Israel Becomes World Leader in Sustainable Volunteer Programs

Israel Becomes World Leader in Sustainable Volunteer Programs

April 5, 2011

Masa Israel Journey launches immersive, grassroots service projects in Israel, teaming up American and Israeli volunteers to meet communities needs
(New York, NY) In response to traditional volunteer programs that have Americans parachuting in and out of countries worldwide with no long-term effects, Masa Israel Journey recently launched two new, integrated volunteer programs that team up American and Israeli volunteers to create sustainable projects in Israels underserved periphery.
 
Through the five-month Yahel Social Change Program, Americans work with Israeli grassroots organizations to create community-driven educational projects in immigrant communities. In the 10-month Ma’ase Olam program, Americans join Israeli peers in their own communities and volunteer with local NGOs.
 
A joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, Masa Israel has nearly 10,000 participants, and 16 post-college programs exclusively dedicated to service.
 
“As with any country, Israel has tremendous needs,” said Avi Rubel, Masa Israel’s North American Director. “Masa Israel aims to dramatically increase the number of young adults who choose Israel and partner with Israelis in doing meaningful service and volunteer work.”
 
The Yahel Social Change Program, based in Gedera, launched in 2010 with six North American participants, five of whom stayed on for the spring 2011 semester. By teaming up with Ethiopian-Israeli volunteers from Friends by Nature, a local not-for-profit organization that seeks to empower the Ethiopian community in Israel, they are volunteering in academic assistance programs, teaching English and working in community gardens, as well as meeting social activists and learning about issues of immigration, community empowerment and sustainability.
 
“With our grassroots efforts, we cannot expect to fully see the impact of our work during our stay, but we can plant seeds and help to create new and innovative sustainable projects,” said Drew Fidler, Yahel Social Change Program participant. A graduate of New York University’s School of Social Work, Fidler collaborated with Friends by Nature to launch a project, which seeks to prepare Ethiopian youth to work at Jewish summer camps in North America.
 
Ma’ase Olam’s inaugural program for North Americans and Israelis will run from September 2011-June 2012. They will live communally, study Hebrew, receive professional training, work on joint volunteer projects with diverse communities, and learn about the social and cultural complexities of Israeli society.
 
To speak with volunteer program alumni from your area, please contact Masa Israels Director of Public Relations, Rachel Trager at (917) 371-5569 or racheltr@masaisrael.org. 

Leadership Training Program: Empowering the Next Generation

Leadership Training Program: Empowering the Next Generation

April 5, 2011

Masa Israel Journey’s Building Future Leadership program gives young adults tools and connections to make a difference in their communities
(New York, NY) – This week, 500 exceptional young adults will participate in Building Future Leadership, Masa Israel Journey’s intensive, weeklong leadership program in Israel.  Chosen from nearly 10,000 individuals from all over the world who are studying, interning, and volunteering in Israel, Building Future Leadership prepares young adults to fill leadership positions when they return to their campuses and communities.
 
With young adults’ increased interest in Jewish communal work following their time in Israel, Masa Israel, a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, is committed to helping its alumni stay involved. Jewish campus and communal organizations are now actively seeking Masa Israel alumni to take leadership positions upon their return home.  Organizations involved in the Building Future Leadership program include the Jewish Federations of North America, the Israel on Campus Coalition, Hillel, PresenTense, and AVI CHAI.
 
“Masa Israel’s Building Future Leadership is one of the important ways that we are preparing young Jewish adults for future leadership opportunities following their immersive Israel experiences,” said Masa Israel’s North American Director, Avi Rubel.  “I believe that the growing pool of Masa Israel alumni will play a decisive role in connecting their peers to Israel and in strengthening their home Jewish communities.”
 
Building Future Leadership’s weeklong events include discussions about critical issues facing the Jewish people, leadership skill development sessions focused on entrepreneurship, public speaking, and networking, trips to the Knesset and Yad Vashem, and meetings with social activists and community leaders.  Participants can choose to focus on Israel education, Israel advocacy, social justice and tikkun olam, or Jewish peoplehood.
 
In the workshop, “From Vision to Reality,” participants will also be able to outline a project they hope to pursue in their home communities.
 
Last year, Jordana Gilman, a Nativ gap year participant, created a project focused on bringing interfaith programming to campus and connected with Cornell’s Hillel rabbi so that he would anticipate her arrival.  Now as chair of interfaith programming and Jewish education and culture at Hillel, Gilman is planning a civil rights seder.
 
“It was truly a growing experience for everyone, and it personally made me very excited for the next year,” said Gilman. “I came out of the conference with some solid, realistic, ready-for-action program plans and college-level leadership techniques.”
 
The Building Future Leadership program will take place in Jerusalem from March 6 – 11, 2011. A follow-up meeting will take place on May 23, 2011.
 
For more information about Building Future Leadership, contact Masa Israel’s Director of Public Relations, Rachel Trager at (917) 371-5569 or racheltr@masaisrael.org and visit www.masaisrael.org/bfl.

Repair Interview: Shoshana Wineburg and the Yahel Social Change Program

<div class="masa-blog-title">Repair Interview: Shoshana Wineburg and the Yahel Social Change Program</div>

 
Yahel is a new and exciting addition to the world of Jewish service (and also a Repair the World grantee). Founded by Dana Talmi, the organization, which is less than a year old, is already making huge strides in promoting service in Israel.
 

Meet Masa Israel

Meet Masa Israel

 
Masa Israel’s team combines professional expertise with volunteer passion to connect young Jewish adults to 5-12 month immersive, life-changing experiences in Israel. Masa Israel participants will change the world, and we are proud to help them on their journey!

For Participants

For Participants

Welcome to the Masa Israel Community. Make it yours.
 
 
Congratulations! You’ve chosen a program, your bags are packed, and you’re ready to take the next step on your Masa Israel Journey.
 
As you prepare to join more than 10,000 young Jewish adults from 42 countries who are about to embark on the journey of a lifetime, we encourage you to take a look at the adventures that await you. Join the Masa Israel Community at community.masaisrael.org and share your excitement with fellow participants from your program and all the other programs. Connect with alumni from previous years to get advice before, during, and after your trip.
 
The Masa Israel Community offers additional seminars, concerts, lectures, and other extracurricular activities throughout the year. Add another dimension to your program, build new networks, and reconnect with old friends. 

Community Photos

  • Building Future Leadership 2012

Israel Calls on Americans to Close Achievement Gap

Israel Calls on Americans to Close Achievement Gap

April 11, 2011

Israel joins trend of government-sponsored programs bringing native English speakers to enhance English education.
(New York, NY) – 100 exemplary North American college graduates will be chosen to teach in underprivileged communities in Israel for a 10-month service program in Israel in May 2011, Masa Israel Journey announced today. In order to address Israel’s educational inequity and the widespread underperformance of youth in low-income communities, Masa Israel Journey and the Israeli Ministry of Education are launching Israel Teaching Fellows to serve as volunteer English teachers throughout Israel.
 
Israel is joining the trend of foreign governments sponsoring college graduates who are native English speakers to teach English in their countries. Similar programs are JET in Japan, EPIK in Korea, Teaching Assistant Program in France, North American Language and Cultural Assistants in Spain, and English Opens Doors in Chile.
 
With young adults’ growing interest in international volunteer opportunities Masa Israel, a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, is making Israel a global hub for service programs. Out of 180 five-to-12-month volunteering, career development, and academic programs, Masa Israel has 10,000 participants and 16 post-college programs exclusively dedicated to service.
 
“It’s important to give young adults the opportunity to express their idealism through volunteering and Israel is a place where they can really make a difference,” says Masa Israel’s North American Director, Avi Rubel. “The Israel Teaching Fellows will enhance English education in Israel while building bridges between the American and Israeli communities.”
 
Following an initial training period, the Teaching Fellows will live in small groups in communities in Israel and teach for 20 hours a week. The Teaching Fellows will also choose and design secondary volunteer projects in their communities. Ongoing pedagogical support, Hebrew Ulpan, host families, and trips will be provided throughout their time in Israel.
 
Accepted Teaching Fellows must have college degrees and experience as educators and leaders. They must also demonstrate the ability to excel in a challenging cross-cultural environment and the desire to be immersed in Israeli society.
 
 
The inaugural Israel Teaching Fellows program will run from August 2011 – June 2012. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance in May 2011.
 
For more information about Israel Teaching Fellows, visit: www.israelteachingfellows.org and contact North American Director of Masa Israel Journey, Avi Rubel at (212) 339-6938, (781) 308-4880 or avir@masaisrael.org.

connect with fellow participants and alums

Smooth Sailing and Community Immersion on Otzma

Smooth Sailing and Community Immersion on Otzma

April 5, 2011

As a Jewish and Middle Eastern Studies major at George Washington University, Detroit-native Emily Schwartz did not have a chance to study abroad so she decided to spend a year in Israel after college.
She had previously been on short-term trips and enrolled in Masa Israel’s Otzma, a 10-month program. “I liked that it was volunteer-based and that it would allow me to experience many different aspects of the country,” said Emily.
 
During her first three months in Israel, Emily and her peers lived in an absorption center in Ashkelon, learning Hebrew in an intensive ulpan and volunteering in the community. Emily brought her guitar to Israel and was able to use her skills as a musician, leading services at a nearby congregation. She also volunteered at an after-school program and at the marina, helping run boating and sailing activities.
 
While living in an absorption center in Nazereth-Illit, Detroit’s sister city, Emily enjoyed that the location was close to Detroit’s partnership office. “The staff adopted us and had us over their homes,” she said. “They were amazing people and really reached out to us.”
 
As a music and English teacher at nearby public schools, Emily enjoyed being immersed in a new community that many tourists do not have a chance to visit. “I loved that we weren’t stuck in an American bubble, but that we were able to interact with Israelis on a daily basis,” Emily said. “It really made the community feel like home for me.”
 
During the weekends, Emily traveled throughout the country, hiking in the Carmel and taking a bus to Jerusalem. She headed south for her last three months in Israel, serving as a volunteer at Kibbutz Lotan. “I knew it would be a different experience than anything I’d ever do in the States,” she said. She milked goats and made yogurt and cheese. “It was really hard work,” she said. “But at the same time, I was living in this relaxed desert environment. It was like a dream world.”
 
Emily also liked the less-dreamy two-week army experience. “I’ll never forget what it was like to put on a uniform and listen to people ordering us around,” she said. “It wasn’t easy but I was proud to be doing it.”
 
After she returned, Emily moved to Chicago and now she works for the Community Foundation for Jewish Education. In addition to being a song leader and teacher, Emily works with Jewish youth groups. “I talk about Israel a lot with my kids. “People who have been to Israel get a certain feeling when they’re there that’s hard for others who haven’t been there to grasp. But hearing about it makes them want to go to Israel and experience it too.”
 
Emily will soon be leading a trip for 7th and 8th graders from Chicago to Israel. She is also in the process of applying to cantorial school.

Israelis Sharing with India

Israelis Sharing with India

Israelis Sharing with India

April 5, 2011

Young Israelis are using their expertise to support Indian development, thanks to a program established by ex-Melburnian Yonatan Glaser (pictured).
Educator Glaser – Melbourne-born, now Jerusalem-based – is the director of B’Tzedek, an Israeli training organisation offering internships for university graduates eager to apply their skills to help the less fortunate, through projects in Israel and India.
 
Glaser, who was one of the founders of Netzer Australia in the late 1970s, outlined the aims of B’Tzedek and its Leadership and International Fellowship Experience (LIFE) program.
 
The three-year-old program – which has the support of the Israeli Government, the Jewish Agency and Masa Israel – currently has seven Jewish interns, aged between 21 and 30, from Israel and the Diaspora, involved in projects in Israel and India. The program begins with a three-week training period in Israel, and then continues with a four-month Indian internship and a similar length internship in Israel.
 
Participants do not take part in direct services, explained Glaser. Rather, they develop professional service provision strategies in their chosen field, such as program development, capacity building, program evaluation and policy.
 
“It is a win-win for those involved in the program, who can go on and apply their experience in other areas, and also, of course, for the millions of recipients,” Glaser told The AJN, on a recent personal trip back to Melbourne.
 
One participant was involved in developing a model to transition three million Indians from unsafe drinking water to a high-quality water supply. The project was designed to overcome resistance created by centuries-old water-gathering practices.
 
For the Israeli component, the participant developed a strategy for the deputy mayor’s office in Jerusalem to liaise with government departments on a sustainability policy for the city.
 
“Perhaps this kind of work is not as immediately gratifying as working directly on the ground with the service recipients. It’s more of a relay-team approach and, like so much in the professional world, you don’t necessarily see the results of your contribution to the project overnight. But in the long run, it’s extremely rewarding,” Glaser said.
 

Sandstorms and Kibbutniks: Israeli Society Shabbaton

<div class="masa-blog-title">Sandstorms and Kibbutniks: Israeli Society Shabbaton</div>

Post courtesy of Tikkun Olam Tel Aviv-Jaffa
 
This past Shabbat, three of our volunteers joined the Masa community for a Shabbaton hosted by Kibbutz Kranim in the Northern Negev. The weekend opened with a tour of two Bedouin villages in the Negev and a discussion of modern Bedouin culture, led by Bustan, a NGO that works for cooperation and social justice with Bedouin and Jewish communities in the Negev.