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My kind of "valueable experience"

<div class="masa-blog-title">My kind of "valueable experience"</div>

Written by Benjamin Hirschman, Masa Israel Teaching Fellows - Beersheva

 

After University in the states, it seems logical, even a cultural norm, to start your career and gain “valuable experience”. I started this process for about two years at a wonderful company, and very much enjoyed the majority of it. I feel I have a knack and sense of enjoyment for sales, marketing and entrepreneurship and wish to return to a career in the field, eventually. In the meantime, I’m busy doing something I never thought I’d do--teaching English and volunteering in Israel, traveling, and playing on the Israel Men’s Ultimate Frisbee Team.

 

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan. 

 

In the schools, I am often given struggling students to tutor in small groups to help close the gap between them and their excelling peers. Not only is there a language and cultural barrier, but these are students who may have a difficult situation at home, no desire to learn in general, or are simply uninterested in learning English. Amongst many ways to work through these obstacles, I choose to try to connect with these students on something we have in common and build a relationship based on those features. I choose to not try to force them to read or write, but rather to understand how they best learn (kinesthetically, visually, or auditory) and capitalize on that strength of theirs. If my students walk away with a single thing when they leave my classroom, it’s that they BELIEVE in their ability to learn English. If you want to learn more about this technique, check out Rita Pierson’s Ted Talk on what every kid needs.

 

I feel as though I run into a wall just about every day with either a cultural or language barrier. Coaching ultimate frisbee to kids who don’t speak my language requires a lot of patience, demonstration, and concise language so that IF I do have a translator he or she understands the message I’m trying to convey. There have been several obstacles as well with playing on the Israel National Men’s Team (besides the obvious language barrier). The way Israelis communicate can be very different than the way Americans typically do; there is no sugar coating or politeness. They are going to say what they mean and mean what they say and it’s not meant to hurt your feelings or to be rude; it’s just the way they communicate. It makes sense though, that teammates who fly F-16s or are in the IDF Special Forces don’t waste their time with small talk.

 

            Miki Agrawal said it well with the title of her Amazon bestseller, “Do Cool Sh**”.  Per Miki’s advice, I started to ask myself questions like what makes me truly happy. What makes me authentically me? The only way I felt like I could potentially answer these questions was by taking risks, and doing uncomfortable and new things. Some examples of this include eating some of the best food of my life  in Italy, jumping off a cliff in Cyrpus, working on farms and kibbutzim, playing and coaching ultimate Frisbee on weekends, learning a new language, traveling to 7 or 8 different countries in a span of 10 months, figuring out how to teach kids who don’t understand me, hiking 30 km in a day, hiking for 4 days straight from sea to sea across Israel, and playing the ultimate Frisbee world championships in London in June for Team Israel. Curious about what I’m doing when I get back? Me too, but right now I’m occupied doing cool sh**.

 

 

The Jerusalem Post: For those looking to explore Israel, emerging cities

The Jerusalem Post: For those looking to explore Israel, emerging cities

The Jerusalem Post: For those looking to explore Israel, emerging cities

April 26, 2016

By Shaina Oppenheimer

 

Integral to the choice of coming to Israel is the eagerness to give back to its people. Masa hopes to inculcate a sense of shared responsibility.

Every year, Masa Israel Journey enables thousands of young Jewish adults to come to Israel on various programs and experience the country as a local, diving deep into Israeli culture. However, the dynamic of these programs is starting to change; as more participants gravitate towards smaller cities, the focus is shifting from “my Israel” to “our Israel.”

 

A service and learning program incorporating gap years, study abroad, volunteer work and other post-graduate work contexts, Masa is starting to radiate waves of change throughout the Jewish community in moderately-sized metropolises, such as Beit She’an, Petah Tikva and Beersheba.

 

Read the full story on JPost.com. 

The Jerusalem Post: Hey America, 'ma Nishtana?'

The Jerusalem Post: Hey America, 'ma Nishtana?'

The Jerusalem Post: Hey America, 'ma Nishtana?'

April 24, 2016

By Liran Avisar, CEO of Masa Israel Journey

 

Today, there are more options available than ever before for young people to experience Israel, whether for days, weeks, months, or an entire year.

Every spring, Jewish people across the United States and around the world sit at a table with their friends and family to retell the story of our exodus from Egypt. The first leg of our journey back in time begins with the “Ma Nishtana” (“What has changed?”), also known as the Four Questions.

 

As we prepare to retell the story of the liberation of the Israelites and the birth of the Jewish people, it is also worth exploring the current state of our Tribe. This Passover, I have four slightly different questions for the American Jewish community.

 

These are the four major questions that are worth asking:

 

1. How can we increase young American Jews’ interest in Jewish life and Israel? 

 

If you just read the headlines, it might seem that engagement is on the decline and anti-Israel activities are expanding. But the sky isn’t exactly falling.

 

One thing we do know is that it takes a transformative Israel experience with a lasting impact for Jewish young adults to reestablish, or even establish for the first time, their personal connections to the Jewish people and to Israel – to discover the Tribe.

 

Now, I am not talking about a single event, happening, or “aha” moment. Though for some it may only take one spark to reignite the Jewish fire inside. I’m not talking about the classic structure of organized Israel trips that include a bus tour of the country’s sites like Masada and Yad Vashem, meeting Israelis, learning to count to 10 in Hebrew and stuffing your face with more hummus and falafel than you ever thought possible.

 

These are clearly cornerstones to a young Diaspora Jew’s introduction to Israel – the state, the land and the people. However, the personal moments, conversations and observations enabled by a long-term Israel experience are the lasting connections that help our young people realize they are part of something bigger than themselves – Am Yisrael.

 

I’m talking about your first trip to an Israeli mall, when you see the clothing and accessories covered in Stars of David instead of crosses. The grandmotherly women you encounter on the bus that offers unsolicited life advice and a bite of their snacks as if you were their own grandchild.

 

The way in which everyone wishes you “Shana Tova” in the fall, not because they’re religious or on the way to synagogue, but because it’s as natural as wishing someone “Happy Holidays” in the winter in America.

 

These are the local Israeli moments that stay with young Jews as they go back home and reflect on their experience and newfound connection to Israel and their Jewish identities. They are what make that connection durable.

 

2. How do we empower our students to authentically change the Israel conversation on college campuses across the country?

 

Young Jews who spend substantial amounts of time living in Israel are much more equipped to deal with the often hostile anti-Israel rhetoric and activities on campus. Having spent significant time in Israel, they know more about what’s happening (and has happened) on the ground. As such, they are not only able to take part in discussions and debates, but also have the knowledge and tools to change the tone and content of the conversations.

 

By bringing their own Israel stories and experience into campus dialogue, these students have the power to change a combative debate into a personal conversation. Having a trove of deeply personal experiences on the ground in Israel allows individuals to speak more knowledgeably and comfortably about Israel and its politics.

 

Spending significant time in Israel also enables young Jews to better differentiate between legitimate criticism and uninformed, misguided hatred. Rather than feeding into the entrenched, polarizing propaganda war, these students are empowered to respectfully confront dissenting viewpoints. They can go beyond traditional hasbara (public diplomacy) efforts and pro-Israel talking points to have nuanced and intellectual conversations about the reality of the challenges facing the State of Israel, its leadership and its people.

 

3. What will the US Jewish community’s professional and lay leadership look like in 10 years?

 

With the number of unaffiliated Jews in America on the rise, one might think that the American Jewish community’s professional and lay leadership is shrinking or narrowing. However, the pipeline is actually expanding. One key indicator of young Jews who remain engaged and take on leadership roles in Jewish life are those who have spent an extended amount of time in Israel.

 

The variety of opportunities to spend meaningful time in Israel has consistently grown over the past several years. Today, there are more options available than ever before for young people to experience Israel, whether for days, weeks, months, or an entire year.

 

In 10 years, the majority of Jewish adults in the United States will have participated in an immersive Israel experience. We are talking about an unprecedented reality for the American Jewish community.

 

Throughout my and my American colleague’s meetings with our numerous Jewish communal partners, from Jewish Federations to Hillels to synagogues and beyond, it becomes more and more apparent that alumni of immersive Israel experiences, particularly those who have spent between five to 12 months in Israel, are overrepresented in the Jewish professional world. They are everywhere, in every organization, and they are the future leaders of the Jewish community.

 

As a result, they are and will continue to be more determined to connect Israel to all aspects of Jewish life. More than anything, they will make Israel travel an integral part of Jewish life and Jewish experiences. That, my friends, is revolutionary.

 

In a decade, these same young leaders will hold influential positions, whether in the Jewish world, business world, the philanthropic world and beyond. They will be the ones calling the shots and making important decisions. To have their Israel stories to tell and an unforgettable experience to look back on will mold these discussions and decisions before they even begin.

 

4. Yalla, nu, when are you coming?

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

5 Ways to Explore Environmentalism in Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">5 Ways to Explore Environmentalism in Israel</div>

From desalination to solar energy, irrigation, and literally making the desert bloom, Israelis know a thing or two about green tech and sustainability.


Masa Israel Journey’s environmental programs provide academic, volunteer, and professional opportunities for young adults to gain hands-on experience in sustainable building, organic farming, permaculture, and more.


In honor of this year's Earth Day, grab your hiking boots and get ready for one of Masa Israel’s incredible environmental experiences:


Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

alt="arava institute for environmental studies kibutz ketura"

Located on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel’s Negev desert, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is the Middle East’s premier research and environmental studies institution. Accredited by Ben-Gurion University, the Arava Institute brings together students from America, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and from around the world to study environmental ethics and policy, ecology, water management in the Middle East and sustainable agriculture. Students also participate in a unique weekly Peace-Building and Environmental Leadership Seminar.


Eco-Israel

alt="eco israel hava and adam farm"

Eco-Israel combines coursework and hands-on fieldwork to give participants an in-depth experience in sustainable living and permaculture. Upon completion of the program, participants receive an internationally recognized certificate in permaculture design. 

 

Eco-Israel also emphasizes community-development as participants live and work together on the Hava and Adam Farm, Israel’s first multidisciplinary center for sustainable living and education, just outside of Modi'in.

 

LaMidbar: Desert Learning Community

alt="lamidbar desert learning community kibbutz neot semadar"

LaMidbar offers participants the unique opportunity to pursue environmental and artistic interests. Located on Kibbutz Neot Semadar in the Negev, LaMidbar allows participants to truly immerse themselves in the kibbutz community. Working with kibbutz members and program staff, participants gain experience in organic farming. Participants may also choose to participate in an apprenticeship in carpentry, metal work, stained glass, pottery, weaving and other media with local artisans in the kibbutz Art Center.

 

Tel Aviv University MA in Environmental Studies

alt="tel aviv university"

Tel Aviv University’s Porter School of Environmental Studies offers a three-semester MA in Environmental Studies, taught in English. This multidisciplinary program emphasizes the unique geographic and geopolitical challenges facing Israel and the broader Middle East. Courses cover a broad array of topics including sustainable development, marine conservation, and environmental policy. The program specializes in water issues, one of Israel’s most pressing environmental challenges, from both a scientific and political approach.

 

Environmental Internships

alt="masa israel environmental internship"

Looking for an environmental internship? Our internship programs offer a wide variety of opportunities for college graduates to gain hands-on work experience in environmental nonprofits, green tech companies, government agencies, and more. Click here to browse available positions.

 

 

Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Jordan Goldschmidt

<div class="masa-blog-title">Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Jordan Goldschmidt</div>

alt="jordan goldschmidt"

Jordan Goldschmid graduated from the University of Kansas with a BGS in religious studies and a minor in film. He is currently in sales as a store manager with Tradehome Shoes. Originally from Wichita Kansas, Jordan is now living in Springfield,Illinois. He has been very active in his community ever since his experience with Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Rehovot 2012-2013, becoming a Poland delegate for Masa and JAFI, as well as a Shalom Hartman iEngage Fellow.

 

What was the most meaningful aspect of your Masa Israel experience?


I had the opportunity to teach English in a low income school in Rehovot. The students were between the third and sixth grade!

 

What inspired you to become a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow?


My experience in Israel was the most rewarding thing in my life thus far. I would love the opportunity to share my passion with others in hopes that they also could gain a valuable experience. As Jews it's important to teach the next generation about what we represent and by being a fellow I believe I will do so .

 

Each Masa Israel Alumni Fellow is required to create an Impact project to bring back to their local community, either to increase local alumni involvement or help recruit new participants for Masa Israel programs. What ideas do you have for your Impact project, should you be chosen as a Fellow?


I would like to plan an event with an Israeli dance party and food, to give people a glimpse of the Israel experience.

 

To learn more about Masa Israel's Teaching Fellows, click here.
 

 

Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Molly Radler

<div class="masa-blog-title">Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Molly Radler</div>

alt="molly radler"After graduating, Molly did a Masa Israel Volunteer Program, for 10 months in the city of Akko, as well as various Druze villages in the North. There she taught English and other subjects in both formal and non-formal settings to young Jewish, Arab, and Druze teenagers. The connection Molly built with the students from different backgrounds was what lead her to want to further facilitate connections for students in the United States. Soon after she joined The David Project and became a Senior Campus Coordinator with, working with college campuses throughout the state of Florida. She helped guide pro-Israel college students to advocate for Israel on campus to the non-Jewish community, speaking on behalf of their own narratives and connecting those to their peers, making the Israel discourse on campus more inclusive and relatable.

 

Molly will be going to graduate school to pursue a Master's in Social Work with the Greater Rochester Collaborative Master of Social Work (GRC MSW) Program of Nazareth College and The College at Brockport, SUNY. 

 

 

What was the most meaningful aspect of your Masa Israel experience?


The most meaningful aspect of my Masa Israel experience was the network of people and connections I was able to take with me after my year with Masa. The bond that we formed while doing the truly amazing and unique work of our program is something that has bonded me to the group of my peers that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. In addition, Masa provided opportunities to connect with other Masa participants throughout the whole country of Israel, and some of my closest friends and some of the most inspiring people I have met are ones I met on Masa.

 

What inspired you to become a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow?


I have become a very passionate advocate for Masa and have actively been suggesting that my students and friends apply for Masa programs. I was very active in all the opportunities that Masa provided in addition to my actual program, and love to share my experience with others to hopefully get them involved as well. I hope to help connect the network of Masa alumni across the country in years to come after their volunteership, as well as advocate for many other Jewish people to be able to have a similar experience.

 

Each Masa Israel Alumni Fellow is required to create an Impact project to bring back to their local community, either to increase local alumni involvement or help recruit new participants for Masa Israel programs. What ideas do you have for your Impact project, should you be chosen as a Fellow?

 

I would love to create a network between the various Israel and Jewish organizations for young adults to learn about ways to get back to Israel through Masa. In Boston, there are already things in place for this to be successful, but on a very broad scale. If chosen I would love the opportunity to use this as a resource to start a specific project for students to find their perfect program to get back to Israel and explore their Jewish identity and connection to Israel through Masa.

 

To learn more about Masa Israel Volunteer Programs, Click Here. 
 

 

A First Look At Israel Lacrosse

<div class="masa-blog-title">A First Look At Israel Lacrosse</div>

By Glen Tobin

 

Being part of the Masa Israel Lacrosse internship has really opened my mind to building a sports program from the bottom up. Lacrosse is very popular in Ashkelon and Netanya, but the goal of the Israel Lacrosse is to continue to grow. One of the newest cities to open its doors to lacrosse is Kiryat Gat. The city is small but full of energetic youth and athletic complexes. The sports community as a whole believes in the benefits of keeping kids active in a safe, team-building atmosphere. When lacrosse was presented to the mayor and his cabinet, they were extremely positive and welcoming. Since the very start, there has been a lot of public support for the sport and the organization as a whole.

 

 

Setting up demonstrations at four of the city’s high schools, has presented extremely positive results in furthering the growth and positivity the sport brings. We practice in a variety of settings, which are all extremely open to the public (one soccer stadium, one synthetic field, and one park across from a busy street and mall). When people see this foreign activity they gravitate to it. Conversations always start, “what is this?” Recently there has been a shift in who explains what the sport is. First it was us, the coaches, who would explain how to play, but now the kids jump right in and speak of the fast, physical, fun nature of the sport. One can see the passion and excitement in their eyes as they hand off their stick to another kid or adult. This is especially evident when we have practice and a new player shows up. Everyone is a new player because of the short time we have been in Kiryat Gat, but those that know how to cradle, catch and throw will instantly offer advice and help the new player along. As a coach, and someone very passionate about the sport, it is extremely rewarding to see.


Aside from the rewarding nature of coaching the next generation of lacrosse players, this Masa Israel internship has taught me a lot of about logistics and all of the little things that go into planning to start a sport in a new city. Being the “new kid on the block,” we have to share space and practice times with the existent powerhouse - soccer. This can be frustrating because the times are late, or right after school, which gives the players little time to get to the field, or we have to delay practice because a soccer game runs late. All of these are the challenges we face but when looked at positively, are necessary obstacles that teach us how to communicate and relay what we need. The field managers see our hard efforts and see the joy on the kids’ faces. When we all realize why we are here teaching, it makes the small logistical problems disappear.

 



Another logistical issue we tackle on a daily basis is how to provide all these kids with protective equipment. Lacrosse is a physical sport, and requires a lot of protective gear. When every player needs a helmet, chest pads, elbow pads, and gloves this becomes a logistical issue. How do we get these pads from point A to point B? Fortunately we have a car that allows us to transport some of this stuff. But we have to pack the car early, get to the field early, fit kids with the equipment based on their size, and make necessary adjustments.

 

 

Additionally, a lot of forethought goes into running a practice on any given day. From this I have learned to be diligent and punctual. Another major challenge is to expect the same from the Israeli youth. In the laid back Israel atmosphere, many people take their time and show up five or ten minutes late. We have attempted to make this a priority with the kids we teach. In the world, when work starts at a certain time, it is expected a person show up early to get set up. When there is a professional game in any sport, it is expected that players warm up before the game not after it starts. This is another challenge, but allows us to instill positive, useable work ethics.

 

Now that lacrosse has been in the city for a few months, it is interesting how it has changed and how the perception of the sport has been almost fully integrated. We have had a few different youth matches in public areas and without promotion, they have gathered fans and interested bystanders. Speaking for myself and the players, it has been really fun to see it all come together when the game starts. To have people cheer you on, in a new foreign sport, not knowing the rules but witnessing the physical efforts, makes one feel really good inside. It makes me very proud as a coach and mentor for these kids to see their hard work, and smiles and to know that lacrosse is in Kiryat Gat for good!

 

Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Samantha Shevgert

<div class="masa-blog-title">Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Samantha Shevgert</div>

Samantha Shevgert knew she was Jewish but didn’t know what it meant to live a Jewish life. She decided to learn about her Jewish roots in a 10 ½ month Neve Yerushalayim Seminary in Jerusalem, Israel. During her time in Jerusalem, she learned about the importance of Judaism, Torah, and gained friendships for a lifetime. She also gained experience in her career while in Israel by volunteering every week in a Jewish nursing home using her Russian speaking skills to assist those in need.


After her Masa Israel Journey, Samantha returned to South Florida and has helped strengthen the Jewish community. Samantha’s knew found knowledge and connection with Judaism helped her start and become part of many Jewish organizations and communities. She is a founding member of the Moishe House Aventura, Chabad of Ft.Lauderdale, and Yehudi of South Beach. Her efforts in the Jewish community have surpassed the norm and have made her an outstanding leader in the Jewish community of South Florida.


Sam holds a BA in Public Health and Associates Degree in Occupational Therapy. Her experience in Israel has helped her with her career as an occupational therapist. She focuses in In-Patient Rehabilitation Hospitality as well as working with children with autism.
 

What was the most meaningful aspect of your Masa Israel experience?


Every moment of the Masa Israel experience was incredibly meaningful! These 10 months changed my life and shaped who I have become. Being able to spend an extended amount of time in Israel allowed me to not just learn about what it is to be Jewish and how to lead a Jewish life but also how to integrate it into who I am and live it. It truly shaped me; it was the catapult to my now Jewish involvement.


What inspired you to become a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow?


I applied to be a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow because being a part of the Masa experience myself it changed my life. I am so passionate about Israel and bringing awareness to people and learning about Judaism. I would love nothing more than to become a great leader in my community. I want to help send people to Israel to have as much of a meaningful experience as I did!


Each Masa Israel Alumni Fellow is required to create an Impact project to bring back to their local community, either to increase local alumni involvement or help recruit new participants for Masa Israel programs. What ideas do you have for your Impact project, should you be chosen as a Fellow?


I am a member of the Moishe House in Aventura, Florida. I would love to incorporate all of the Israel opportunities to that experience. Masa has a lot to offer to our house and we are able to use the house to spread the word on what Masa does!

 

 

Learn more about the Masa Alumni Fellows Program.

 

 

Masa Israel alumnae giving back to the world. #InternationalWomensDay

<div class="masa-blog-title">Masa Israel alumnae giving back to the world. #InternationalWomensDay</div>

In honor of International Women’s Day, we decided to highlight our fellow Masa Israel alumnae and their amazing accomplishments. Here at Masa we know our participants have the potential to not only make a difference in their own lives, but in the lives of others. Giving back is the focus this month and it’s the perfect time to mention a few alumnae who have done just that.

 

1. Kayci Merritté, Yahel Social Change Program 2014-2015 Alumna

 

 

“After my Masa Israel experience, I returned to my hometown of St. Louis to serve as an AmeriCorps member assisting in refugee resettlement. Once-a-week I pick up new arrivals from all of the world – Congo, Iraq, Cuba, the list goes on – from the airport and bring them to their new homes. Throughout the rest of my week, I help these new residents of my city access the medical care that they need. I’m not sure I would have applied for this position if it were not for my experiences in Ramat Eliyahu.”


Learn more about the Yahel Social Change Program.

 


2. Jamie Gold, Masa Israel Teaching Fellows 2012-2013 Alumna

 



“As a result of her Masa Israel Teaching Fellows experience, Jamie chose to pursue a career in Jewish education. Upon returning to Los Angeles, Jamie moved into the Moishe House in West L.A. and enrolled in the DeLeT program at Hebrew Union College. “Masa Israel Teaching Fellows is the only reason I was picked for the HUC program,” Jamie says. She believes it gave her the necessary Israel and teaching experiences to be a top-notch Jewish educator.”


Learn more about the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Program.

 

3. Rachel Pope, MSIH 2011 alumna

 


“Rachel is completing a two year fellowship in Malawi. She is learning how to repair obstetric fistulas and working with the next generation of Malawian residents at the newly created Malawian OB/GYN residency program. Rachel is currently living in Lilongwe, Malawi and working for the government hospital, Kamuzu Central.”

 

Learn more about the The Medical School for International Health (MSIH).

 


4. Ashleigh Talberth, Pardes Insitute of Jewish Studies 2014-2015 Alumna

 


“A serial green-tech entrepreneur, Ashleigh has pioneered initiatives for a broad range of leading companies, startups, and institutions for over 12 years. She currently consults for emerging companies primarily in California and Israel, the world's leading green-tech and startup hot spots.” ("Israelcagreentech." Israelcagreentech. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.)
 

Learn more about the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.