Growing up in Baltimore, Blake Yospa, 26, felt connected to Judaism through the Reform synagogue where his mother worked and he attended Hebrew school. However, after his bar mitzvah, Blake grew less affiliated.
“Being part of a religious minority, I considered myself an outcast,” Blake explains.
However, that all changed in the winter of 2014, when Blake travelled to Israel for the first time with Birthright-Taglit Israel. “I honestly did not feel a connection to Israel or any Jewish community until I went on Birthright,” the Towson University alum remembers.
Blake extended his trip to stay with a friend from home who was living in Netanya as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow. During his stay in Netanya, Blake spent a day in school with his friend, and decided that he too wanted to come back to Israel and teach for a year. Dissatisfied with his career path and looking to make a difference, Blake had nothing holding him back; Masa Israel Teaching Fellows made sense at that point in his life. “This teaching program offered me a chance to live abroad for an extended period of time, while giving back to those in need,” Blake explains.
Now, a little over a year later, Blake lives in Rishon LeZion as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow. He teaches at a primary school in a mid-to-low socioeconomic neighborhood right outside of Rishon LeZion, where his students make him laugh and the faculty members are warm and welcoming. ”I come to school with a smile on my face every day,” Blake says.
Outside of the classroom, Blake tutors some of his students, which allows for him to grow extremely close with both the children and their families. “I have developed such a close relationship with them that I’ve been invited over for the Pesach seder.” On top of the tutoring, Black volunteers at a school running sports programs for the students. In his spare time, he explores Israel on organized tours with Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, and on spontaneous adventures with his friends.
Today, after several months as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow, Blake feels that his experience on the Masa program has changed him in many ways. “After living here for almost seven months, I’m happy to associate myself with Israel and being Jewish,” Blake says. He also feels that this experience has been self-enriching and has helped him grow spiritually and mature as a person.
When Masa Israel Teaching Fellows ends in June, Blake plans to return to the States to pursue a career in the field in which he earned his degree, sports management. “I would love to get a job with my local JCC in the recreational sports department and then perhaps move to minor or professional sports,” Blake says. Still, Blake remains open to any interesting opportunity that comes his way and he would have never said that two years ago.