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Young Jews Enjoy an Expanded Israel Experience

OTZMA Offers Five-Month Journey to Jewish State
By: JFNA
Published: February 21st, 2012 in News » Israel

As OTZMA kicks off its 27th year, young Jews seeking to join Jewish Federations’ premier Israel experience program can now embark on a five-month journey of leadership and service throughout the Jewish state.

This new OTZMA program will offer an additional experience to the signature 10-month OTZMA program, in which young Jewish adults, ages 20-30, can live in Israel, learn Hebrew and volunteer in small communities in partnership with their local Jewish Federations.

“By expanding our program options, OTZMA is able to provide a greater link between the North American Jewish community and Israel,” said Michele Sackheim Wein, chair of OTZMA. “We are excited to bring even more young Jews to Israel to enhance their leadership skills, explore their personal Jewish identities, travel the country and gain a deep understanding of Israel and the North American Jewish community.”

This year’s OTZMA program will also introduce new ways for young Jews to get involved in Jewish Federations. Participants will maintain a relationship with their Federation’s Young Adult Department (YAD) from their first interview to their return home, with extensive interaction in between. By helping to establish a connection between participants and their local YADs, OTZMA alumni will find a natural home within their Federation upon their return.

OTZMA participants will also visit programs and sites of Jewish Federation partner agencies, like the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and learn more about Federation’s work throughout Israel. OTZMA will offer optional internship programs for returning participants at their local Federations.

“Our OTZMA participants return home with such a passion for Israel and a love for the Jewish people,” said Beth Mann, associate vice president of JFNA. “With these new ways of connecting to their communities, Jewish Federations have an unprecedented opportunity to harness that excitement by mentoring and developing these young leaders.”

OTZMA has been helping develop young leaders for years. Since its inception in 1986, more than 60 percent of alumni have served as professionals or volunteers in the Jewish community after returning home.

Plia Cohn is an OTZMA alumna who is now the Israel Engagement Coordinator at the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. “I couldn’t have predicted the impact of my decision to participate on OTZMA, both personally and professionally,” she said. “Through the lens of OTZMA, the place of Israel within my Jewish identity was strengthened in a very special way. As a parent and a professional, I have a passion for Israel that I share with my family, colleagues and community, and that passion was sparked by my OTZMA experience.”

The program also develops a connection to Israel and the Jewish Federation world. Ninety-six percent of OTZMA alumni call themselves supporters of Israel, while nearly 60 percent have donated to Jewish Federation.

“OTZMA has long been a premier Israel service experience for young Jews seeking to enhance their leadership skills, but this year OTZMA participants will have even more opportunities to connect our community,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations. “OTZMA is a vital part of our effort to engage the next generation, offering an incredible opportunity to actually see and feel the powerful impact of Jewish Federations."
Related articles: OTZMA, Jewish, Israel, Young Adult, Pila Cohn
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