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Stephanie Aseraph is the Masa Regional Representative for D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware. Prior to joining the Masa team, she attended Towson University for both her undergraduate and graduate degree, where she received a B.A. in Family Studies & Human Services, and an M.A. in Leadership in Jewish Education & Communal Service. Although born and raised in Maryland, Stephanie grew up in an Israeli home. As she would travel to Israel often throughout her childhood, Stephanie’s passion for Israel and its culture became stronger. Stephanie’s love for Israel is what drove her to participate in Masa over a semester abroad at Tel Aviv University. Upon her return, Stephanie was Towson University’s Masa Israel Campus Ambassador. The impact of her abroad experience is what brought her here to help others in her region travel to Israel and create their own journey.
Привет! Меня зовут Катя. В 2012 году я была на Масе, поэтому знаю все о жизни в общаге и о том, как прожить на стипендию. Считаю, что важнее всего выбрать именно ту программу, где вы реализуете свой потенциал и получите удовольствие от обучения или стажировки. Неплохо посоветоваться с родными, с пятью координаторами разных программ, но решение принимать только Вам!
Caroline Levine is a proud graduate of McGill University's school of social work. Since graduating she has been working in the Montreal Jewish community. She worked as an Engagement Associate at Hillel Montreal for five years. And since 2016 she is the Masa Israel Journey representative in Montreal, head of her local MIT (Madrichim in Training) leadership program, responsible for Birthright Israel and post trip programming, which are all a part of GenMTL, a department of Federation CJA. She has staffed several Israel experiences and several other immersive experiences (in Uruguay, Berlin, and Florida).
Dafna was born in Israel and moved to Vancouver in 2012 after pursuing her Masters in Diplomatic Studies from Tel Aviv University.
In Vancouver, Dafna continued to follow her passion for working with non-profit organizations and young adults.
Dafna has been working at the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver since 2013 as a program coordinator in the Israel and Overseas Department.
Currently, she is a representative of Masa Israel Journey.
Dafna shares her love of Israel through her work with Masa and programs such as Birthright and March of the Living
Title Image Credit: Pixabay
By Sydney Peterson, Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Be'er Sheva 
Walking down that marble ramp for yet another time, I can’t tell you how it felt. I was home. For once home wasn’t landing in a small airport and being able to run into my mom’s arms just a couple of minutes after departing the plane. Instead, it was 13 complete strangers waiting to congregate on the other side of baggage claim. I was finally starting to live my dream. Not only did I spend most of my summer traveling, but now I would also be living abroad. After passport control, home would be in another city, in another country. I would be on the other side of the world.
Once I exited baggage claim and stumbled around the arrivals hall, I found the first two members of my new family. Sam (who would soon become my roommate), Garrett (who would become my best friend), and I sat around getting to know each other. Over time, our small circle grew as more people arrived and the luggage pile grew exponentially. Every time another person arrived we became more excited and restless, even though we all felt like we were covered in a layer of exhaustion. Reality was setting in and the clock was quickly approaching our four o’clock pickup time. With every movement of the clock hand we came closer to completing our family and heading to our new home.
After what seemed like a lifetime, the clock struck four. We met our madrichim, ate some sandwiches and headed off to the ‘capital of the desert,’ Be’er Sheva. The ride was filled with exuberant voices and endless chatter. “What’s your name?” “Where did you go to school?” At the time, these questions seemed so relevant. It’s crazy to think how much we would know about each other in just a few months’ time. Amongst the chatter, many of us found ourselves agreeing to buy tickets to concerts in the next week. Plans were being made; life in Israel was starting. The ride felt like it took forever, but eventually we got our roommates and our keys and we were home.
Home was a two-bedroom apartment with three people in it. The hot plate wasn’t the best and the microwave was a bit questionable. The kitchen itself was small, and the bedrooms smaller, but home is home, no matter the size. Home was also these two girls who I knew nothing about. Still, I could tell that the three of us would create an amazing home.
Shortly after dropping off our things, the group went for a neighborhood walk to orient ourselves. Afterwards, it was all about unpacking and packing a new bag because we were heading up north the next day. It was my first day home and the craziness had already started.
Flash forward to 10 months later, it’s the beginning of June now and I only have a month left on the program. It’s crazy how time flies, right? I can’t believe that I’m starting to think about how to pack my bags and how the lessons I’ve learned during this experience will impact the next chapter in my life.
Here are seven of the most important lessons I learned during my time as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow :
1. Language Barriers are Beatable
Whenever you travel or decide to live somewhere when the native tongue is different than your own, people will always tell you how difficult the language barrier will be. However, I will never be one of those people. Language barriers are one of my favorite things. Whether I need to play a game of charades in the shuk or I’m lucky enough to be able to use my phone to help me, I love the challenge and I love the feeling that both parties have when you know you’re understood.
The drawing in this photo was created by some of my fourth graders. They weren’t able to explain the entire drawing to me so I had them use Morfix online dictionary to translate. The literal translation of the drawing is “man sitting on a couch and eats an egg and he died.” This was one of my favorite moments with my students because as soon as I started laughing they lit up with happiness. The barrier is beatable, never forget that
2. Israel Has Some of the Best Sunsets
My top favorites have to be from my apartment window in Be’er Sheva (top left) and anywhere along the sea, like Jaffa Port (bottom left) and Netanya (right).
3. The Food in Israel is Fantastic and Diverse
There is something for everyone in Israeli restaurants. From eating some of the best fruit in the shuks to the most interesting desserts, it’s been a delicious year. I’ve managed to put professional pomegranate eater (check out the pomegranate opened by your truly, bottom left) on my resume and found some of the largest strawberries I’ve ever seen. I also have yet to finish a bowl of hummus, but I still have a month left to try. If you find yourself in Be’er Sheva, I highly recommend you check out Hummus Shel Tahini (top left) or Hummus Said. Additionally, the sandwich place on Ringelblum called Pinat Ochel, is a must try, even if you don’t like sandwiches. I have a strong dislike for sandwiches, but the people here know my name and order by heart (bottom right). Finally if you’re around Israel during Hanukkah and looking for a unique choice of sufganiyot check out Roladin (top right)!
4. Blundstones are a Necessity
Coming to Israel I really didn’t plan on shopping or spending money. I was here on a budget (and still am). The first and to this day one of the only things I bought in Israel were Blundstones. A bunch of the girls on my program really wanted to own a pair because everyone in Israel wears them! Our madrich told us the best place to buy them. I eventually hopped on the Blundstone train and now five of us all have matching shoes. I wore them to death from October to March. They’ve seen rainy and snowy Europe. They’ve experienced Australian beaches and Israeli hikes from Beit She'an National Park (top) to the beaches of Tel Aviv (bottom) . My boots have been around the world and they’re still walking. Plus, they’re how Israelis spot each other outside of Israel. When I was in Brussels, I ran into a couple of people who asked where I was from because of the shoes I was wearing. Turned out that they were Israeli and asked because they saw my boots.
5. Connections are Incredibly Important
Left: my madrich Asaf, my friend Moss, and me. Top right: my friend Sam and me. Bottom right: my friend Katie and me.
No matter whether you travel with family, friends or just yourself, it’s the people who you meet along the way that make the experience. I came to Israel expecting to meet some amazing people. I never could have imagined the experiences that would come along the way. If you told me 10 months ago that I’d run a 10k I would have told you that you’re crazy. I would have called you even crazier if you’d tell me that I’d also voluntarily run/climb/crawl/jump my way through a mud run. Along the way I’ve made friends who are equally as insane as me and some who I’ve dragged all around Be’er Sheva to add content to my Instagram. I’ve gone on unexpected adventures with people from other cities and shared some incredible sunsets. It’s always amazing when your best friend lives thirty seconds from you but it’s also a nice feeling to know you always have a couch to crash on in the next city over, just in case you’re in need of a new adventure.
6. "Those Who Mind Don't Matter and Those Who Matter Don't Mind." - Dr. Seuss
Top: Me in Mamshit National Park. Middle: Me in Florentin, Tel Aviv. Bottom: Me, somewhere in the Judaean Desert
One of the guys on my program loves to dance. It doesn’t matter if we’re in a club with the music blaring or if he’s walking down the street with headphones plugged in; I promise you, he’s dancing. A friend from another city saw him in action one day and said “I love how no matter what, he is undeniably himself.” I think that was my biggest lesson of this year, to always be undeniably me, no matter where I am.
7. Family Makes the World Go 'Round
My Be’er Sheva family in the Welcome to Be’er Sheva sign (top) and somewhere in the Judaean Desert (bottom)
My Be’er Sheva familly may have its dysfunctional moments, but we will always have each other’s backs. It’s been quite the year and I couldn’t imagine sharing it with anyone else.
It’s been a crazy ride and I would not have it any other way. This home I built over the last 10 months has been incredible. It was created through unique friendships, interesting experiences and meaningful connections. This year proved to me that my definition of home is not a place or a person; it’s a feeling.
It’s that feeling you get when you know you can always see a gorgeous desert sunset from your bedroom window, or when you spend a night on the beach stargazing with people who have become life-long friends. It’s in the late night heart to hearts that you never want to end and in the early morning coffee runs. It’s knowing that your best friends are only a few seconds away and that adventure is always on the horizon. My home is created in the knowledge that I will always build roots no matter where I am, but I will always have my wings to take me wherever I want to go.
Leaving here isn’t going to be as easy as I thought it would be. Israel’s become a true home away from home and it will always have a piece of my heart. It won’t be the same when this program is over, but I know my next Israeli adventure, whenever it may be, will be just as amazing in its own way. I know this isn’t goodbye, it’s just lehitraot, or see you later.
Shalom specializes in the creation and management of start-up philanthropic endeavors, developing synergies that help foundations, high net worth families, and philanthropists implement their visions. He has worked with a broad international array of funders, foundations and organizations on all aspects of philanthropy. Two of his proudest achievements are The Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem for the Spiegel Family and The Tel Aviv Cinematheque for the Municipality of Tel Aviv.
Most recently, Shalom created a national STEM Education Initiative in Israel for The Henry and Susan Samueli Foundation, developed the B2T Sustainability Project for YK Center in the US, Europe, Africa and Armenia, and co-created the new Meaningful Influencers Platform for Lifestyles Magazine where he serves as Vice Chairman.
Previously, Shalom served for a decade as President and CEO of Jewish Federation and Family Services in Orange County California, as Director of the American and International Committees for the Tel Aviv Foundation, and as Cofounder and Director of the Israel Air Force Center & the Fisher Institute for Air Power.
In 1997, Shalom relocated to Israel to create the United Way of Israel (Matan -Your Way to Give) a vision of Israeli businesswomen and philanthropist Shari Arison, which has raised and distributed millions of dollars and generated hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours across the country. Upon the death of Ted Arison, Shalom assumed the Presidency of the Ted Arison Family Foundation and helped build its infrastructure and funding models.
Shalom and his wife Robin, with whom he founded Index LLC, have four children and three grandchildren.
Title Image Credit: Pixabay
By Rachel Greenberg, Nativ  Alumna
It’s hard feeling like a stranger in your own home, but just as you needed time to adjust when you got to Israel, so too you need to adjust back to life here in the United States of America. When you were in Israel, you probably did not realize how much you changed every day, but you did. You learned from everyone around you, picked up new mannerisms, and adapted completely to a totally new lifestyle. So what happens now that you’re home? You’re not the same person you were when you left, but everything around you remains seemingly unchanged.
Here are 9 ways to deal with reverse culture shock:
1. Share Your Experiences
Now that you’re home it may seem like you’re alone, but your friends, family, and community do want to hear about how you lived like a local, became a master negotiator in the shuk, and found your way around Israel via public transportation. Plus, if you become a mentor for others who want to go abroad, you will always have an attentive audience to share your story with!
2. Stay Informed
If you’re feeling out of the loop, check social media and Israeli news sites to stay up-to-date with current events in Israel. This can not only help you feel connected, but you’ll be able to talk to other alumni and friends about what’s going on in Israel. Don’t just revert back to who you were before your experience; instead, wear your elephant pants out, everywhere you go, and rock it!
3. Write About it
Sometimes, the best way to express your feelings about your experience abroad is to write about. Writing allows you to positively articulate your feelings and express you sentiments about your recent return to America. Ten years from now, you will look back at something you wrote and you and make yourself fall in love with Israel all over again. Not to mention, we’re always looking for awesome alumni bloggers.
4. Stay Connected
It is helpful to have people in your life who shared experiences with you in Israel. You can not only reminisce with them about hikes and nights out, but they are also simultaneously experiencing the same emotions as you, and are the only ones who are able to understand how you’re feeling without words. People you met abroad will be some of your closest friends no matter where you all end up living. The best part about staying connected with people you met abroad is travelling to see them for reunions!
5.Seek new experiences
Find hidden gems in your area, get excited and have yourself a little adventure. Being home doesn’t mean you have to go back to your same old routine: meet new people, explore your surroundings, and try new things. You’d be surprised to find out how many places you don’t know about.
6.Make a Schedule
In America, one part of you will want to see everyone you haven’t seen in months, and the other part of you may want to stay in bed and look at pictures and videos from your time in Israel. Plan time in your schedule to reminisce, but also try to get back into your life at home by creating a schedule.
7.It’s okay to miss Israel
Whatever you feel when you get back from a life changing experience is okay. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to laugh, it’s okay to plan a trip back, but it is important to not let missing Israel consume you. When you miss it, let yourself acknowledge the amazing experience you just had and use that emotion to realize how much you learned. You miss it because of how much you loved the experience and you wouldn’t want it any other way.
8.Let yourself process
Feel it. Dive in face first to everything your feeling. Embrace your emotions and give yourself permission to relax, absorb and really think about your time abroad. Be patient with yourself as you undergo the many different emotions and changes that come along with re-entry to America.
9.Rock your Israeli Look
Instead of trying to revert back to your old American fashion, wear your Naot in the summer, keep your new piercings with pomegranate studs, and rock your genie pants in the supermarket.