"The nonprofit sector is at a major crossroads. After years of humming along at a familiar pace of ongoing programs, stable leadership, and status quo fundraising, a new wave of change is happening right before our very eyes. The thousands of idealistic baby boomers that started nonprofit organizations 20 years ago are calling it quits and retiring from their leadership positions in the coming years. You’ve no doubt heard about it, but I’ll just confirm it for you here: there is indeed a leadership crisis looming ahead for the nonprofit sector.”
Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles
Who will lead the Jewish community tomorrow? As the baby boomer generation of leaders approaches retirement, Masa Israel Journey is setting the pace in leadership development for the next generation by tapping into the passions of thousands of outstanding 18-30 somethings searching for a deeper connection to the Jewish people. There are more than 9,000 young Jewish adults currently on Masa Israel programs, and more than 50,000 alumni. Fifty six percent of them have also taken part in Birthright Israel.
Masa Israel alumni are taking on entrepreneurial leadership roles, from chairing national conferences tostarting their own organizations. Others have assumed positions as Jewish communal professionals, tackling the challenges facing the Jewish community today.
“Following their 5-12 month-long Masa-sponsored internship, volunteer or study experiences in Israel, Masa Israel alumni return to North America not with new skills and the capacity to compete in today’s global economy, as well as with deeply rooted (and often new-found) passion for Jewish life and the desire to become part of a lifelong network of committed and connected leaders,” says Avi Rubel, director of Masa Israel Journey North America.
Elina Moyn, having left Latvia to escape religious persecution, always had a strong Jewish identity but knew little about the traditions or history. After a Birthright trip to Israel sparked her interest in her Jewish identity, Moyn decided to spend her senior year at CU Boulder at the Masa Israel-accredited Tel Aviv University
“Until I went on my Masa program, I did not feel as personally invested in the land,” Moyn says. “But as I developed friendships with Israelis and lived an everyday life amongst the history I learned about in the classroom, my Jewish identity grew, with Israel at its center.” Today, Elina works as an Operations Manager for a Boulder trading company and teaches Hebrew school. In the future, she hopes to work in international business with an Israeli company.
The anti-Israel sentiment at Concordia University compelled Toronto-native Alan Herman to return to Israel for a longer period of time after his first Birthright trip. “Finding myself at an increasing number of pro-Israel rallies, I knew I needed a way to incorporate my passion for Israel into my daily life,” he says.
At Ben Gurion’s Masters in Middle Eastern Studies (MAPMES), Herman studied the Arab-Israeli conflict under the guidance of the Israeli scholar, Benny Morris, helped organize excursions to UNSCO (the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process) and the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), participated in research on Jewish-Arab reconciliation, and took a course in the role of Canada in the Middle Eastern Peace Process.
After earning his Master’s degree, Herman returned to Canada and became a research associate at the Israel & Jewish Advocacy Research Institute, the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. A year ago, he was accepted to the Quebec-Israel Committee for their Quebec Parliamentary Program.
For Rachel Olstein, it was not until she was an adult working in the non-profit sector that she discovered her place in the Jewish community. Though Olstein grew up in a large Jewish community outside of Boston, her commitment wavered as a student at Vassar College as she became involved in social justices causes unrelated to the Jewish community. But when she found a community of Jews dedicated to tikkun olam and Israel, Olstein reentered the community and decided to explore her own connection to Israel.
“For thousands of years, Jews have wanted to be in Israel,” Olstein says. “Not only did I feel privileged to be born into an era when it was possible to visit Israel, I felt obligated to spend an extended period of time there.”
Olstein enrolled in the Masa Israel-accredited Hebrew University Masters program in Community Leadership & Philanthropy Studies, where she focused her studies on organizations that pursue social justice from a Jewish perspective, but work to help populations beyond the Jewish community. Today, Olstein serves as Director of Volunteer Services for the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda, a residential community for orphaned children in Rwanda.