By P2K volunteer Rebecca Kofman, Beit Shemesh
Masa Israel participants in its annual Building Future Leadership Conference
in Jerusalem enjoyed a full day of activities arranged by Partnership 2000 (Beit Shemesh-Mateh Yehuda-Washington-South Africa) in Bet Shemesh on March 8.
Highlight of the day was the interaction between the Masa Israel young adults and the first, second and third graders at Jabotinsky Elementary School. Together they created Shabat placements to share with their overseas friends in the Jewish Primary Day School in Washington, DC. The schools have been in the P2K school Twinning project for over three years.
As the Jabotinsky principal Bracha said, “It was hard at first for the Jabotinsky youngsters to realize that there were actually Jews who live outside Israel. Now through video conferencing they have accepted that, and this year we are focusing on the similarities and differences between how Israeli and American Jewish children celebrate the holidays.” Having actual committed Jewish young adults who live outside Israel come and do a project with the Jabotinsky students really helped them to understand not only that Jews do live outside Israel but that they also love Israel.
After completing the Jabotinsky project, Masa participants were joined by 17 Israeli young adults from Branco-Weiss High School, the P2K student program and a local Garin for an interviewing project to meet local residents and complete a worksheet about their family origins, life in Bet Shemesh, etc. In groups of 3 or 4, the young people spread out through Migdal Hamayim on market day to speak with vendors, cab drivers, pedestrians and others to get a taste of the variety of backgrounds and interests of local city inhabitants.
Next the Masa participants and local Israeli youth gathered at Matnas Psagot HaSheva where they broke into four groups to discuss various aspects of Jewish Peoplehood, based on their interview findings. They tackled some tough issues about Jewish identity, religious practices and enabling future generations to be informed and enthusiastic about being Jewish.
As one participant reported at the end of the day, “Through this experience I may not become a Jewish leader on my college campus next year, but I will be able to counter positively and powerfully any negative remarks made about Israel and Israelis.”
Note: Masa Israel sponsors numerous extended stay opportunities for youth from abroad to travel, study and do community service projects throughout the country. Over 10,000 young Jewish adults are in Israel this year in various Masa programs.