The Jewish Advocate: The significance of Shabbat in Somerville

The Jewish Advocate: The significance of Shabbat in Somerville

July 8, 2016

By Evan Rabin

 

I grew up as a Reform Jew in New York and went on to study at Brandeis University. However, I never really felt I had “Jewish” responsibilities to myself until I spent some time in Israel.

In the spring of 2011, I studied abroad at Tel Aviv University through Masa Israel Journey. While I learned a lot of Hebrew in Ulpan, and learned a lot about Israel and business studies in my other classes, it was often the conversations I had with friends that truly helped me understand what it means to me to be a Jew – and how Judaism fits within my own life.

 

Previously, I had not frequently honored Shabbat. It wasn’t until a friend expressed surprise that I didn’t think experiencing Shabbat applied to me, because I was Reform, that I realized I had been missing an experience that would grow to become dear to me. This conversation was one of the first to change the way I viewed my relationship to my Judaism. I wanted to observe Shabbat – I wanted to be involved.

 

After I returned from my Masa program and went back to school at Brandeis, I frequently attended Shabbat dinners and took part in Jewish learning at the campus Chabad. When I graduated four years ago, I moved back to New York, and found most of my new friends through the Jewish communities at the Moishe House and Chabad of Young Professionals.

 

Six months later, I moved to Boston to begin my career in technology sales, and the same thing happened – I frequented the Chai Center, Vilna Shul, CJP, JPulse, Tremont Street Shul 20s 30s and other Jewish organizations’ events. Long after I’d left Israel, I continued to feel most at home in Jewish communities wherever I went, whether local in Boston or as far as Goa, India, or Buenos Aires.

 

Fast forward three-and-a-half years, and I am still active in the Boston Jewish community, cochairing the Tremont Street Shul 20s 30s Committee and sitting on the Masa Israel Boston Alumni Board. Although I already consider myself highly Jewishly involved, my roots in Masa Israel, which helped me realize the significance of Judaism in my life, continue to lead me to explore new ways to connect with my Jewish identity and community.

 

So earlier this month, with the help of Masa Israel and OneTable, I did something I’ve always wanted to do: I hosted a Shabbat dinner in my own home.

 

My original intent was to have no more than 10 guests; after all, my apartment isn’t that big! But 16 people showed up, including six fellow Masa alumni. In Chabad-like fashion, I could not turn people away. I upped the catering order several times and purchased new chairs to squeeze in everyone.

 

It was a diverse group of people – both men and women, ages ranging from about 22 to 40, and birthplaces in the United States, Russia and Israel. Some of the people I’ve known for years; others I met recently. One attendee I met for the first time; he moved from Puerto Rico to Boston two weeks ago to study at Hebrew College Rabbinical School.

 

After schmoozing, we sung “Shalom Aleichem.” A friend from Netanya, Israel, led us in kiddush, and a fellow Masa alum made hamotzi. Then we dined on hot pea soup, meatballs, knishes, tofu, London broil, roasted chicken and schnitzel.

 

In between dinner and dessert, we made a few L’Chaims with beer and Jameson and sung songs and niggunim. A few of us got up and started dancing a la Peretz Chein, the shaliach at Chabad of Brandeis, who is famous for standing up on tables and dancing to song. We then ate a smorgasbord of desserts, including chocolates, rugelach and a peach pie.

 

The company, food and conversations reminded me of the realization that I’d had back when I was studying in Israel: participating in Jewish traditions, even something as simple as a Shabbat dinner, makes me feel more connected to my Jewish identity.

 

Now, the next time a friend asks me about my Judaism, I can proudly say I’ve studied in Israel, found a Jewish community, and even hosted my own Shabbat dinner – all thanks to my involvement with Masa Israel.

 

Originally publish in "The Jewish Advocate".

The Times of Israel: The Real Story of the 'Israel Backpack'

The Times of Israel: The Real Story of the 'Israel Backpack'

The Times of Israel: The Real Story of the 'Israel Backpack'

June 28, 2016

By Liran Avisar, CEO of Masa Israel Journey

 

In Israel, you see backpacks everywhere. They’re on the beach, on the bus, on hiking trails, on the banks of the Jordan River. Many of them sport insignia connecting them to an organized trip or sponsored tour. We would know, we’ve given out more than 110,000 of them over the past 12 years.

These backpacks come in handy when Masa Israel Journey’s more than 12,000 participants every year head to work or class, take a day trip to explore the country, or visit new friends from countries all over the world that they’ve met along their journeys in Israel.

 

The packs last much longer than an individual’s time in Israel, and they carry so much more than their physical contents. The bags we give out are not simply souvenirs, they are instruments—a critical tool in facilitating personal journeys, both figuratively and literally.

 

“Masa” in Hebrew means “journey;” the Masa Israel experience includes both a significant inner personal journey alongside an outward physical journey. When a young person spends an extended amount of time in any foreign country, let alone Israel, he or she starts to live like a local.

 

You see the beautiful, the ugly, the good, and the bad—you live your life alongside Israeli citizens. You walk in the streets with them, go to the market to buy your groceries with them, live next to them, work with them and see the cultural gaps when you interact with them. You sling their backpack over their shoulder just like they do.

 

We equip our participants with new backpacks as encouragement to explore, to immerse themselves in their surroundings. They come to understand the intangibles of Israel’s history, culture and current political state, and, in turn, strengthen their sense of self.

 

A key part of our educational vision is for our participants to reflect on their experience while they’re in Israel. Their backpacks’ physical appearance, with their own scuffs and scars, tell a story parallel to their personal journeys. A spilled cup of coffee here, a few specks of dirt from a recent hike there; the memory of their experiences abroad lives on through the bag.

 

These backpacks are not simply receptacles for possessions along the journey. They are the physical manifestations of each participant’s often entangled relationships with the Jewish people, the State of Israel and their own spirituality. The packs represent the new knowledge, skills, experiences and connections that participants collect throughout their time in Israel. Just as the backpacks last much longer than the programs themselves, so do the participants’ connections to Jewish life and each other. Masa Israel participants become part of a community forever united by their life-changing experiences in Israel.

 

The backpacks we distribute are a vessel for Jews between the ages of 18 and 30 – many of whom are not formally affiliated in the Jewish community – and are the same demographic described in Pew’s now infamous 2013 survey of Jewish Americans, to engage with Israel for a significant off-the-bus experience. Our goal is to allow participants to nurture a relationship with both native Israelis and Jews from around the world, which in turn empowers them to understand what’s at stake when it comes to the continuity of both the Jewish people and the State of Israel. In other words, the backpacks – and long-term experiences in Israel as a whole – serve to foster a level of depth in relating to Israel that has concrete results for Jews as a larger Diaspora community.

 

The backpacks provide a way for alumni to continue their lifelong journeys with a physical reminder of the transformative time they spent in Israel and the global community they have become a part of for life. This community is far more than a social network; it serves as a platform for connecting with professional opportunities, resources, and leadership development.

 

So, the next time you see a backpack with Masa Israel’s logo on it, take a look at the person carrying it and take a moment to think about where he or she has been, and more importantly, where they are headed.

 

Originally published in "The Times of Israel".

 

Jerusalem Post: Seeing it as it really is

Jerusalem Post: Seeing it as it really is

Jerusalem Post: Seeing it as it really is

June 24, 2016

By Carmit Sapir Weitz

 

"In cooperation with Masa, Israel Experience has established a database of over 1,000 companies and non-profits that accept thousands of young Jews from around the world to work in internships for a period of between two to 10 months. Companies and institutions like HP, Deloitte, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Wix, the Jaffa Institute, Ahava, and Hadassah University Medical Center all hire interns through Israel Experience. In addition to interning, the young people participate in Hebrew language courses and meet with peers and immigrants from their country of origin."

Arutz Sheva: Idan Raichel to receive citation for cultural contribution

Arutz Sheva: Idan Raichel to receive citation for cultural contribution

Arutz Sheva: Idan Raichel to receive citation for cultural contribution

June 23, 2016

By Shai Landesman

 

"The Idan Raichel Project represents the beating heart of a conflicted region that has become a source of inspiration for younger generations, aiming for a better future. This is true for international audiences who are enriched by Raichel’s energy and see in him an exceptional vision of Israel open to the world. Their excitement during the many performances Raichel has made to “Birthright” and “Masa” audiences is contagious. This is a testimony to their familiarity with the vast body of his work that has already entered the pantheon of Israeli music."

Jewish Press: Hundreds of Jewish Leaders in First-Ever Jewish Agency Board of Governors Meetings in Paris

Jewish Press: Hundreds of Jewish Leaders in First-Ever Jewish Agency Board of Governors Meetings in Paris

June 22, 2016

By JNi Media


"France is home to the second-largest Jewish community in the world outside Israel, and Aliyah from France has topped the charts in recent years, with some 33,000 French Jews immigrating to Israel over the past decade, including 7,800 just last year. The Jewish Agency for Israel has increased significantly its presence in France, in order to handle the influx of French Jewish immigrants and has expanded specialized opportunities for French Jewish young people to experience life in Israel through the Masa Israel Journey and Onward Israel."

Vestnik Kavkaza: Jerusalem Day in Moscow

Vestnik Kavkaza: Jerusalem Day in Moscow

Vestnik Kavkaza: Jerusalem Day in Moscow

May 30, 2016

By Vestnik Kavkaza

 

"The festival was supported by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, the Government of Moscow, the Moscow City Duma, the Federal Jewish National and Cultural Autonomy, RJC Women's League, the Moscow Jewish Community House, Masa, ‘El Al Israel’ and the Open Channel."

 

 

New Jersey Jewish News: At Y, celebrating Israel, honoring its fallen

New Jersey Jewish News: At Y, celebrating Israel, honoring its fallen

New Jersey Jewish News: At Y, celebrating Israel, honoring its fallen

May 18, 2016

By Elaine Durbach

 

"The event, jointly sponsored by the GMW federation’s Global Connections department; the Y, an agency of the federation; and Masa Israel, was funded with donations from the Halpern and Kramer families."

 

Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu's man in DC

Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu's man in DC

Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu's man in DC

May 14, 2016

By Herb Keinon

 

"The best thing that leaders in Jewish communities across America could do for Israel is to figure out how to lower the cost of Jewish education dramatically to make it affordable for anyone who wants it and to promote greater awareness of Jewish history for young people and adults. They should also continue to support terrific programs like Birthright and Masa that strengthen Jewish identity."

Times Standard: HSU, CR gear up for grad weekend

Times Standard: HSU, CR gear up for grad weekend

May 12, 2016

By Marc Vartabedian and Hunter Cresswell

 

"Senior Sharon Herslikovitz is readying for a 10-month trip to Israel with the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows where she will teach English to children.

'I’m very ready to graduate; I’ve had a memorable time here at HSU, but I’m ready for what’s next,' said Herslikovitz, a child development major with a minor in communications."

Jewish News Service: Standing in unity with Israel, flaws and all

Jewish News Service: Standing in unity with Israel, flaws and all

Jewish News Service: Standing in unity with Israel, flaws and all

May 9, 2016

By Jerry Silverman/JNS.org

 

"It is toward unity that I believe we should strive—not a unity that is blind to Israel’s flaws, but a unity that inspires us to help Israel improve and continue to grow. And, so on this 68th anniversary of the State of Israel, I say Baruch Hashem, praise God that we have an Israel in our lifetime. Four out of five of my children have experienced a year in Israel on Masa programs. My nephew will be honored on Yom Ha’atzmaut for his exemplary service in the Israeli navy during a ceremony at President Rivlin’s house. He, his siblings, and his first cousins are my family’s next generation of Israelis."