Masa Israel/JESNA Joint Initiative Prepares Jewish Students for Careers in Jewish Education

Masa Israel/JESNA Joint Initiative Prepares Jewish Students for Careers in Jewish Education

December 20, 2010

Masa Israel Journey and the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) today announced the launch of the Lainer-Masa Israel Fellowship, a two-year program for Jewish young adults interested in careers in Jewish education.
This joint venture will engage North American Masa Israel undergraduate university participants while in Israel and place them in a second year internship upon returning to their campuses.
 
Building on JESNA’s successful Lainer Israel Internship Program and Masa Israel’s access to North American young adults on long-term Israel programs, this new capacity-building initiative is to nurture and prepare a cadre of Jewish college students who are committed to advancing Jewish education and leadership throughout their personal and professional lives.
 
“The Lainer Israel Internship program has elevated the field of Jewish education by supplying unique Israel based experiential learning to over 800 participants since its inception in 1992. This exciting collaboration with Masa Israel marks a new era for the program,” says Dr. Leora Isaacs, JESNA’s Vice-President for Programs and Organizational Learning. “The combination of JESNA’s long term success and Masa’s reach will enable the new Lainer-Masa Israel Fellowship program to bring forth greater numbers of future Jewish leaders.”
 
Accepted students studying abroad at Masa Israel-accredited study abroad programs will enroll in the course, “Issues in American Jewish Education,” participate in fieldwork internships at formal and informal education programs in Israeli schools, youth groups, or community centers, and take part in Shabbatonim, fieldtrips and workshops. After they return to their college campuses Lainer-Masa Israel Fellows will obtain related internships and mentors, and take part in a winter educational seminar in Malibu, California. Masa Israel and JESNA staff will provide career guidance and professional development information to graduating students.
 
“As Masa Israel participation continues to rise, more and more Masa Israel alumni return to the United States interested in pursuing careers in Jewish organizations,” says Masa Israel’s North American Director, Avi Rubel. “The Lainer-Masa Israel Fellowship will help to prepare the next generation of Israel and Jewish educators.”
 
The Lainer Israel Internship program, funded by the Lainer family, was launched in 1992 as a way to engage college students in thinking about Jewish education or Jewish communal work as a future career. The program is able to boast a 60% success rate of continued involvement in Jewish education and communal service as a professional, lay leader or volunteer.
 
This year, Masa Israel, which offers 180 five-to-12-month volunteering, career development, and academic programs, will bring 10,000 participants to Israel, many of whom have chosen to pursue Jewish and Israel-related career paths. According to a recent study conducted by professors at NYU, Hebrew Union College, and Brandeis University, longer experiences in Israel are linked to sharply increased Jewish engagement, leadership, and marrying Jews.
 
The first winter seminar for Lainer-Masa Israel Fellows will take place on December 20-22, 2010 in Malibu, CA.
 
For more information about the Lainer-Masa Israel Fellowship, contact JESNA’s Chief Marketing Officer Rika Levin at (212) 284-6703 and North America Director of Masa Israel Journey, Avi Rubel at (212) 339-6938 or avir@masaisrael.org. For information about alumni from your area, contact racheltr@masaisrael.org.
 
Below are just two examples of the Lainer Israel Internship alumni and Masa Israel alumni who have shown continued Jewish involvement:
 
Aimee Weiss
During her junior year at Hebrew University, American University student Aimee Weiss took part in the Lainer Israel Internship program. Aimee, who grew up in what she calls, “a typical Jewish assimilated home,” says, “The internship was most helpful for my career path.” In addition to taking courses about trends in Jewish education, she learned about an assortment of Jewish internships from the Lainer interns’ listserv, and was accepted to those offered by CAJE and Masa Israel Journey. Today, she is the Midwest Regional Coordinator for Masa Israel and Hagshama.
 
Rina Goldberg
As a psychology and Jewish education major at York University, Rina Goldberg decided to study abroad at Masa Israel’s program at Hebrew University. There she took courses in Jewish education and tutored English, Hebrew and math at a local Israeli elementary school through the Lainer Israel Internship. Upon her return, she enrolled in the Jewish Theological Seminary’s graduate program in Jewish education. Today, she is a kindergarten teacher at the Heschel School in New York City.

Ruin, Recovery, and Rebuilding

<div class="masa-blog-title">Ruin, Recovery, and Rebuilding</div>

 
By Christina Healy, University of Haifa
 
It was just another Thursday. After my Hebrew class ended at noon, I met up with another researcher from the Sign Language Research Lab and we headed to lunch. Usually we automatically angle toward the cafeteria, but today we were in the mood for a baked potato, so we headed downstairs to the coffee shop. After paying, I turned toward the dining area and stopped short, staring out the window.
 

8 crazy nights (or days) out for Hannukah

<div class="masa-blog-title">8 crazy nights (or days) out for Hannukah</div>

 
With eight whole days of celebration, you’re probably looking for ways to make the most out of the festival of lights—Israeli style!
 

Learning from a Jewish hero

<div class="masa-blog-title">Learning from a Jewish hero</div>

By Cara Frazin, Masa Israel Campus Intern, University of Illinois at Chicago
 
On September 15, 2010, I had the rare opportunity to meet Natan Sharansky before the annual Jewish Federation Annual Meeting Luncheon where he was the main speaker.
 
As an active participant with the Levine Hillel at the University of Illinois at Chicago and as the Masa Israel intern for my campus, I spend a lot of time educating people about Israel and promoting Israel advocacy. When I was invited by The Hillels o
 

Sharron Topper-Amitai: Bringing Greater Phoenix to Israel and Israel to Greater Phoenix

Sharron Topper-Amitai: Bringing Greater Phoenix to Israel and Israel to Greater Phoenix

April 12, 2011

Now on her second shlichut in Phoenix, Arizona, Sharron Topper-Amitai had her first taste of international Jewish communal work 10 years ago in Manchester, England.
“I was there for two years and I loved every minute of it,” she says. While there, she created Jewish and Israel-related programming for Jewish community members of all ages and started a youth from the northern Jewish communities of the UK.
 
“My husband and I were both born in Israel and it’s been very important for us to work in Jewish communities outside of Israel,” she says. “I love being able to learn about diverse Jewish identities, while sharing my own experiences as an Israeli.”
 
Following her return to Israel, Sharron worked as a JCC director in Israel before setting out on her second shlichut in Phoenix. There, she works to bring Israel into her community’s daily life through concerts, movies, lectures, discussions, and other cultural events.
 
One of Sharron’s main aims has been to introduce college students and young professionals to Israel through Birthright trips and Masa Israel programs, experiences that often follow each other.
 
“When they decide they want to go, we sit together and discuss their options. Then they go and I’m so excited because I know what Israel does to people,” she says.  “They return with sparkles in their eyes and tell me that it was ‘amazing.’ What I love is when they ask me how they can contribute to their local Jewish community and how they can return to Israel.”
 
To keep the momentum going from their Israel experiences, Sharron created an Israel alumni group where Phoenix-based Birthright and Masa Israel alumni meet to take part in Israel-related events. “The work isn’t finished when they enroll in their programs. It’s just as important to keep them connected to the Israel Center when they return,” says Sharron.
 
At a recent Arizona State University graduate fair, where Sharron represented Masa Israel academic programs, Sharron felt especially prideful about her work. “I’ve gone to many recruitment fairs, but I was shocked when I entered a huge hall filled with tons of representatives from universities throughout the United States,” says Sharron. “My first thought was, Israel al-hamapah, which literally means, Israel is on the map. It was incredibly exciting see that Israel had a presence among all those institutions. Lots of people stopped by to show their support and learn about graduate programs in Israel.”
 
Sharron is thankful for the opportunity to be a shlicha today. “We live in an era when Israel and Judaism are changing so quickly. Although it’s a challenge to influence what’s happening, it’s a privilege to be able to try,” says Sharron. “I believe that Masa Israel programs certainly make a huge difference.”
 
Sharron is being honored with Masa Israel’s “Outstanding Achievement in Recruitment” award the this year’s Kenes Shlichim, a conference for Israeli emissaries from across North America.

Extended Stays in Israel Create Leaders

Extended Stays in Israel Create Leaders

November 15, 2010

Participation in semester or year programs in Israel is directly linked to stronger Jewish affiliation and leadership — regardless of the Jewish background growing up, a study commissioned by Masa Israel Journey finds.
Masa Israel, a joint project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government which serves as an umbrella for 180 semester and year programs in Israel, commissioned the study to measure the efficacy of long term Israel programs for future Jewish involvement and affiliation.
 
The study was conducted by Prof.  Steven M. Cohen, director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner and research professor of Jewish social  policy at the Hebrew Union College, and Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz, principal of Research Success.
 
The study found that the longer the program on which participants spent time in Israel and the more repeated the experiences, the greater the level of Jewish identification.
 
The study surveyed more than 13,000 Israel program participants, more than 11,000 of whom were Americans, and most of whom had been on either a short-term experience or a Masa program from 2005 to 2010, or both.
 
It compared three groups who had been on short-term programs:
 
  • those who been on Birthright and not returned to Israel
  • those who returned to Israel for another short term; and
  • those who had been on Birthright, and then went on a Masa Israel program.
 
The study also examined two other groups who had been on long term programs only: those non-Orthodox young adults who had been on Masa without going on Birthright, and those who were raised Orthodox and had been on Masa.
 
These two groups reported far stronger Jewish background and childhood Jewish education than did the three Birthright groups.
 
The study found that with each subsequent Israel experience, the level of Jewish engagement rose significantly.
 
For example, for the married respondents, among those who did Birthright and had not returned subsequently to Israel, 50% married a Jewish spouse; among those who did Birthright and returned to Israel subsequently for a short term, 70% married Jews; among those who did Birthright followed by Masa, as many as 91% were in-married.
 
In other words, short term program graduates who never returned to Israel reported intermarriage rates close to the national Jewish average for people their age.
 
In contrast, those who went on to participate in a Masa program were far more likely to marry Jewish, doing so in more than nine out of 10 instances.
 

Photo Essay: Masa Israel North America Yom Kef

<div class="masa-blog-title">Photo Essay: Masa Israel North America Yom Kef</div>

 
Before winter hit, the Masa Israel North American team decided to have a Yom Kef (staff day). Being part of an Israeli organization, we did what any Israelis would do—a hiking trip! We woke up early and headed up to Bear Mountain.
 
After scaling the rocks, we stopped for a break.
 
Of course, no staff day would be complete without a snack and a call to our Israel office.
 
 
Halfway through the hike, are we having fun yet?
 
 
We made it to the top—what a view!
 
 
Now, if only we knew how to get back. Trail markers aren’t as good as they are in Israel…
 
 
Rescue arrives!
 
 
We had a great Yom Kef, spending time outside the office and enjoying the tail end of fall.
 
Now back to work getting more people on Israel programs!
 

Exploring What’s OURS Because Nature Knows No Borders

Exploring What’s OURS Because Nature Knows No Borders

April 11, 2011

This letter is a response to a piece by Dina Omar, which appeared in the Columbia Spectator by Adi Segal, a senior in the Joint Program with Columbia and JTS
Dear Dina,
 
I find it ironic that you were able to write your piece on October 12, after we had spent at least ten minutes at the Israel Study Abroad Fair at Barnard discussing my time at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, where coexistence and peace-building is actively happening as we speak. You said that you were “getting information for a friend” but did not have the guts to bring up your issues with Masa in person. Since, I didn’t have the chance to respond to you then, let me take this opportunity to do so.
 
Let me review what we discussed about my Masa-supported program at the Study Abroad Fair on October 5th:
 
The Arava Institute offers environmental teaching and research programs in the Middle East. Its purpose is to prepare future Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively solve the region’s environmental challenges. The student body is one-third Israeli Jewish, one-third Arab (including Israeli Arab, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian, and Tunisian), and one-third from other countries (the majority from the United States).  Students of all backgrounds room together and thus have plenty of time to socialize, study, and discuss their obvious differences.
 
In addition to the academic courses, all students are required to take the peace-building and environmental leadership seminar to teach the concept of the “dual narrative” developed by Sami Adwan of Bethlehem University and Dan Bar-On of Ben-Gurion University. Students are encouraged to consider both the Palestinian and Israeli narratives to gain a broader perspective on the conflict, to see it from both sides. Such perspective is critical, because it shapes in very deep ways how individuals on both sides of the divide understand the other, as well as themselves. One of the greatest challenges to peace between Israelis and Palestinians is being able to stand in the shoes of the other.
 
The Arava Institute is located in the Middle East, not in Europe or the United States, literally on the border of Israel and Jordan, a few miles from the Egyptian border. This makes the experience much more real and tangible. On weekends students visit each other in their homes in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan. For students from New York and the rest of the United States, such an experience is invaluable.
 
In terms of funding, American students pay $8,000, Israelis pay 8,000 Shekels, and Arabs attend for FREE. Thus, at this MASA supported institution, Arabs are actually more highly subsidized. Just as Masa  is doing its part to support Jewish students, this is a program that could be assisted by Palestinian organizations and donors in America in order to work towards peace.
 
In the ebb and flow of diplomacy and the ups and downs of the peace process, the Arava Institute and scores of other organizations are working across the divides in the Middle East to keep the soil fertile for the peace we all desire and desperately need there.
 
Dina, what I did not mention when we spoke was that I also spent a semester at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. There, there were visibly more religious Muslim women than Jewish religious women. But, everyone gets equal treatment. That’s more than you can say about most other universities in the region outside of Israel. I lived with religious Jews as well as devout Christians and we constantly had our Palestinian friends over for dinner and games.
 
Lastly, I’d like to share a short anecdote. One evening I went to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem with my Arab, Argentinean, and Israeli peers to visit pediatric patients. Aside from the smiles we brought to all the recovering children, with a quick glance it was clear that there were numerous Arab patients. Nevertheless, they were all being equally cared for by Jewish and Arab doctors working together. By exploring Israel with the assistance of Masa, I was able to find that coexistence is really happening with the ever-growing hope for much more. That’s the unadulterated reality.
 
If anything, Masa helped me see the current situation for what it truly is. In addition to exploring the great wonders of the country with my Arab and Israeli friends, I was also able to see the future state of Palestine. Studying in Israel through Masa allowed me to make new friends and visit their homes in Bethlehem, Hebron, and Ramallah. I was able to meet amazing people and experience the successful work of Palestinians.
 
Dina, if you are not interested in discussing coexistence and peace-building just say so. BUT, do not hide behind the Masa slogan and assume that just because Jews deservedly want a homeland, we are not interested either. In fact, it is very much the contrary. Jews would love to live in peace with all of Israel’s neighbors. You should know that Jews were the first and possibly the last to offer a two state solution, even before the creation of Israel by a majority vote in the U.N. While I am a major advocate of fair and just peace for all parties, hearing uninformed arguments and finger-pointing like yours makes me less hopeful that peace is on the horizon.
 
I look forward to the day when my fellow Diaspora Palestinians can receive funding, similar to MASA, and easily study at Al-Quds University. In order to make this a reality, we need not bash and delegitimize the State of Israel and the programs that are already working towards this effort. I urge you to lead the Students for Justice in Palestine and other organizations of your choosing to speedily create a sovereign and democratic Palestinian State alongside a democratic Jewish State. The more we can work together, the faster everyone’s objectives will be met.
 
You closed your piece by asking, “If this imagined reality is something study abroad programs are helping to accomplish and manufacture, is this Masa partnership something Columbia University and students should support?” As described above, we are not fabricating any truths. We are openly working to create a future where two sovereign nations work side-by-side to solve the larger problems in the world that transcend borders. Simply put, the answer to your question is YES, Columbia should support peace building and academic programs all working to create a brighter realty for both Israelis and Palestinians. And, I encourage you to join in this effort.
 
Adi Segal is a senior in the Joint Program with Columbia and JTS. He is majoring in Urban Studies with concentration in Environmental Studies and Bible. He spent last year abroad in Israel at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and Hebrew University. He can be reached at ays2107@columbia.edu. The views expressed in this piece are solely of the author and do not represent the Arava Institute or Masa.

Study: Longer Experiences in Israel Linked to Sharply Increased Jewish Engagement, Leadership, and Marrying Jews

Study: Longer Experiences in Israel Linked to Sharply Increased Jewish Engagement, Leadership, and Marrying Jews

April 11, 2011

Masa study finds Israel fills gap for those with weaker Jewish background
Participation in semester or year programs in Israel is directly linked to stronger Jewish affiliation and leadership – regardless of the Jewish background growing up, a study commissioned by Masa Israel Journey finds. Masa Israel, a joint project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government which serves an umbrella for 180 semester and year programs in Israel, commissioned the study to measure the efficacy of long term Israel programs for future Jewish involvement and affiliation. The study was conducted by Professor Steven M. Cohen, Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner and Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College, and Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz, principal of Research Success.
 
The study found that the longer the time  participants spent in Israel and the more repeated the experiences, the greater the level of Jewish identification. The study surveyed over 13,000 Israel program participants, more than 11,000 of whom were Americans, and most of whom had been on short term experience or Masa Israel program from 2005 to 2010. It compared three groups who had been on short term programs: 1) those who been on Birthright but not returned to Israel; 2) those who returned to Israel for another short term program; and 3) those who had been on Birthright and then went on a Masa program. The study also examined two other groups who had been on long term programs only — 4) those non-Orthodox young adults who had been on Masa Israel programs without going on Birthright, and 5) those who were raised Orthodox and had been on Masa. These two groups reported far stronger Jewish background and childhood Jewish education than did the three Birthright groups.
 
The study found that with each subsequent Israel experience, the level of Jewish engagement rose significantly. For example, for the married respondents, among those who did Birthright and had not returned subsequently to Israel, 50% married a Jewish spouse; among those who did Birthright and returned to Israel subsequently for a short term, 70% married Jews; among those who did Birthright followed by Masa, as many as 91% were in-married. In other words, short term program graduates who never returned to Israel reported intermarriage rates close to the national Jewish average for people their age. In contrast, those who went on to participate in a Masa program were far more likely to marry Jewish, doing so in more than nine out of ten instances.
 
This pattern repeated itself for numerous other measures of Jewish engagement. These included Jewish organizational affiliation, taking leadership in Jewish life, interest in working professionally in the Jewish community, attachment to Israel, and, for a small but significant minority – making aliyah. In other words, the study found that, on these measures of Jewish engagement, Birthright coupled with Masa can, in effect, provide a viable alternative route to very high levels of Jewish engagement for young adults with only moderate or limited Jewish background.
 
When asked if they had given thought to pursuing a Jewish professional career, 45% of those who did Birthright followed by Masa said yes, nearly identical to the 46% of Orthodox Masa graduates who said the same. Among those who had been only on Birthright, 12% indicated giving a Jewish career consideration; the number doubled among Birthright graduates who returned for a short term to 26%; and almost doubled again, to 45%, for Birthright graduates who did Masa. These patterns are similar to the evidence found in the recent Avi Chai study of Jewish leaders which cites a long term Israel program as one of the most widespread experiences shared by young American Jewish leaders, along with day schools and Jewish camp participation.
 
Relating to Israel attachment, the Birthright/Masa cohort scored similarly to the Masa Orthodox cohort, as they did on other measures. When asked if they had recently gone to a lecture or class related to Israel, 72% of those who participated in Birthright/Masa said they had, similar to the 80% of Orthodox Masa graduates who also had. (When it came to reading Israeli newspapers the Birthright/Masa cohort actually outscored the Orthodox Masa group by 61% to 43%).
 
Significantly, 18% of Birthright/Masa graduates are currently now living in Israel, a slightly higher figure than the 17% of Orthodox Masa graduates now living in Israel.
 
“Over the years, a body of evidence has established the value of the short-term trip to Israel. This study is one of a small number that points to the significant added value of the long-term trip,” said Professor Cohen, who co-authored the study. “If ten days in Israel is very good for Jewish engagement—and it is—then ten months in Israel is even better. This finding points to the strong policy interest in promoting return travel to Israel among Birthright alumni, and the even stronger interest in advancing long term return travel, such as that sponsored by Masa Israel Journey.”
 
Last week, the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors approved the operational part of its strategic plan which calls for the organization to focus its work around two main areas of activity—the first, a spiral of Israel experience for young adults. These would start with short term programs, like Birthright, through longer term programs like Masa, and include developing intermediate-length programs like summer school in Israel, with the overarching aim of strengthening Jewish identity and increasing attachment to Israel among today’s youth.
 
“The data from this study show that we are on the right track with our strategic plan,” said Dr. Misha Galperin, president and CEO of Jewish Agency International Development. “We are convinced—and the data from this reports affirm—that a continuum of Israel experiences for young adults correlates directly to them feeling, thinking and doing more things Jewish and Israel with each step they take along the Israel experience spiral.”

For Applicants

For Applicants

Here we are having fun masa.org
 
Masa Israel recognizes that spending five to 12 months interning, volunteering or studying abroad is a big commitment.  Before you select your program and apply for a Masa Israel grant, it’s important that you learn as much as you can about where you’re going and what to expect – both before you go and after you return. 
 
Talk to an alum to get a feel for how unique each person’s Israel experience can be. Learn more.