So you’re going to Israel for a 4-10 month Masa Israel program. You probably want to share your experiences with people or maybe your overbearing Jewish mother is nudging you. Either way, blogging is one of our favorite ways to shine a light on our impressive participants, like you!
Living on the Land: Vegan Tu B’Shvat Recipes from Eco-Israel ">Living on the Land: Vegan Tu B’Shvat Recipes from Eco-Israel
Tu B’Shvat is the Jewish new year of the trees. In Israel people get together and celebrate by eating delicious foods made with the 7 species of the season.
Masa Israel's Eco-Israel prgram embraces this holiday every day of the year by living on and off-of the land. Participants learn permaculture and agriculture while living sustainably on an organic farm.
Wow! We can hardly believe 2015 is already coming to a close and we’re sure you’re all reminiscing on the year that has passed. Both in terms of achievements and experiences, here at Masa Israel we have had a pretty incredible 2015. Let’s look back on this year and recap our 10 best Masa Israel Moments!
1.Our 2015 AIPAC Policy Conference Delegation
C is for Community: My weekend at the Mifgashim Shabbaton">C is for Community: My weekend at the Mifgashim Shabbaton
Photo Credit: Ariel Rubinstein, Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Ashdod
Introducing: The 2015-2016 Masa Israel Alumni Fellows">Introducing: The 2015-2016 Masa Israel Alumni Fellows
The Masa Israel Alumni Fellowship is an opportunity for a select few outstanding alumni to represent Masa Israel Journey in their home communities and on a national level.
This exclusive program provides Fellows with unmatched leadership training as well as opportunities for personal and professional development and networking with Jewish communal leaders.
Each fellow will attend the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly (GA), as well as his or her choice of a major national Jewish conference. Through these events and exclusive shabbatonim, the Masa Israel Alumni Fellowship creates a community of practice and the future leadership of the Masa Israel Alumni Community.
Over the course of the next year, each Fellow will create and implement a unique impact project in order to increase alumni involvement or help recruit new participants to Masa Israel programs in his or her community.
Stay tuned over the next few months, as we highlight an Alumni Fellow every week.
Here are this year’s Masa Israel Alumni Fellows:
There’s nothing quite like the High Holidays – or, as the locals call them, the chagim – in Israel.
Generally considered the most important holiday of the year, Yom Kippur is a particularly unique day to spend in Israel. Here are just four ways in which Yom Kippur is different in Israel:
1. The Country Practically Shuts Down
Top 5 Father’s Day Gifts to Bring Home from Israel">Top 5 Father’s Day Gifts to Bring Home from Israel
As programs wind down and Masa Israel participants prepare to head home, here are a few ideas for last-minute Father’s Day gifts to pick up before heading to the airport:
1. A cheesy tourist t-shirt
A Leap of Faith: How Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Changed My Life">A Leap of Faith: How Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Changed My Life
By Jennifer Blitz, Masa Israel Teaching Fellows in Petach Tikvah alumna
If it wasn’t for a doting mother looking for a pair of board shorts for her son, the extent of my Hebrew knowledge might still be “Shalom.”
Having just earned my master’s degree in childhood education I spent the summer of 2013 applying for a myriad of teaching positions in New York City. My daily sense of panic in regards to my future was at an all-time high and I took a part time job at a surf shop to keep myself afloat during my job hunt.
“Let me know if I can help you with anything,” I said to a customer who didn’t quite fit the mold of our typical clientele. She explained that she was looking for a pair of drawstring board shorts for her son.
We got to talking and, as it turned out, her son lived on a kibbutz in Israel. I was intrigued and shared that in just two weeks, I would be in Israel for the first time on my Birthright trip. I proceeded to divulge that I hadn’t landed my dream job just yet and that I was starting to sweat.
She then asked me if I had looked into Masa Israel Journey. My new best friend explained that her son was on a Masa Israel program and that the organization provided hundreds of opportunities for young Jewish people to live and work in Israel.
After we said our goodbyes, I immediately opened my laptop and began researching Masa Israel. To my delight, I discovered the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program. I always wanted to teach abroad and I was curious about getting in better touch with my roots.
Before Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, Israel was this place that lived inside of my television, on the headlines of the news and occasionally in the titles of books I saw my father reading. Now, Israel is so personal to me. The amazing experience of living in the Jewish state has added new dimensions to my identity and has opened the doors to a beautiful community of people both abroad and at home.
I truly could go on and on about all the memorable experiences I had during my ten months in Israel. Some highlights include camping along the banks of the Kinneret, hiking the Mitzpe Ramon Crater, marveling at the wonder of the Old City, exploring the Jaffa flee market on Friday afternoons, tracking down the country’s best hummus, spending day on the beach in Tel Aviv, biking in the Hula Valley, taking part in an archaeological dig, soaking in the minerals of the Dead Sea, and so much more.
My work life was pretty great as well. My school was welcoming and homey and so incredibly laid back compared to the high intensity, high stress, and high discipline New York City schools I was used to. I mostly taught small groups and saw myself as the lead member of the English language hype squad in which my main mission was to make learning fun, and to talk about Justin Bieber and Beyoncé as much as possible. The kids were curious and engaged in learning; they were so loving and sweet… most of the time.
Teaching English in Israel wasn’t without its stresses and frustrations. In the end though, it was awesome and, knowing what I know now, my best advice is to have fun. If you’ve made a child smile, disguised learning English as the coolest thing ever, and possibly taught some actual English, you’ve done your job.
I am currently an elementary science teacher at a charter school in Brooklyn. While teaching English in small groups was a much different challenge, I feel like my experience as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow better prepared me for my future career in a few ways. For one, it was a wonderful resume builder and made a positive impression on prospective employers. Throughout the interview process, I felt like the story of doing something out of my comfort zone and sticking to it despite the difficulties was really well received. Living and teaching in a foreign country was quite tough at times, not unlike most new jobs and experiences. It’s an adjustment and Masa Israel Teaching Fellows truly did improve my ability to make those adjustments with a little more style and grace.
Now that I’m back in New York, I’m continuing to explore where I fit in this incredible community. Whether it’s going to Masa Israel alumni events, Shabbat services for young Jewish professionals, or seeing The Idan Raichel Project at the Beacon Theater, I’ve been open to trying new things that I would have otherwise never considered. My Masa Israel experience opened up my world in a big way and it’s exciting to think that the journey is far from over.
Want to experience Israel like Jennifer did? Apply to become a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow Today!
By Danielle Meyers, Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Be’er Sheva
A handful of Israeli fifth graders file into a small room and choose their seats at one of the two-top tables in front of them.
I smile at them with a million dollar American smile. “Welcome to English class!” They shyly smile back, knowing they’ve been specially chosen to take part in my classroom activity. In about 30 seconds, I came to the realization that I had the honest and full attention of these adorable kids. They were hooked from the moment they heard me speak English.
Fascinated by all things pop culture and digital, the children I teach are overwhelmingly curious about anything involving English-isms. Questions of Ariana Grande, the IPhone 6 and Instagram flutter through the classroom as I try to draw order and start a productive lesson.
Although they are familiar with English pop culture, I am one of the first and only Americans that the students are introduced to at an early age. When saying this I can’t help but think, “so what?” It wasn’t like I had real French students coming to my middle school French class as I was trying to conjugate irregular verbs. But unlike American their small amount of exposure to a second language, Israelis start English class in the third grade and continue their studies until the end of high school.
So with English teachers already present in the schools, and from an early age for that matter, what’s my purpose as a teaching fellow? Where do I fit in to this language puzzle? I’m here to impart my native English knowledge on a group of students who may not feel motivated to learn in class or outside of school. Creating excitement around learning English, making it a reward to speak in English and spending quality time with Americans all contribute to something that the Israeli government finds invaluable in the education of young Israelis. And for the students that don’t get time in my class? They have a more individualized attention with their current English teacher, something that doesn’t happen often in a class of 35.
With programs like the one I am a part of existing throughout Israel, it’s hard to believe that the country has a serious education crisis. Although the country’s 75+ years has seen a large growth curve in economy and technology (thanks to Germany and Jews around the world), government spending and policy changes have left a struggling lower and middle class with a severe lack of education.
Education budgets have been slashed– public spending on primary education has fallen below the level of OECD countries – leaving Israel with low educational achievements relative to the developed world.
So why, at the same time budgets are supposedly decreasing, the government is funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into programs for English speakers like me to come into the schools? Because English is king.
The thriving start ups that are so well known in Tel Aviv, the delegation of security issues and policy changes with other counties and the continuation of communication with Jews around the world are all successful in part because Israelis are able to communicate in English. If Israel has a future on the economic, political and technological stage, English must be at the forefront of second language education.
As I stand in front of my fifth graders, willing and eager to be a part of my life and soak in my culture, I feel tremendously responsible for their future. Maybe I’ll turn some of them from broken to fluent speakers, but most likely I won’t. The best thing that I can do is open them up to the world of English even more than they have done on their own. I can continue to expose them to concepts, cultures and ideas that may not be at their fingertips (although a surprising thought in today’s techno world). And if things get a little boring, I can just tune into some Ariana Grande and call it a day!
Originally published on Danielle’s blog.