How Living In Israel Turned Me Into My Mother

<div class="masa-blog-title">How Living In Israel Turned Me Into My Mother</div>

I think that the best way to find out who you truly are as a person is to spend a significant amount of time outside of your comfort zone or to live away from home. For me, my junior year abroad at Tel Aviv University was that experience. Unlike most Diaspora Jews, I have no family in Israel nor do I have any Israeli family living in the states. What I do have was a deep love of Israel, Zionism, and Judaism - these are all values that were instilled in me as a kid.

 

During my time studying abroad at Tel Aviv University, I made some of the amazing friends who I am still in touch with today. I already spoke Hebrew fluently, but I improved my accent and learned a lot of the slang - though I have come to terms with the fact that I will never know all of the army slang.

 

 

I met so many amazing people from all over the world and learned so much from their experiences. Unlike most people who study abroad at Tel Aviv University and who live in the dorms, I chose to live in an apartment in the center of Tel Aviv so that I could get the “full Tel Aviv experience.”

 

I couldn’t have gotten luckier than to find an apartment right off of Sheinkin Street living with Israelis and other internationals. I spent my first two VERY jetlagged weeks exploring every nook and cranny of Tel Aviv during the wee hours of the morning before the shops, and the University opened – for some reason, Israeli shops don’t open until 10 or 11 AM when the shopkeepers feel like strolling in. This is how I learned Tel Aviv like the back of my hand and to this day, anytime I visit, it is like visiting my second home. I’m not on vacation when I go there; I’m back in a familiar place that I love.

 

During my time abroad, not only did I learn about the city and the people, but I learned about myself and my values. This was when I found out; I was my mother. Usually, when a girl finds out that she is her mother, she freaks out and has a quarter life crisis, I on the other hand, was so excited!

 

 

My mother is a strong woman who unapologetically loves Israel. She loves education, teaching people and, to give of herself to others. She also spent a significant amount of time living and teaching in Israel before she was married. It was during this trip that I decided that I would follow in my mother's footsteps and pursue a career in education instead of biochemistry which I had majored in at UCLA. Ask any of my friends and they would say, “I could have told you that Miri would be an educator ten years ago!” But I suppose all important lessons you must learn on your own. Upon returning home from my year abroad at Tel Aviv University and graduating from UCLA, I pursued a career in Israel education at StandWithUs.

 

Why was it so important for me to pursue such a career? They say that Israel advocates are made, not born, and I couldn’t agree more. During my freshman year at UCLA, I saw anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment that ignited my passion for Israel advocacy. I was never prepared to respond to anti-Israel claims or rhetoric even though I grew up at a Jewish Day School and Jewish summer camp. I knew in my heart of hearts that what I heard on campus was wrong and deceitful, but I didn’t know how to respond.

 

From then on, I sought out the help of the pro-Israel group on campus and educated myself until I had the confidence to stand up for Israel. When I returned from my junior year abroad at Tel Aviv University, I became the president of Bruins for Israel, UCLA’s pro-Israel group on campus, and when I graduated, I started working for StandWithUs. I knew that I had to give back as a professional since the organization had given me so much as a student. I had to ensure that no high school student went to college unprepared to face whatever Israel climate existed on their future campus. After all, the best way to proactive on campus is to start in the high schools. If we prepare high school students for Israel on campus before they even get there, we are putting out a fire before it has even started! I have proudly served as the Executive Director of High School Affairs at StandWithUs for the past five years, and I can credit my career choice to the time that I spent on my Masa Israel program and at Tel Aviv University 100%.

 

 

The StandWithUs high school department concentrates its efforts on educating high school students from all backgrounds about Israel – the country’s beauty, the conflict, the culture, and so much more. Our goal is to ensure that teens have a connection to Israel and that they are prepared to be leaders for Israel on campus. Via programming, materials, mentorship, and fellowships, StandWithUs has been at the forefront of Israel education at the high school level for five years now. It took anti-Semitism on campus and life changing year abroad at Tel Aviv University to ignite my passion for Israel education and advocacy, and I’m thrilled that I get to make a difference in the lives of the next generation of leaders for Israel. It wasn't an easy path, but the journeys that lead to the best places never are.

 

Thanks, Eema (mom in Hebrew), for being an incredible role model and a true leader for Israel! I’m so lucky to have followed in your footsteps and to be your daughter!

 

Written by Miri Kornfeld, Tel Aviv University Alumna ’10

 


 

 

5 Reasons to Study and Intern Abroad

<div class="masa-blog-title">5 Reasons to Study and Intern Abroad</div>

 

The experience you get when you live, learn and work in a foreign country gives your career and life endless opportunities. Here are five reasons to study and intern abroad next semester.

 

 

When you spend a semester both studying and interning you can apply the knowledge from class immediately to the work environment which, makes your newly attained skills come to life.  You'll understand it's okay to make mistakes and fail and that this semester abroad is the perfect opportunity to do so.

 

 

Unlike in your home country, where you understand the social and cultural norms, when you’re abroad, the context is changed, and your skill set naturally expands. From this point, you better know how to listen to others, understand how to adapt yourself to any situation and communicate across multiple cultural barriers. It's at this moment that you automatically challenge yourself and your senses become sharper than ever.

 

 

When you intern and study abroad you can have a transformative experience in your choice of career fields and get a taste of different jobs and work environments. It’s entirely okay to say you don’t like one path and then seamlessly switch to another,  before it’s too late. So, whether you want to go to med school or work for a tech startup, you’ll get a dose of the real thing here in Israel. 

 

 

Whether you’re in class or at your internship, you have the chance to develop your international network. Your coworkers, classmates, and professors serve as a new platform for connecting you with professional opportunities, resources and personal development in the present and the future.

 

 

Oh, the real world. Soon enough the four glorious years of college will have to come to an end, and there’s no way to better prepare yourself than by spending a semester in a beautiful country where you’ll live, work and study on your own. It is here where you get to experience real independence. You’ll finish the semester wishing you didn’t have to leave and go back to your dorm. Graduation never looked better.

 

Written By Ruti Alfandry, Masa Israel's Director of Academic Programs 


 

Jewish Journal: Reinventing Education in Israel

Jewish Journal: Reinventing Education in Israel

September 8, 2016

By Michele Chabin

 

Business man helps create degree programs for English speakers. 

 

"Lifshitz hopes Jewish organizations and institutions in the U.S. will help their employees with the tuition costs. (Some scholarship funds may be available, as well, and Jewish students can explore scholarships through Masa Israel.)"

 

Read the full article in the Jewish Journal

Jewish Journal: College Scholarships and Aid Money are Out there, if You Know Where to Look

Jewish Journal: College Scholarships and Aid Money are Out there, if You Know Where to Look

Jewish Journal: College Scholarships and Aid Money are Out there, if You Know Where to Look

September 8, 2016

By Lakshna Mehta

 

College is expensive, whether you go to school five minutes from home or 500 miles away.

"Masa Israel (masaisrael.org/grants) provides grants or need-based scholarships for study abroad programs to Israel. Different amounts are available for participants from different countries. Study abroad participants from North America can receive up to $4,500, depending on the length and cost of their program, and need-based scholarships go up to $3,000. Gap year participants between the ages of 18 and 21 can receive $500."

 

Read the full story in the Jewish Journal

The Jerusalem Post: IDF Hero Yanush Ben_Gal remembered by Limmud FSU

The Jerusalem Post: IDF Hero Yanush Ben_Gal remembered by Limmud FSU

September 9, 2016

By Sarah Levi

 

Weekend event boosts Jewish identity in Tatarstan. 

 

"The event benefited from the help and past efforts from Taglit Birthright, the Jewish Agency, [Masa] and Chabad to reconnect Russian Jews to their roots that were severed during communism."


Read the full story in The Jerusalem Post
 

The Jewish Standard: Fingerhut on Hillel

The Jewish Standard: Fingerhut on Hillel

The Jewish Standard: Fingerhut on Hillel

September 1, 2016

By Joanne Palmer

 

College organization's president to speak in Closter

"'We want them to go on Birthright. We are big promoters of Onward Israel and Masa. We want them to learn as much as they can, to engage as much as they can, so when the issues arrive, they can respond effectively.' (Birthright Israel takes Jews between 18 and 26 years old to Israel on a free 10-day trip. Onward Israel is the next step, a six- to ten-week immersive program in Israel; it is not free but is heavily subsidized. Masa comes next; it offers five- to 12-month internships, volunteer opportunities, and other programs in Israel. Hillel works closely with all these organizations, and others as well.)"

 

Read the full article in The Jewish Standard.

 

The Jerusalem Post: Life After Birthright

The Jerusalem Post: Life After Birthright

The Jerusalem Post: Life After Birthright

September 1, 2016

By David Brinn

 

Under the banner of IACT, Jewish organizations int he US are coming together to engage university students before, during and after their trip to Israel.

"Almost all of the IACT coordinators have been inspired to pursue a path of Israel activism following a Birthright experience of their own. Many of them have returned to Israel multiple times, with some having served in the IDF, studied at Israeli universities and even made aliya. 'I spent last semester in Israel as a MASA intern at Yad Vashem,' said Hannah Salzburg, a beginning IACT coordinator at the University of Vermont and a 2014 Birthright alumnus. 'I could have stayed in Israel and been happy, but I came back to the US because I wanted to fulfill my soul – by making other people love, appreciate and respect Israel.'"

 

Read the full article in The Jerusalem Post

jWeekly: Jewish Life on Campus: Beyond BDS

jWeekly: Jewish Life on Campus: Beyond BDS

September 1, 2016

Three Views

 

When Jewish life at universities makes the news, it’s almost always about Israel-related controversies. But there’s more to Jewish campus life than that. As the fall semester gets underway, we asked Hillels around the Bay Area to weigh in.

"Because we have to be adaptive and resilient in a hostile climate, our students form sophisticated, passionate connections to Israel. We send many students to Israel on Birthright, Masa and Onward programs, connecting them with internships and educational opportunities, and empowering some to make aliyah."

 

Read the full article in jWeekly.

Carol Kaplan: One Girl, One Desert, One Journey

<div class="masa-blog-title">Carol Kaplan: One Girl, One Desert, One Journey</div>

Carol Kaplan, Permaculture Design Course Certificate at Kibbutz Lotan and the Shvil Israel with Walk About Love, Alumna ‘12

 

After spending a semester in Israel a few years ago, I have made the choice to attain my MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence under the Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

 

Want to know how I got figured this all out? Check out my story or more of a journey below:

 

It all began at Kibbutz Maagan Michael, where I was fortunate enough to have a great taste of Kibbutz life… on the beach! My new life in Israel was simple; as a group, or newly founded family  we walked to the dining hall, אוכל חדר in Hebrew (pronounced hadar ohel) barefoot, enjoyed a heavy Israeli breakfast of cheeses, fresh salads, and warm bread, then rode bikes to Ulpan and later began to our separate work assignments.

 

Being the animal lover I am, I quickly requested to work in the cow shed, רֶפֶת in Hebrew (pronounced refet) and fell in love with newborn baby calves on my first day at work.

 

After herding the cows, I rode my bike to the sea, ים in Hebrew (pronounced yam), where the expert Kibbutzim surfers showed off their mad surf skills to us newbies. There, my thoughts dwelled on the simplicity of life in a small but beautiful Israeli community.

 

Upon completing Ulpan, I then traveled to Kibbutz Lotan, leaving behind the beach and transitioning to the beauty of the silent desert. It was here that I would begin my studies to obtain my Permaculture Design Course Certificate that I hoped to translate into my degree back at the University of Washington.

 

While living in a mud geodesic dome, I learned about sustainability and the possibility of not only growing organic food in the desert, but thriving in the desert sun. Of course, my favorite time of the week was harvest day, when my group and I would make full meals out of fresh vegetables we had just harvested. There's nothing quite comparable to harvesting and cooking together after a long day’s work building mud structures!

 

After my time at Kibbutz Lotan, I then joined a group called Walk About Love, traveling, living and sleeping the Negev, all the way from Eilat to Jerusalem. It was myself and people from Germany, Spain, Sweden, the Americas and Israelis all coming together. Like our forefathers before us, we used rocks as a pillow, stared at the hot hot sun and cried with happiness upon reaching Jerusalem.

 

It was at the end of my journey, after such a diverse experience throughout the country, that I realized Israel and I are inextricably tied. It was not just a country I was exploring; it was MY country I was exploring, not out of curiosity but out of devotion.

 

For how could I help a country I had not touched with my own hands, walked with my own feet and viewed with my own eyes? I now feel truly ready and capable to learn about the creation of peace in a country so disheveled but at the same time vibrant and humane, which takes me back to the beginning of all of this and what’s landed me at Brandeis years later to get my MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence.

 

These last few years have been an amazing time of my life and without Israel I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am.

 


 

 

Quiz: What Israeli Food Matches Your Personality?