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.