Celebrate like a local: festivals during Sukkot

<div class="masa-blog-title">Celebrate like a local: festivals during Sukkot </div>

 
Growing up, you might have celebrated Sukkot by going to your family, friends’, or synagogue’s sukkah, shaking the lulav and etrog, and eating outside under the stars. But if you are spending this Sukkot in Israel, there’s no reason to stay confined to your backyard—use the whole country as your sukkah!
 

8 U.S. Colleges Join in Promoting Israel for Study Abroad

8 U.S. Colleges Join in Promoting Israel for Study Abroad

September 13, 2010

As part of an effort to raise Israel’s profile as a study-abroad destination, eight American universities are starting or expanding programs to send students there.
The projects, which start in 2011 and 2012, were spurred by $400,000 in grants from Masa Israel Journey, a New York nonprofit financially supported by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
 
In the past decade, the Palestinian uprising and two wars have created security concerns that helped lead to a drop in the number of American students choosing to study in Israel.
 
Israel is 22nd out of the top 25 study-abroad destinations for students from the United States, according to the Institute of International Education, which advised Masa on the programs.
 
A total of 2,322 American students participated in study abroad in Israel in 2007-8, the most recent year for which data are available, and 2,226 the previous year. By contrast, more than 30,000 went to Britain, the top destination, in 2007-8.
 
Avi Rubel, director of Masa’s North American operations, said that it was too early to know how many students would participate in the new programs, but that he hoped to propel Israel into the top 15 study-abroad destinations in the coming years.
 
Students wanted to study in Israel, he said, but not all were attracted by the academic programs traditionally offered to them, which have focused on Middle Eastern studies, Hebrew, and religious studies.
 
“In business, Israel is one of the centers of entrepreneurship in the world. You can have an amazing academic experience and an internship on par with London or anywhere else—it just hasn’t been available until now,” he said.
 
“In the research we did with students, they told us that they would go to Israel if those things were available,” Mr. Rubel said. “We think students have Israel on their radar screen as a place they would like to go but are actually choosing other destinations because the course work and those experiences haven’t been available.”
 
The institutions receiving money from Masa are Arizona State University, Barnard College, Case Western Reserve University, Michigan State University, the New Jersey state-university system, the University of Florida, and the business schools of the University of Maryland and of Washington University in St. Louis.
 
Some of these efforts are building on existing programs.
 
Michigan State, for example, has partnerships with four Israeli universities and has sent 101 students to Israel since 2005, 30 of them in the past two months.
 
“What we hope is that students will choose to study abroad for academic reasons and have an experience that they can’t have here on the East Lansing campus,” said Cindy Felbeck Chalou, associate director of the university’s study-abroad office. “We hope that students will gain from a cross-cultural experience, not only learning about the host country and their people but gaining a perspective of the U.S. that they couldn’t gain unless they went abroad and were looking through another set of lenses.”
 
PROGRAM DETAILS
  • Arizona State University’s partnership with Ben Gurion University of the Negev: Named Sustainable Development and Environmental Justice in Israel, this program will leverage each institution’s highly regarded experience in environmental manipulation and the use of limited natural resources.
  • Barnard College of Columbia University’s partnership with Hebrew University: Barnard alumni living in Israel will serve as mentors to Barnard students and provide them with internship placements in their Israel-based companies.
  • Case Western Reserve University’s partnership with the Hebrew University: This multidisciplinary program targets students with diverse backgrounds, offering courses in health and medicine, brain science and human development, and the natural sciences.
  • Michigan State University’s partnership with Hebrew University: Students may take courses in political science, public affairs, journalism, and international business, and participate in related internships.
  • New Jersey State College System’s partnership with Ben Gurion University: Students will take part in in-depth research, analyzing David Ben Gurion’s personal documents alongside graduate students.
  • University of Florida’s partnership with the University of Haifa: A Hebrew and Arabic immersion program, this program allows students to enroll in Peace & Conflict Studies courses.
  • Smith School of Business of the University of Maryland’s partnership with the University of Haifa:
    This program offers courses including Business in Israel and Hi-Tech Marketing, as well as internship opportunities at Israeli companies, such as the MATAM High-Tech Park in Haifa.
  • Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis’ partnership with IDC Herzliya: Students studying business administration participate in internships and conduct original research.
 
Originally published in the Chronicle of Higher Education

A Prized Possession

<div class="masa-blog-title">A Prized Possession</div>

 
By Vicky Tobianah, Rothberg International School of Hebrew University
 
When I made my decision to study abroad at the Rothberg International School of Hebrew University, my home university, McGill, required me to attend a pre-departure lecture. At this lecture, they informed us of the basic protocol to arrange a study abroad program.
 

7 unique ways to spend the chagim in Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">7 unique ways to spend the chagim in Israel</div>

 
Every time we ask alumni of Masa Israel program what the best part of their semester or year was in Israel, the same things are repeated over and over: freedom to explore Israel on their own, Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) and the other national holidays in the spring, and the chagim—the High Holidays.
 
It’s no wonder. To experience the chagim in Israel, the only Jewish state in the world, is like no other holiday experience. Whether you plan on participating in the religious aspects of the holidays, taking it all in as an observer, or stepping outside your comfort zone and experimenting with a new way of observance, there is nothing like being in Israel for the high holiday season.
 
Here are seven ways Masa Israel participants celebrate the chagim in Israel:
 
  1. Shul-hopping Celebrating the holidays at home usually means a synagogue membership, tickets, and sometimes even assigned seats. Not so in Israel—try out erev Rosh Hashana in one shul, and head across town for Kol Nidre. Each synagogue has a unique atmosphere, and with so many close together in Israel you don’t need to settle for just one.
  2. Get placed with a host family Programs can usually set you up with a hosts family for one of the holidays. That way, you can celebrate the holidays in Israel with them, and they can help you navigate new traditions and show you a uniquely Israeli high holiday experience
  3. Participate in Kaparot Performed right before Yom Kippur, the ritual of Kaparot involves taking a chicken and swinging it over your head while saying several blessings, thereby imparting all of your sins upon it. Head to your closest shuk to take part in this tradition.
  4. Go on a Selichot tour Selichot are prayers of repentance that occur before the onset of the Jewish New Year.  These prayers are said at night usually between 11pm and dawn, and Jews of different backgrounds have different practices. Some programs offer tours around neighborhoods of Jerusalem the night before Yom Kippur to see different traditions in action.
  5. Walk on an empty highway on Yom Kippur In Israel, nobody drives on Yom Kippur—not even secular Israelis. Walking around your city or town on Yom Kippur is an experience like none other, an probably the only time you will ever be able to sit in the middle of a major highway (see picture below). You can also take advantage of the lack of traffic by joining in with the local teenagers who will be out on their bikes.
  6. Head to the Kotel for Birkat Kohanim Being in Israel for the chagim gives you the opportunity to go to what is considered the holiest site for the Jewish people on the holiest days of the year. During Sukkot, kohanim (descendants of the priests of Israel) come together to bless the Jewish people. Many Masa Israel participants have described it as an extremely moving experience.
  7. Festivals With all the time off, you have ample opportunity to check out some of the music and cultural festivals that take place around Sukkot. They are a great way to explore the country and get a taste of Israel culture.
 
The holidays are one of the bests times to be in Israel, and this list barely scratches the surface of what it is like to spend the season in Israel. But don’t take our word for it—try it for yourself!
 
[image credit: RonAlmog]
 

USY to BGU: Staying connected to Israel by studying abroad

<div class="masa-blog-title">USY to BGU: Staying connected to Israel by studying abroad</div>

 
By Joel Portman, St. Louis, MO, Ben Gurion University of the Negev Year Program
 
In 2005, I traveled to Poland and Israel with United Synagogue Youth (USY).  The five weeks I spent in Israel were some of the best of my life.  But the experience I’d had wasn’t enough:  I wanted more, and I knew I would have to return.
 

Bringing beauty to others while studying abroad in Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">Bringing beauty to others while studying abroad in Israel </div>

 
By Laura Marder, University of Haifa
 
You know you had an unbelievable study abroad experience when it’s time to leave and you’re in a state of shock because your year flew by, exceeding every single one of your expectations. Sounds too good to be true?
 

Play by Masa Israel alumna to be featured in NY Fringe International Festival

<div class="masa-blog-title">Play by Masa Israel alumna to be featured in NY Fringe International Festival</div>

 
Abraham's Daughters, written by Masa Israel Journey alum, Elissa Lerner, is a new play featured at this summer's New York Fringe International Festival. The play tells the story of the intersection between college and religion in a way that many of us can relate to.
 
The plot begins on the first day of freshman year with Sarah waiting for her roommate to arrive.
 

Dialogue in the desert: Studying abroad at Ben Gurion University

<div class="masa-blog-title">Dialogue in the desert: Studying abroad at Ben Gurion University</div>

 
 
While helping female Bedouin teenagers prepare for English college entrance exams through Masa Israel at Ben Gurion University (BGU) in the Negev in August 2008, I met Nesma.  In the coming weeks, I tutored Nesma in English by using Hebrew and Arabic to explain English vocabulary or grammatical constructions.  Despite our religious, cultural, and national
 

10 Reasons You Should Spend a Semester in Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">10 Reasons You Should Spend a Semester in Israel</div>

Even if you always planned to study abroad, you may begin to think that taking a whole semester away from your friends and classes is a little too daunting, and consider studying abroad for a summer session instead. But a semester abroad will give you a significantly different experience than a month or two over the summer. Is this really a trade-off you want to make?
 

How to navigate your university’s study abroad policy

<div class="masa-blog-title">How to navigate your university’s study abroad policy</div>

If you're thinking about studying abroad this coming Spring, why not use free time you have this summer to begin doing your research? Once you start school again in the Fall, deadlines will come up faster than you think. So, instead of cramming it all in then, follow some necessary steps this summer to lay the groundwork for your semester abroad.
 
Choose your location
"Focus on what's good for you personally and academically," says Dr.