Every year thousands of young Jewish adults from across the globe experience life in Israel through one of Masa Israel’s 180 long-term programs. These Masa Israel alumni return home with a much stronger commitment to both Israel and their Jewish identity, and many even assume leadership roles in their home communities.
As rates of assimilation climb and interest in a synagogue-centered communal life wanes, Jews in the Diaspora are growing ever more concerned about Jewish continuity and depth of identity among the younger generations. “The Jewish community needs to create the next generation of Jewish leaders to maintain the community and are therefore always searching for ways to engage people,” explains Ayelet Margolin, Masa Israel Director of Marketing and Public Relations.
As a joint project of the Jewish Agency and the Israeli Government, Masa Israel was established in 2003 with the aim of enabling thousands of Jewish youth to spend time in Israel. During the 2010-11 academic year alone, Masa Israel expects to enroll more than ten thousand 18-30 year olds in 180 long-term Israel programs, including programs devoted to academic study, community service and professional development.
Masa Israel participants spend 5-12 months immersed in Israeli culture, bonding with the people, land and State of Israel, therefore contributing to a strengthened Jewish identity. Research demonstrates that 91% of graduates marry Jewish, compared to a 48% in-married rate among non-participants. Additionally, Masa Israel graduates are 36% more likely to belong to a synagogue, three times more likely to volunteer in the community, and twice as likely to contribute to their local Jewish federation.
Building tomorrow’s leaders
Masa Israel is dedicated to cultivating leadership among young Jewish adults. Many graduates elect to take on leadership positions or work in the Jewish community. While on a Masa program, one alumnus envisioned an opportunity for leadership upon his return to the United States, and ultimately established an NPO called “Challah for Hunger" in order to raise money and awareness for hunger and disease relief through the production and sale of challah bread.. An alumna of Masa Israel’s “Dance Journey” program opened a dance studio in Boston for young Jews with limited financial resources. These graduates exemplify Masa Israel’s mandate to help determine the quality and character of Jewish life around the world.
The Masa Israel alumni community
The Masa Israel experience does not end in Ben Gurion Airport’s departure lounge, but is also a catalyst for long term personal and communal change.
For Jackie Schreiber, the establishment of an alumni group for graduates of the Otzma program, allows her to continue building on the relationships and interests she forged in Israel. "We plan volunteering events, social events, and holiday parties for Otzma alumni in New York. We are always looking to volunteer in a soup kitchen or clean up a garden.”
Masa Israel’s achievements to date have left a notable footprint on the Jewish world in the form of heightened involvement in the Jewish community, and an increasing number of budding young Jewish leaders. For more information, please visit www.Masaisrael.org.
“This article is part of a promotional Aliyah section.”