Israel Draws Young Professionals

Israel Draws Young Professionals


29, 2009

They come from Prague, St. Petersburg, New York City and Columbus, Ohio, but the these young professionals all have one thing in common: They are living and working in Israel on Masa’s post-graduate program.
Masa participants met with Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky on December 24, 2009, at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Also participating were representatives from Masa the Jewish Agency, and the Begin Center.
Masa, a gateway to long-term Israel programs sponsored by the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel, offers a variety of programs for young people on their “Gap year,” the year immediately after high school graduation, as well as for post-graduates (ages of 21-30), many of whom have advanced degrees.
“The post-college program is our biggest growth industry,” said Alan Hoffmann, the Jewish Agency’s Director General of the Education Department. The 2009-2010 year brought 9,000 young people to Israel – 2,400 on the post-graduate programs. “Our goal is to bring one out of five young Jews from across the globe to Israel,” said Hoffmann.
The post-graduate programs offers a wide range of choices from working on an ecological farm in Modiin to training in a Kibbutz dance program. The Israel Government Fellows Program (IGF), for example, places young professionals in internships in a range of government ministries, including the Justice Ministry, Finance ministry, and Civil Authority. There are currently 24 fellows on the IGF program.
Another post-graduate program, the Masa Career Israel track, matches 250 young people each year with over 300 internships in places such as hotels, consulates, and the high tech industry.
“Israel wasn’t a target for professional internships before, but now this gives young people the kind of global experience that they can put on their resume,” said Ayelet Shiloh-Tamir, CEO of Masa.
Igor Zaystev, 24, is a good example. “My parents thought I was crazy to quit my job and come to Israel,” said Zaystev, a graduate of Baruch College in New York who is now interning at the Tel Aviv University Hillel. “But [this program] has enabled me to tell my parents that I am getting professional experience that I can put on my resume.”
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Zaystev moved to New York at the age of six.  He intends to return to the States after the completion of his internship. “I want to spread my experience with others and play a larger role in Israel advocacy to young people,” he said.
Like the other participants at the personal meeting with Sharansky, Zaystev expressed his gratitude for the scholarships offered through Masa. Scholarships range from $3,000 for a four month program to $7,500 for a 10-month program. “Without the Masa grant I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
For Jessica Jaffe, 28, participating in the Tikun Olam program in Jaffa has broadened her worldview.  “This has been absolutely amazing. It’s such a special program that has really opened my eyes. I wanted to deepen my experience and do something outside my comfort zone, and this struck my interest in getting closer to my Jewish identity in a way that was not forced. This program fosters coexistence. You live and work in a mixed community with Arabs, Sudanese, Ethiopians and Jews,” she said.
Before embarking on the post-graduate Masa program, Jaffee graduated from Rochester University and worked for five years in market research in New York.
Other post-graduate participants who attended the meeting included Matthew Goodman from New York who is currently on the WUJS program that offers support for artists and writers, Melissa Holcomb from Columbus, Ohio, who is on the Israel Teacher Corps,  Alexandra Kazen from St. Petersburg, who has an M.A. in physics and is participating in the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in northern Israel, and Stepan Kliment from Prague who is studying at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.

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