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.

The road less traveled: studying abroad at Ben Gurion University of the Negev

The 'ABC's of going abroad | Weekly Roundup

<div class="masa-blog-title">The 'ABC's of going abroad | Weekly Roundup </div>

A collection of updates covering the intersection of Israel programs, the Jewish world, and international education.
  •  We were recently featured in a series on ABC News about going abroad as an alternative to facing the challenging job market in the US.

Masa Israel Invests in US-Israeli University Partnerships

Masa Israel Invests in US-Israeli University Partnerships

May 13, 2010

Masa Israel is excited to announce the launch of a new capacity-building initiative to encourage study abroad and academic exchange in Israel.
Currently, Israel ranks 22nd out of the top 25 study abroad destinations for students from the United States, according to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) 2009 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. In addition, while the number of American students who spent a semester or year abroad increased 8.5 percent in 2007-08 from the year before, those who chose to study in Israel still made up only .9 percent of the total.
Israel has traditionally been a leader in the study of Jewish topics, the Middle East, archeology, and the like, but it is also a global leader in innovation in many of today’s most relevant fields, including technology, healthcare, the environment, and business. Today’s college students have a wider range of interests they want to pursue during their studies abroad and Masa Israel’s new grants will enable both home and host institutions to deepen their educational partnership to directly meet the needs of these students.
American students often prefer to study abroad through university-sponsored overseas programs, which (until now) have not always included Israel as an option. The hope is that by offering these grants to American universities, it will encourage study abroad in Israel by increasing the number of programs available to students through their home institutions. These partnerships will offer students the full support of their home institutions by helping them more easily meet prerequisites and by facilitating a seamless transfer of credits for their studies in Israel to their home university.
The new grant initiative marks a significant investment in Israel as a study abroad destination. The grant program will focus on creating targeted academic opportunities in Israel in majors such as business, environmental studies, engineering, psychology, the arts, law, medicine, and other subjects that are generally neglected in study abroad curricula.
Several prestigious universities, including Harvard, the University of Maryland and the University of Miami have already established pilot programs at Israeli institutions. In addition to providing them with financial support, Masa Israel will work closely with each institution’s study abroad office and partner institution in Israel in marketing and recruiting students nationally and on their home campus.
For more information, contact:
Daniel Schuval
Director of Academic Programs, Masa Israel Journey

Sharansky Addresses Masa Israel Participants

Sharansky Addresses Masa Israel Participants

Sharansky Addresses Masa Israel Participants

May 10, 2010

The following is an update from the Jewish Agency for Israel
Ian Carchman was disconnected from Jewish life.
But Masa Israel Journey changed all of that. “Living in Israel for a year has been an eye opener,” said the 18-year-old from Maryland, who came to Israel
“I never really felt a connection [to Jewish life]. My parents are not connected and I grew up in an interfaith community. I think Masa is so important because it is not a trip or a vacation. We’re living here,” said Carchman who has been spending the year on Nativ, a Masa program that is dedicated to inspiring Conservative Jewish leaders.
Carchman was one of over 3,000 participants who attended the Masa Israel Journey mega-conference in Jerusalem on May 2, 2010, a day-long event featuring seminars on “next steps” for participants, many of whom are preparing to leave Israel and return to their Jewish communities across the globe. The event also featured addresses by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
Founded by the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel in 2003, Masa Israel enables young Diaspora Jews to experience life in Israel for a semester or a year on any of over 160 programs aimed at strengthening their Jewish identity and their connection to Israel. Since its inception, Masa Israel has brought 45,000 young Jews between the ages of 18-30 from 60 different countries to live, work, study and volunteer in Israel.
During his address to an auditorium of over 1,000 Masa participants, Sharansky stressed the importance of a strong Jewish identity, which empowered him during his years as a Soviet dissident, including nine years incarcerated in a Soviet prison.
“People with absolutely no roots have no strength,” said Sharansky. “My fight for my people comes from my identity. Once I discovered my roots, my people, my identity, I had the strength to fight.”
Such a strong sense of Jewish identity will fortify Masa participants who are headed to university campuses where anti-Israel feelings are wide-spread.
“Those of you who decide not to stay in Israel but to go back have a very important mission. We expect you to be proud ambassadors of our country, proud Jews, who know how to debate and how to stand up against hooligans. You must know the facts and you should not be afraid,” said Sharansky.
Sharansky also dismantled the prevalent notion on college campuses that a commitment Jewish identity is in conflict with a commitment to human rights. “They are going to try to convince you that you have to choose between being loyal to humanity or loyal to Israel, and this is a false choice. If you want to be a strong supporter of human rights then first you must be a proud member of the Jewish community,” he said.
“Look who is fighting on the forefront of the struggle between democracy and dictatorship, it is the state of Israel and the Jews who are proud of this state,” Sharansky continued. “As the Jews of the Diaspora become stronger in their identity when they are exposed to Israel, the Jews of Israel will also become stronger in their identity when they are engaged with Jews of the Diaspora. The goal of the Jewish Agency is to be a bridge between Jews of the world and Israel.”
Sharansky concluded his talk by crediting Masa Israel with doing “critical work.”
For his part, Carchman agrees. “We will take these experiences back to campus with us and to our communities,” he said.

Record Number of Students in Israel on Masa Programs

Record Number of Students in Israel on Masa Programs

May 6, 2010

More than 3,000 participants in the Jewish Agency's Masa Israel Journey programs celebrated the end of their year in Israel at a mega event attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
This academic year a record 9,400 young adults ages 18-30 spent a semester or year studying, volunteering or interning on programs in Israel, with some two-thirds of the participants from North America. This represents a 15 percent increase over last year, and a similar significant increase is forecast for the 2010-2011 school year.
“It is hard for this generation to imagine a world without Israel,” Netanyahu said, speaking Tuesday (May 4) to thousands of Masa participants in Jerusalem. The Jewish people returned to their homeland and built a country, a stunning achievement, he continued, “but it is not enough. The main thing is our identity and spirit as a people which goes back 4,000 years.”
Masa was established as a joint project by the Jewish Agency and the Prime Minister’s office under Ariel Sharon in 2004 to enable thousands of Jewish young adults to spend a semester to a year in Israel on over 160 approved programs. Since its inception, Masa has made it possible for 45,000 people to live, work, study and volunteer in Israel, doubling the number of young adults on programs annually, from under 5,000 to nearly 10,000 a year today, with the goal of reaching 15,000 participants a year.

Address by PM Netanyahu to Masa Participants

Address by PM Netanyahu to Masa Participants

Address by PM Netanyahu to Masa Participants

May 5, 2010

Transcript of Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to a group of long-term Israel program participants.
"One of history's greatest empires, the biggest one, was the Soviet Union. At the height of its dominion, brave men and women – many of them Jewish – challenged this enormous power with the force of their conviction, faith and raw courage. And foremost among them was my friend and your patron, Natan Sharansky. Natan was put in jail, in a cellar, before being put on trial and sentenced to a long prison term. The judges asked him what he had to say on his behalf and he answered: “I have nothing to say to you, but to my wife Avital and to my people, I say – Next Year in Jerusalem!”
That’s a pretty important statement, and it expresses the basic idea.
You and your parents are all young. But your grandparents and great-grandparents remember a world without a State of Israel. It was a very different place and, for generations, Jews hoped for a change. They prayed and yearned for only one thing – “Next Year in Jerusalem!”
62 years ago, the most remarkable transformation in the history of any nation took place. A "dead" people resurrected itself and returned to Zion. They rebuilt their national life, their state and their army, and reassumed control of their collective destiny. This is the story of the Jewish people, and it's unlike the story of any other nation in history. Many other peoples have disappeared. In fact, most of the nations we know from antiquity no longer exist. Many were exiled or dispossessed, and many were killed. No people has ever come back from the dead. But this is our people and, through a remarkable transformation in our history, we have recreated the Jewish state – with its own government, territory, army and amazing economy. There's still more to do, but we're doing better than many of the places you’ve come from.
You may be too young to know this, but 20 years ago, people used to say that it’s impossible to do business in Israel. And we would reply that Israel can actually be an attractive place – a home for Jewish business, Jewish entrepreneurs and brainpower. We could even envision Jews making money in Israel. You’re not laughing, but this used to be a joke. It isn't anymore. Today, we have a country, a government, an army and a thriving economy, and we’re quickly becoming a global power in technology.
This is all crucial, but it’s not enough. The most important thing is our spirit, and the most critical part of spirit is identity. And there's a great revolution taking place right now within the Jewish world. It's a revolution of spirit and identity – and you’re all a part of it. I salute you for being here and expanding awareness – your personal awareness and that of young Jews everywhere. What a privilege it is to be a member of the Jewish people! What a privilege it is to come to the Jewish State! What a privilege it is to shape the future of the Jewish people! These are all great privileges.
How do we strengthen identity? By appreciating who we are. Studying our past to understand our present and chart our future. Suppose you didn’t know your family. Suppose you didn’t know the story of your parents – where they came from, what they did. If you grew up isolated from your personal history, you’d be a very different person, very confined and narrow. And you’d be missing a tremendously important part of your identity – who you are and what you can be.
We share a collective identity and a great history, not like that of any other nation. It goes back almost four thousand years. Imagine that you didn't know about it. Imagine that you had such a privilege, but weren't aware of it. What we’re doing right now, all of us together, is making people conscious of our rich past. And once you know the past, you can understand how the Jewish people has arrived here. We can shape our future. But you can only know where you’re going, if you know where you've come from.
We all came from here. And we all come back to here. And I want you to consider this fact: Your identity is not simply a function of your individual character. Your uniqueness, part of your unique identity, is also a function of your membership in the Jewish people.
And I also want you to consider how you feel. You’ve already been here for a while and had an opportunity to see the country and participate in various programs. But you've had another opportunity – whether you've come from the United States, Canada, France, Russia, Mexico or Australia
These are all great countries, but this is your country. This is your country! And when you walk here, I'm sure you don’t even wonder who else around you is Jewish. Right? It’s a perfectly natural question, but not one that you ask here – because this is your country. There are other countries that are also free and democratic, but this is your country! This is your Jerusalem! This is your home!
So I just have one request.– Explore your deeper self and ask yourself – I know that this is a tough question for someone who is only 18 or 22 – where you feel most at home. The time you've spent here has been valuable, but I think you'll find even greater value in deciding to stay here permanently. We invite you to join us in building the future of the Jewish people in our land. Welcome home to the Land of Israel, the State of Israel and Jerusalem."