Growing up in a family that was active in the Jewish community, Josh Nason’s entry into the Jewish world came at a young age. As a child, Josh attended Young Judaea camp. As a teenager, he joined U.S.Y. and was eventually elected international president. At Cornell, Josh was instrumental in reintroducing the Jewish fraternity, AEPi, to campus. But, though Josh had visited Israel several times during his youth, it was not until he spent a semester studying atHebrew University and living in Jerusalem that Israel became a fundamental part of Josh’s Jewish identity and involvement.
“On a teen tour, you see Israel as history. But, when you’re living there, you really get a sense of what Israel is,” he said. “It’s part of the decisions you have to make every day—Where will I shop for food? Will I take buses?”
With Israel as his temporary home and its everyday happenings as part of his reality, Josh recognized the importance of Dr. Meron Medzini’s Israeli foreign policy class at HebrewUniversity. “I had always been a strong supporter of Israel, but I was suddenly able to really wrap myself around the significance of Israel’s relationship with its neighbors and the security of the state of Israel,” Josh said.
When Josh returned to Cornell, he became a Masa campus representative. After his positive experience, Josh enjoyed promoting the long-term Israel programs to his peers. “It’s human nature that if you enjoy something, you want to share it with other people,” he said. “And it only helps that there’s a real hunger out there for students who want to spend time in Israel.”
After his extended period of time in Israel, Josh believes that an Israel experience—even if it means investing several months to a year after college for it—is essential to building a strong Jewish identity. “We’ve been in lockstep in America. Everyone has to go straight from high school to college and then get an entry level position or go straight to graduate school. But it’s okay to say that being Jewish is important and spending time in Israel won’t only not kill you, but it will be a fun and rewarding experience.”
Upon graduation, Josh took the position of campus coordinator for the Zionist Organization of America, which combines the sort of work he did as a Masa campus representative and his studies at the Hebrew University. With a strong foundation in Israeli history and a better understanding of Israeli life, Josh feels confident in his work, which includes developing responses to anti-Israel biases on campuses, bringing pro-Israel speakers to colleges, and creating lobbying trips. “Every day I tap into the knowledge I’ve gained,” Josh said. “I wouldn’t be able to do my job well without it.”