Washington Jewish Week: Bringing young Jews to Israel

June 13, 2012

There's an incredible program that has brought more than 65,000 Jewish young adults to Israel since it started in 2004.
It is called Masa Israel, and its focus is on post-college age Jews. Well over 50 percent are alumni of Taglit-Birthright Israel.
 
Masa Israel Journey is a partnership of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the government of Israel and a partner of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Masa brings more than 10,000 young Jews per year to Israel on a range of gap-year, study-abroad, and post-college internship and volunteering programs. There are more than 140 Washington, D.C.-area participants this year on Masa Israel programs.
 
One of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington efforts to bring as many Jews as possible "under the tent" involves young adult engagement and programming. To that end, a local donor is matching funds from the government of Israel to support Masa Israel by hiring a new professional for two years. That person will have two primary focus areas - doubling the local participation of young adults in Masa Israel from 130 to 270 participants and connecting with Masa Israel participants upon their return to the Greater Washington Jewish community to help them successfully integrate into Jewish life.
 
Integration into Washington-area Jewish life should be underlined here. I know that a nephew of mine went to Israel via Birthright. He came back and announced it was the best 10 days of his life. That was three years ago. Since then, nothing. Not a word about Israel, not an expression of desire to return to the Holy Land.
 
When I asked him if he had been contacted or if there was any follow-up, he admitted that there had been contact, but that he didn't return the call or the email.
 
Federation President Stuart Kurlander has said from day one of his presidency that opening up Federation opportunities to young adults was a huge priority.
 
"We recognize that exposing this constituency to Israel in meaningful ways will create a solid foundation for a next generation of Jews who will exhibit strong support and commitment to our homeland," said Kurlander.
 
Masa Israel on Twitter