The Genesis Philanthropy Group and Masa Israel Journey Introduce Initiative to Strengthen Jewish Identity of Young Jews from the Former Soviet Union

October 23, 2013

The Genesis Philanthropy Group and Masa Israel Journey are set to launch a new initiative to strengthen Jewish identity of young Jews from the former Soviet Union and to deepen their connections to Israel.
The initiative is based on a model that includes a weeklong tour dedicated to familiarizing participants with Israel and its society, in the course of which participants will explore their Jewish identity in an educational and experiential manner and will also discover their personal connections to the Jewish people, to the Land of Israel, and to Jewish heritage.  The program's pilot will take place on October 22 and will involve 220 young people from throughout the former Soviet Union.
The Genesis Philanthropy Group concentrates its efforts on deepening the Jewish identity of Russian-speaking Jews around the world and in Israel by developing and supporting a vast range of educational initiatives, with a particular focus on the history and heritage of the Jewish communities of Russia and the former Soviet Union.  Masa Israel Journey, a joint venture between the government of Israel and The Jewish Agency, brings more than 10,000 Jewish young people to Israel each year, presenting them with more than 200 long-term program opportunities.  Some 1,500 young Jews from the former Soviet Union participate in Masa each year.  The Jewish Agency has placed a particular emphasis on Russian-speaking Jews, estimated at three million individuals worldwide, and is developing a vast range of programs aimed at addressing the unique characteristics and needs of the community
The two organizations—Genesis and Masa—decided for the first time to collaborate on a comprehensive joint venture aimed at intensifying the educational component of programs targeting young people from the former Soviet Union.  The initiative, based on a weeklong educational touring experience in Israel, will soon be implemented among young Jews from the former Soviet Union participating in Masa programs this year.  The educational model of the initiative is based on the success of the Mibereshit Israeli Experience, which aims to strengthen the Jewish and Zionist identity of Israeli students, and will be operated by the Mibereshit organization.
Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, said: "There are some three million Russian-speaking Jews around the world, including hundreds of thousands in the former Soviet Union.  The community is characterized by high assimilation rates on the one hand and solidarity with Israel on the other.  This cooperative enterprise between the Genesis Philanthropy Group and Masa Israel Journey will provide Jewish young people from the former Soviet Union with a sense of family and common destiny with the Jewish people, and will enable them to internalize the centrality of the State of Israel to the Jewish nation and to them as individuals in the most intensive way possible."
Sana Britavsky, Executive Director of Genesis Philanthropy Group in Israel, said: "Genesis brings to this partnership with The Jewish Agency and the Israeli government our proven experience in developing high standards of educational content for projects aimed at the young Russian-speaking Jews. The goal is to enable each of them to connect to Israel and its heritage through an unmediated encounter with its people, its landscapes, and its stories.  Along with our partners, Masa Israel Journey and Mibereshit Israeli Experience, we are hoping to create an integral educational space for all Masa participants from the FSU”.
The first group of 220 young people from the former Soviet Union will participate in the first wave of the program over the coming week, starting on October 22.  The experience will begin with a hike through Israel's Negev Desert and will reach its peak in Jerusalem.  It will include volunteering in the southern town of Yeruham and meetings with representatives of Israeli society, including immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have successfully integrated into a range of fields.  The experience will also include sessions with Israel Defense Forces officers from the former Soviet Union at Mount Herzl, a Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service at the Western Wall, and other meaningful opportunities.