Yonatan Barkan

Yonatan Barkan

Director of Academic Programs

Masa Israel Alumni Gather for Leadership Training

Masa Israel Alumni Gather for Leadership Training

Masa Israel Alumni Gather for Leadership Training

August 15, 2013

This past weekend, 70 of the best and brightest "Masaniks" gathered for the first-ever national Masa Israel Alumni Retreat.
Current Masa Alumni Board members and recent returnees from Israel who participated in the Masa Israel Leadership Summit in March came together for the three-day shabbaton held at the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Maryland. The goal of the weekend was to promote the development of Masa Israel Alumni Associations and their boards in cities across North America, as well as to help the alumni cultivate their passion for Israel engagement and active participation in their local Jewish communities.
 
The retreat began with an opening address by Rabbi Scott Perlo of Washington, D.C.'s Sixth and I Synagogue. He set the tone for the weekend by prompting participants to ponder their place in the rich, millennia-spanning context of the Jewish story, and to think about how to get involved as they move forward in their own journey.
 
The retreat continued with enrichment sessions led by representatives from the World Zionist Organization, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Israel Action Network, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Shalom Hartman Institute, Hazon and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. These sessions provided participants with the opportunity to interact on a personal level, sharing the stories of their Israel exeriences while identifying practical channels through which to maintain their involvement in areas they found important during their time in Israel. 
"The social action discussions led by Hazon really got some ideas flowing. It's nice to connect to like-minded people," said Elise Yafet of Milwaukee, WI, who participated in Masa Israel Teaching Fellows in Netanya for the 2012-2013 school year. 
 
Over Saturday and Sunday, the alumni received practical leadership training from PresenTense, working in regional groups to develop a vision for their Alumni Board and improve upon community mapping and networking skills. 
 
"Having this outlet to re-engage and discuss renewed my interest and openness to further exploration of opportunities," said Jordan Winick, who participated in Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv - Jaffa in 2011-2012. "This weekend introduced me to ways to increase my participation and engagement when I go back to Toronto, including the possibility of starting an Alumni Board." 
 
This retreat was particularly inspiring for Masa Israel alumni from smaller, less-developed communities. "Coming from such a small Jewish community, the passion I had for Israel was fizzling out after returning. This retreat is recharging my batteries so I can go back and revitalize my community," remarked Jordan Goldschmidt of Kansas City, KS, who served as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Rehovot for 2012-2013 school year.  "The great thing about Masa is that it allows someone from 'Nowheresville,' USA, to have just as much involvement in the Jewish community as someone from New York City." 
 
With the establishment of peer-led Masa Alumni Associations to act as a springboard for recent returnees, we are confident that we will see Masa alumni deepen their involvement with a variety of Jewish organizations, and continue on their journeys toward a lifetime of leadership in the Jewish community that were inspired by their time in Israel. 
 

JPost: The real hands on experience

JPost: The real hands on experience

JPost: The real hands on experience

August 8, 2013

By Rivkah Ginat
 
Tikkun Olam aims to give participants a glimpse of the country beyond Taglit-Birthright.
The organizers of Masa’s Tikkun Olam program certainly don’t sugarcoat the Israel experience. That was fine with participant Elliot Glassenberg, who says he struggled for years with his relationship with Israel.
 
“I knew that if I came here, I would need to find a community that I was comfortable with,” he says. “To be part of a solution and not a problem. I wouldn’t have been able to come on a program that had not let me embrace being critical of Israel.”
 
The program – one of over 200 that Masa Israel Journey offers – gives participants between the ages of 18 and 30 an opportunity to have a long-term, immersive experience in the country, living in the communities where they volunteer, with a consistent emphasis on gaining familiarity with the Jewish state – flaws and all.
 
Part of that is giving the participants an experience beyond that of Taglit-Birthright, in which approximately 80 percent of Tikkun Olam participants take part prior to their time at Masa.
 
“For many of our participants, Birthright serves as their first and only Israel experience [so far],” says Moshe Samuels, Tikkun Olam’s director. However, time constraints do not allow Birthright participants to spend time looking at the inherent intricacies of life here.
 
“This makes our program their first hands-on Israel experience, for which I give them a lot of credit,” says Samuels. “It’s not simple to have your first real Israel experience be through a program like ours.”
 
That observation is well-founded. The communities where the participants volunteer include mixed neighborhoods of Jews and Arabs, refugees, new immigrants and asylum-seekers, as well as lower socioeconomic areas. This allows the participants to live and work with individuals they would be unlikely to meet on a typical trip to Israel.
 
As Samuels puts it, “the people you volunteer with are the same people playing basketball outside your house.”
 
Tikkun Olam opened its doors in 2006, with locations in south Tel Aviv and Jaffa. It is a joint project of the BINA Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture, the Daniel Centers for Progressive Judaism, and the Union for Reform Judaism, with attendees from 11 countries.
 
The program is split into three tracks: coexistence, social action and an internship track. Next year, for the first time, Tikkun Olam will be partnering with the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, offering students in the nonprofit management and leadership master’s program field placements in Tel Aviv and Jaffa.
 
Among the NGOs with which the program offers volunteer and internship placements are the Peres Center for Peace, the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, the African Refugees and Developmental Center, and Mesila.
 
Every week, participants in each track spend three days volunteering and two days studying. Studies focus on Jewish and Israeli culture, as well as taking an in-depth look at local current events. For the first three weeks, the program involves five hours a day of intensive Hebrew study, offering three or four levels of Hebrew based on need. Ulpan is a staple of the program and continues throughout the year, since language is viewed as essential to a successful integrative experience.
 
In addition, the program offers periodic weekend and day trips, which give participants an opportunity both to see the land and to interact with demographic groups they might not otherwise encounter.
 
“Many programs tend to shy away from some of Israel’s more complex issues,” says Samuels. “These are topics that Tikkun Olam specifically focuses on, for we feel that such discussion is necessary to achieve true identification with what is going on here.
 
That is what we try to show our participants – not the postcard, not a dream, but the reality. Then we tell them, ‘If you’re not happy with the reality you see, you can change it.’” This change had particular meaning for Glassenberg, who participated in the program in 2011-12. Having graduated with a BA from McGill University and an MA in Jewish education and literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary, he had a steady job in New York by the spring of 2011, but was unsure of where his life was heading. He decided to take a break both professionally and personally, and spend a year in Israel to do some significant volunteer work.
 
As an educator, he felt that he had “talked the talk, but not walked the walk” with regard to Jewish-Arab coexistence. So he picked the coexistence track in Jaffa and set himself a full schedule. He volunteered with four organizations, including two schools with Arab and Jewish student populations, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center in Tel Aviv, and Bikurim, an organization that supports independent, multicultural literature in Israel.
 
His year, he says, was “very full, but very fulfilling.”
 
Photo: courtsey
 

Meet & Greet the Miami Masa Alumni Comittee

Meet & Greet the Miami Masa Alumni Comittee

August 14, 2013 - 19:30  -  August 14, 2013 - 21:30

Aroma 150 Sunny Isles Boulevar North Miami Beach, FL  - 

Do you miss Israel, the friends you made in Israel, and the fun activities you took part in?. Miss them no more!
Hello Masa alumni and future Masa participants! We have created a Masa alumni committee to organize fun activities just for you. Wednesday the 14th of August we are having a Meet & Greet for you to get to know the awesome people in the Masa Alumni Committee and for you to tell us about your Israel experience and what you miss the most about it.
 
Gather your friends that did Masa or are interested in doing Masa and come out to Aroma on 163rd and we will treat you to a coffee. RSVP on Facebook.

Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

See Galilee

Home and Goodbyes…

<div class="masa-blog-title">Home and Goodbyes…</div>

By Samantha Sisisky, Yahel Social Change Program
 
I’m entering my last week in Gedera, and I’m not sure how to feel about it.  This weekend, we had our final group Shabbat weekend.  We ate a beautiful, delicious, watermelon-themed Shabbat dinner together, spent time at the beach and even received “awards” (does anyone else think I have a flair for the overdramatic?).
 

Annie Lascoe

Annie Lascoe

West Coast Regional Director

Building Bridges in Israel with a Lacrosse Stick

Building Bridges in Israel with a Lacrosse Stick

Building Bridges in Israel with a Lacrosse Stick

June 19, 2013

For centuries, members of Native American tribes played lacrosse as a means of forging common bonds. So it makes sense that a group of young American Jewish volunteers in Israel used the sport to reach out to Arab-Israeli teenagers, who last week played their first full game.
By Joshua Berkman
 
For centuries, members of Native American tribes played lacrosse with one another as a means of forging common bonds. So it makes sense that a group of young American Jewish volunteers in Israel used the sport this past year to reach out to 24 Arab-Israeli teenagers, who last week played their first full game.
 
The lacrosse match, held in the port city of Jaffa, was the culmination of the Lacrosse Arab-Jewish Cooperation Project.  The Project was created by Ian Cohen, a recent graduate of Monmouth University who is volunteering in Israel with Tikkun Olam, a Jewish service learning program  supported by The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government’s Masa Israel Journey partnership.
 
Masa enables more than 10,000 young Jews each year to spend up to 10 months volunteering, interning and taking academic courses in Israel as they learn about Jewish history, build friendships with Jews from around the world and experience Israeli culture on a daily basis. The idea for the lacrosse project came to Cohen after he joined Tel Aviv’s lacrosse team last September and sought to combine his passion for the sport with his volunteer focus on Jewish-Arab coexistence.
 
“The program is intended to dispel bigotry through real contact between Arabs and Jews,” Cohen said.
 
Through the Peres Center for Peace, Cohen connected with the Ajyal School in Jaffa, which expressed interest in working with him. He then recruited fellow Masa volunteers and members of Israel’s national lacrosse association (Israel Lacrosse) to help teach the sport to the Arab high-schoolers during weekly clinics.
 
“The Jewish volunteers developed a fantastic relationship with the kids,” Cohen shared. “Primarily, we are teachers and role models. The sport is secondary.”
 
The Arab teens are not the only ones who have benefited from Cohen’s passion for lacrosse. Last fall, as the rocket attacks from Gaza intensified, Cohen helped organized a lacrosse clinic in Netanya to provide kids from southern border towns a few days of fun and respite from the daily barrage of rocket fire.
 
“We set up in an open field near where some local kids were playing on a playground,” Cohen recalled. “Within minutes, some students came over and snatched up the sticks, trying to figure out how to use this foreign device. I showed some of them some basics but they were really just interested in throwing the ball and shooting on the net.
 
“While this was happening, students in the classroom got wind of what was going on outside, and began pressing their faces up to the windows and even hanging out the windows trying to get the kids with the sticks to throw the balls into the classroom.”
 
Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in North America.  As long as young volunteers like Cohen bring their enthusiasm for the sport with them to Israel, it might soon be the “next big thing” in Israel—for Jews and Arabs.
 

Masa Israel Alumni North American Board Retreat

Masa Israel Alumni North American Board Retreat

August 9, 2013 (All day)  -  August 11, 2013 (All day)

  TBD, United States  - 

All Masa Alumni Board members are invited to attend the first annual Masa Alumni Board Retreat.
The retreat will focus on leadership development, programming techniques, and other skills alumni will need to engage fellow alumni in their area and run outstanding events! Details on Retreat location will be announced shortly. For more information or to start a Masa Alumni Board in your community, contact Dena Stein at denast@masaisrael.org.

3,000 Masa Israel Participants Gather for End-of-Year Conference

3,000 Masa Israel Participants Gather for End-of-Year Conference

3,000 Masa Israel Participants Gather for End-of-Year Conference

May 23, 2013

3,000 young Jews from around the world, participants in long-terms programs through Masa Israel Journey, attended the Masa Israel Journey Conference and End of 2012-2013 Academic Year Event at the Jerusalem International Convention Centre this past Monday.
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: The Masa program participants were addressed by the Israeli Minister of the Economy, Naftali Bennett, and Chairman of Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky. They also participated in a panel discussion with the outstanding Israeli sportsmen and women Ariel "Arik" Ze'evi, Karen Leibowitz, and Andi Ram. 
 
Olympic medalist, judoka Arik Ze'evi said, “After a year in Israel, you will be the best ambassadors for our country.”
 
Naftali Bennett, Minister of the Economy said: “I salute those of you who are planning on making Aliyah. We need every one of you. For those of you that are planning to return home, I am certain that after a year here, the State of Israel will remain close to your hearts and that you will continue to visit us.”
 
Natan Sharansky held an open dialogue with the students during which he told them: “Masa participants discover their roots while visiting Israel and they discover that the Jewish people is one family. It is very important to us that you feel part of our family and that you represent us upon your return home.”
 
Masa Israel Journey is a joint project of Government of Israel and The Jewish Agency for Israel. Its aim is to strengthen the connection between young Jews around the world and the State of Israel.  Participants spend 5-10 months in Israel and can choose from a wide range of programs involving volunteer work, studying or professional internships.  Over 10,000 young Jews from 60 countries participate in Masa programs each year. Upon their return to their home countries, many graduates become involved with their local Jewish communities and become ambassadors for Israel.