan Levene. “Many people come to Israel on a Masa program and do not even meet Israeli peers in the entire five months to a year duration. The connection with Israelis is so important. You cannot truly connect to the land of Israel without connecting to the people.”


The seminar brought together 42 Israelis and 58 Masa program participants for a weekend of campfires, desert biking and thought-provoking discussions. Housed in the Nitzana Educational Eco-Village, participants ate, slept, and learned together for two-and-a-half days.


Twenty-one-year-old Israeli Yael Shavit from Modi’in traveled to Nitzana for her second Mifgashim seminar after attending one last year in Arad. Shavit discovered that both conventions helped shape her Jewish identity. 


“As an Israeli, I feel like this convention really opened my eyes to Judaism outside of Israel,” says Shavit. “By seeing Judaism through the eyes of Jews from abroad, I am starting to ask myself big questions about my own Jewish identity. I found a new way to embrace Judaism.”


A maximum of three participants per Masa program were chosen to attend the convention, which hosted participants from the United States, Russia, England, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Hungary, France, Australia, Britain and Sweden.


Masa Educational Program Manager Avital Elfant believes that this program, unlike other Masa seminars, provides participants with a deeper connection to Israel as a whole.


"Everyone who comes on a Masa program is looking for something different," says Elfant. "In two weeks, Masa is going to have a Shabbaton on security and diplomacy. While that is great, you can do that in a college campus anywhere. The Mifgashim series can only be done in Israel. The participants get more out of it than just knowledge. They gain experiences with Israelis beyond the falafel guy on the street."


Masa Gvahim participant Sandy Dray hails from Toulouse, France. She joined her Masa program to immerse herself in Israeli culture before making aliya. As a future olah, she attended the seminar to meet more Israelis.


“I think the convention confirmed my choice to stay in Israel,” says Dray. “The minute I landed in Israel, I knew I was home. I love how happy all the Israelis are for me that I want to live here full-time. It means a lot to me. This weekend brought me tons of new Israeli friends, which is important since I’m making aliya.”


Through the convention, Dray believes that both Israelis and non-Israelis gained valuable insights into each others' lives, free from the disruptions of technology and other outside forces.

“I think we both have to learn from one another,” says Dray. “I think Israelis want to know why we want to come to Israel, either for a short time or forever; and we want to learn and understand how they live their Judaism here in Israel.”


In addition, Elfant adds that many Israelis rarely have the chance to communicate with international Jews due to Israel's geographical location.


"For the Israelis, we live within a bubble," says Elfant. "We are surrounded by Arab countries. It is almost impossible to meet Jews from around the world. They have no idea what Jews around the world think and the struggles of being a Jew in the Diaspora."


American college student and Masa participant Shane Skikne comments that this convention is the first time since he moved to Israel that he was able to communicate with Israelis on a deeper level. 


“It sounds crazy because I live in Israel, but I have had such a hard time meeting Israelis since I’ve been here,” says Skikne. “This is not just the first time I’ve made Israeli friends, but it is also the first time I’ve communicated with them on a higher and deeper level.”


To elevate and encourage the discussion, the group of 100 was divided into five groups of 20, split evenly between Masa participants and Israelis. The groups remained together the entire convention and even shared rooms with other group members. The small group setting enabled participants to delve deeply into tough questions about Judaism. The lively debates that ensued highlighted the cultural differences of Jews around the world.


“We work hard to develop a broad spectrum of topics that can trigger discussion,” says Levene. “Many of the discussions get heated because people care. People are passionate about who they are and who we are as a people.”


Israeli soldier Matanya Nahum enjoyed the open dialogue because it demonstrated that even though Jews come from different places, they still share a common thread throughout the world.


“The bottom line is that we are the same nation,” says Nahum. “The way we live our lives from day-to-day is so different. We must share our life experiences with each other and be involved in each other lives. This is why we must reinforce and tighten the connection between the Israelis and Jews from the Diaspora.”


The Nitzana convention is simply an introduction. To reinforce the ties between participants, the staff allows only Nitzana convention participants to attend parts two and three of the series. The second convention will take place in Tel Aviv on December 5-7, and the third will be held in Jerusalem on January 3-4.


As the weekend wound down, many program participants said that the friendships cultivated in Nitzana will continue long past the conventions.


“I went from having no Israeli friends to having ten invitations for Shabbat dinner,” said Skikne. “This is more than just a weekend retreat. This is a bond for life.”       


Originally published by the Jerusalem Post


Photo: courtesy



PREPA-SCE - Ecole d’ingénieurs.


Program Description

This program is conducted in French.

What's in a Name?

<div class="masa-blog-title">What's in a Name?</div>

by Johannah Truppin, volunteering on Kibbutz Kishoret through ITrack
With the arrival of my now 10-day-old niece, I have been thinking a lot about names and their meanings recently.
According to trusty Google Translate - a life saver for me here in Israel - the direct translation of “Kishorit” from Hebrew to English is “Spindle”.

Tri-State Area Alumni Gathered in New York for 3rd Annual Masa Alumni Summit

Tri-State Area Alumni Gathered in New York for 3rd Annual Masa Alumni Summit

Tri-State Area Alumni Gathered in New York for 3rd Annual Masa Alumni Summit

October 30, 2013

On October 27th, Masa Israel alumni gathered for the 3rd Annual Tri-State Area Alumni Summit. 

The Summit was held at the UJA Federation of New York and was coordinated by Tri-state area Alumni Board in cooperation with Erica Schwarz, Masa Israel’s Director of Alumni Relations.


“We hold the Summit each year because it’s a place for alumni to come together and feel a sense of belonging with like-minded people,” said Alumni Board chair Dina Silberstein. “The Summit serves as a starting point for alumni to connect to each other and to what they want to do in the greater Jewish community.”


The event kicked off with an engaging speech by keynote speaker Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, PhD, of Park Avenue Synagogue. An alumnus of a long-term Israel program himself, Rabbi Cosgrove spoke of his journey from unengaged young adult to OTZMA participant to leader in the Jewish community, and provided ideas on how to maintain the feeling of connection to Israel after returning home.


Attendees then chose to attend one of two breakout sessions. The professional development session featured a panel of Masa alumni who leveraged their experiences in Israel to succeed in the workforce, providing practical tips and tools and answering questions.


The Israel advocacy session, led by Career Israel alumnus Noam Gilboord of the Israel Action Network, provided practical guidance on articulating reasons to support the country.


“The conversation was interesting to me because I’ve been approached before with negative comments, but didn’t know how to respond,” said Lynnley Rothenberg, a recent Career Israel alumna. “The session was a light-bulb moment for me.”


Masa Israel raffled off two free tickets and a meet-and-greet with Idan Raichel, the world-renowned Israeli musician.


The event culminated in an engagement fair, where alumni could meet representatives from over 20 Jewish organizations.


Overall, attendees had a great time seeing old friends and making new ones.


“I had so much fun,” said Daniel Kronovet, who returned from his Kibbutz Ulpan program earlier this year. “I’m still new to the city, and the summit was a great way for me to get oriented to young professionals in the Jewish community.”


IDC Herzliya Information Session in New York

IDC Herzliya Information Session in New York

November 10, 2013 - 12:00

  New York, NY  - 

Come learn more about IDC Herzliya, one of the leading higher-education institutions in Israel!


The Genesis Philanthropy Group and Masa Israel Journey Introduce Initiative to Strengthen Jewish Identity of Young Jews from the Former Soviet Union

The Genesis Philanthropy Group and Masa Israel Journey Introduce Initiative to Strengthen Jewish Identity of Young Jews from the Former Soviet Union

October 23, 2013

The Genesis Philanthropy Group and Masa Israel Journey are set to launch a new initiative to strengthen Jewish identity of young Jews from the former Soviet Union and to deepen their connections to Israel.
The initiative is based on a model that includes a weeklong tour dedicated to familiarizing participants with Israel and its society, in the course of which participants will explore their Jewish identity in an educational and experiential manner and will also discover their personal connections to the Jewish people, to the Land of Israel, and to Jewish heritage.  The program's pilot will take place on October 22 and will involve 220 young people from throughout the former Soviet Union.
The Genesis Philanthropy Group concentrates its efforts on deepening the Jewish identity of Russian-speaking Jews around the world and in Israel by developing and supporting a vast range of educational initiatives, with a particular focus on the history and heritage of the Jewish communities of Russia and the former Soviet Union.  Masa Israel Journey, a joint venture between the government of Israel and The Jewish Agency, brings more than 10,000 Jewish young people to Israel each year, presenting them with more than 200 long-term program opportunities.  Some 1,500 young Jews from the former Soviet Union participate in Masa each year.  The Jewish Agency has placed a particular emphasis on Russian-speaking Jews, estimated at three million individuals worldwide, and is developing a vast range of programs aimed at addressing the unique characteristics and needs of the community
The two organizations—Genesis and Masa—decided for the first time to collaborate on a comprehensive joint venture aimed at intensifying the educational component of programs targeting young people from the former Soviet Union.  The initiative, based on a weeklong educational touring experience in Israel, will soon be implemented among young Jews from the former Soviet Union participating in Masa programs this year.  The educational model of the initiative is based on the success of the Mibereshit Israeli Experience, which aims to strengthen the Jewish and Zionist identity of Israeli students, and will be operated by the Mibereshit organization.
Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, said: "There are some three million Russian-speaking Jews around the world, including hundreds of thousands in the former Soviet Union.  The community is characterized by high assimilation rates on the one hand and solidarity with Israel on the other.  This cooperative enterprise between the Genesis Philanthropy Group and Masa Israel Journey will provide Jewish young people from the former Soviet Union with a sense of family and common destiny with the Jewish people, and will enable them to internalize the centrality of the State of Israel to the Jewish nation and to them as individuals in the most intensive way possible."
Sana Britavsky, Executive Director of Genesis Philanthropy Group in Israel, said: "Genesis brings to this partnership with The Jewish Agency and the Israeli government our proven experience in developing high standards of educational content for projects aimed at the young Russian-speaking Jews. The goal is to enable each of them to connect to Israel and its heritage through an unmediated encounter with its people, its landscapes, and its stories.  Along with our partners, Masa Israel Journey and Mibereshit Israeli Experience, we are hoping to create an integral educational space for all Masa participants from the FSU”.
The first group of 220 young people from the former Soviet Union will participate in the first wave of the program over the coming week, starting on October 22.  The experience will begin with a hike through Israel's Negev Desert and will reach its peak in Jerusalem.  It will include volunteering in the southern town of Yeruham and meetings with representatives of Israeli society, including immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have successfully integrated into a range of fields.  The experience will also include sessions with Israel Defense Forces officers from the former Soviet Union at Mount Herzl, a Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service at the Western Wall, and other meaningful opportunities.

Masa Israel’s Delegation to Poland: Exploring the Past, Meeting the Future

Masa Israel’s Delegation to Poland: Exploring the Past, Meeting the Future

May 22, 2014 (All day)  -  May 28, 2014 (All day)

  Israel  - 

This special delegation to Poland is an eight-day trip designed for those who are interested infurthering their connection to the past while lookingtoward the future. 

Members of the delegation will be expected to volunteer in Holocaust-related programs in their home communities.


A Taste of Israeli Culture - End of Year Event

A Taste of Israeli Culture - End of Year Event

May 20, 2014 (All day)

  Israel  - 

Explore Israeli culture firsthand. 

Take part in a variety of workshops and meet Israeli artists, singers, writers, dancers and actors. Come join us as we celebrate the end of the year and the beginning of your next journey.