HomeNewsBusinessCultureHealthVideoNewsletter

Over 10,000 Discovered Israel, and Themselves, Last Year on MASA

"My Masa, My Journey," Changing Young Jewish Lives
By: Sarah Bronson
Published: May 28th, 2012 in News » Israel

When Adrian Rubenstein, 23, graduated from college last year and couldn't find a job in his field in either of his two hometowns of New York City or Leuven, Belgium, his father suggested he go to Israel. A year later, Rubenstein is finishing what he called "a dynamic, very interesting" internship with the French Chamber of Commerce in Israel, a resume-builder he found through Career Israel and Masa Israel Journey. Reflecting on his experience, he said he gained not only a line on his CV, but a new way of seeing Israel and Judaism.

"Living here has shown me the diversity of Israel," he said. "I've met people with lots of interesting ideas about religion, from different religions and different types of Judaism. Belgium is very secular; living in Israel has shown me that religion is very personal and can be what you want it to be. I plan to be more involved in the Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Belgium when I get home."

Rubenstein was one of thousands of young adults ages 18-30 who streamed into Jerusalem's Binyanei Ha-umah International Convention Center tonight to commemorate the end of their long-term trips to Israel with Masa Israel Journey.

Masa, which is funded jointly by The Jewish Agency for Israel and by the Israeli government, provides grants and scholarships for Jews from around the world to participate in any of over 200 programs through which they can intern, study, or volunteer for a period of 5 to 12 months. The program aims to strengthen the relationship between Israel and young people who grew up abroad. In the past year, over 10,000 young people came to Israel through Masa.

Highlights of the end-of-year program, called "My Masa, My Journey," included an address by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu; a discussion with Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency; a performance by the internationally-acclaimed Israeli dance troupe Mayumana; and a panel talk by some of Israel's most prominent athletes.

After viewing a short film clip about Sharansky's life, the audience sat in rapt attention as he related details about his years in a Siberian prison, including the method by which he and other prisoners turned their toilets into makeshift telephones, and communicated via Morse code through the walls.

"What is happening with young Jews coming to Israel," he said of Masa, "is that they discover here they have roots, they have a state. They have a family. They may be critical of Israel, but they say 'I'm speaking up, because Israel is me.'"

Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized the importance of becoming a spokesperson for Israel once the Masa participants return to their countries of origin. "You're taking back with you something very, very precious," he said. "The truth. You can speak the truth about Israel, and that's what I want you to do. Defend Israel by saying the truth and by being proud. Proud of being Jewish, proud of your heritage, proud of your homeland."

Speaking up and speaking the truth is just what Nellie Alimi, 23, of Paris, plans to do when her Masa program is over. Through the organization Gvahim, Alimi has been performing a Masa-sponsored internship at a high-tech company. "I want to stay in Israel, but I got a job offer in England I plan to take," she said. "But I know that even outside the country, I can represent and defend Israel."

Alimi said that she had formerly spent a year in Israel as a university student, but that her experience as an intern gave her an opportunity to experience Israel surrounded by adults. "Students are full of hopes," she observed, "but grownups deal with reality. Many of my coworkers are more pessimistic than I am, and said that I'm naïve about peace and about the future of the country. I was forced to define and defend my ideas, and to show them that I may not know what it means to lose someone in the army, but I do know what anti-Semitism is, and we can bring peace – you don't have to be pessimistic."

Hadassah Mendoza, 25, of Miami, was inspired by her Taglit-Birthright trip to return with Masa, with the stipulation that "I couldn't justify staying in Israel for so long unless it was contributing in some way to my resume." Through Masa and Israel Government Fellows, the Political Science graduate has been performing an internship at Israel's Ministry of Trade and Labor.

The value of staying in Israel for several months or a year, she said, is "instead of just planting a seed [such as on a short trip], now I have roots here, and a relationship with Israel. Going to Masada and the Dead Sea one time is not the same as shopping at the shuk for your food and running after buses. And my Hebrew is better now; it's a good sign when you can negotiate with a taxi driver in Hebrew and feel good about it."

One of Masa's younger participants was Max Rudolph, 19, of Portland, Oregon; he spent nine months on the Young Judaea Year Course, which combines volunteer services with Hebrew-language studies. "I was a High Holiday Jew, and that probably hasn't changed," he said of what he has learned. "But I understand more, and yes, now I want to marry Jewish. And I'll defend Israel on campus if there is slander against it. I definitely plan to come back to Israel to visit."

Related articles: Israel, New York, Masa Israel Journey, My MAsa, My Journey, Jewish, Jerusalem, Natan Sharansky, Netanyahu, Birthright
0 times
IDF Embraces Pride Month on Facebook

Photo of gay troops posted on military's international Facebook page in show of support of gay, lesbian community, garners thousands of 'shares,' 'likes'

Graffiti Thanking Hitler Sprayed at Holocaust Museum

Hebrew graffiti thanking Hitler for the Holocaust was sprayed at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom

Israeli Vice PM sits down with Shalom Life to discuss peace plan, Iran and the new coalition

Gaza Border Clash Leaves IDF soldier and Terrorist Dead

Israeli soldier killed by Palestinian who broke into Israel, before being shot dead himself

Israel Returns Bodies of Palestinian Terrorists

2,000 Palestinians welcome transfer of 91 bodies with celebration

Natan Sharansky Applauds Government of Israel’s Recognition of Reform and

Jewish Agency’s Chairman says decision represents another step towards Jewish unity

IDF Embraces Pride Month on Facebook

Photo of gay troops posted on military's international Facebook page in show of support of gay, lesbian community, garners thousands of 'shares,' 'likes'

Graffiti Thanking Hitler Sprayed at Holocaust Museum

Hebrew graffiti thanking Hitler for the Holocaust was sprayed at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom

Israeli Vice PM sits down with Shalom Life to discuss peace plan, Iran and the new coalition

Gaza Border Clash Leaves IDF soldier and Terrorist Dead

Israeli soldier killed by Palestinian who broke into Israel, before being shot dead himself

Israel Returns Bodies of Palestinian Terrorists

2,000 Palestinians welcome transfer of 91 bodies with celebration

Natan Sharansky Applauds Government of Israel’s Recognition of Reform and

Jewish Agency’s Chairman says decision represents another step towards Jewish unity

news_scroll_down
Blogs
Take Responsibility for Your Own

The 19 year old sophomore sat on the exam table looking at the floor. A college student with obvious charm

The Stanford Prison Experiment at

In 1971, researchers set up a prison in the basement of Stanford University's Psychology Department. The idea was to

U.S. vs. Europe: Health Care

As I have tried to make abundantly clear the United States is the only country in the industrialized world that

Hands Off America

Alright, that does it.Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans have been willing to do their part for

Fat Returns After Liposuction ...

A study appeared in a journal titled “Obesity” which was reported by a group from the University of Colorado. In

What does Victory Look Like?

Sixty-five years ago today, World War II officially came to an end. On September 2, 1945, Japanese Foreign Minister

Share This Story With Your Friends!

Your Name:

Friend's Name:

E-Mail:

Friend's E-Mail:

(This information will not be displayed publicly)

Optional Message: