Getting Together Before Saying Goodbye

Getting Together Before Saying Goodbye

Getting Together Before Saying Goodbye

December 9, 2010

After spending 2010 in Israel on various Masa Israel Journey Gap-Year programs, 150 participants from the 6 Zionist Youth Movements and Israel By Choice gathered in Be’er Sheva at the annual “Sikkum Seminar.”
The seminar was run by the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), supported by the Pratt Foundation, in partnership with the Australian Zionist Youth Council and Masa Israel Journey. Philip Chester, ZFA President, said that “the support of the Pratt Foundation has been integral in making this seminar possible and we thank them for their commitment to this important project.”
 
“Sikkum means conclusion or closure, but really we were opening the participants up to the concept of translating their Israel experiences into personal and communal practicalities as well as exposing them to some of the core communal elements that they will be encountering upon their return” said seminar coordinator Dara Podjarski.
 
The seminar began with a ceremony at the Pratt Foundation’s Park of the Australian Soldier and Military Cemetery in Beer Sheva, which commemorate the Australian victory in World War I that took place in that city. The park represents the relationship between Australia and Israel while simultaneously commemorating history. At the ceremony, Brandon Alter, speaking on behalf of Israel by Choice, said that this generation must learn a lesson from the heroic charge of its fellow Australians “and stand up for our beliefs and Israel’s right to exist.”
 
The main aim of the seminar is to prepare the participants for their return to Australia/New Zealand and an active role in community life. The two days were spent discussing the roles and challenges that they will face, engaging in round table discussions with ex-youth movement bogrim, ex-shlichim and community leaders, covering a range of macro and micro issues and looking closely at working with key communal partners such as AUJS, schools, communal organisations.
 
The seminar concluded with a guest speaker (Nir Tsuk, Director of Ashoka Israel), who provided deep insight into the power of youth and brought home the idea and the power of being a changemaker.
 
Yigal Sela, ZFA Israel Office Director, describes it in the following terms: “They have spent the year peeling away at every layer: from the Jewish world at large, to their local Jewish community, to their youth movement and their inner-self. Sikkum seminar is about putting those layers back together and becoming whole again.”
 
Upon return, these 150 participants will make valuable contributions to the Jewish community for the years to come.
 

Brandon Alter addresses Sikkum Seminar

<div class="masa-blog-title">Brandon Alter addresses Sikkum Seminar</div>

 
Shnat Sikkum Seminar 2010 began with an opening tekes at the Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheva. Brandon Alter, an Israel By Choice participant addressed the ceremony
 
“I am standing here today as a member of the Australian Jewish youth whose gap year in Israel, in my case IBC, is coming to a close.
 

Honing your craft in the Holy City

<div class="masa-blog-title">Honing your craft in the Holy City</div>

 
By Ayelet Firstenberg, Young Judaea Year Course Jerusalem madricha
 
I have been living in Jerusalem for almost a year now. Something really special about the city, and especially our area of Talpiyot, is the fact that you are always a ten-minute walk or bus ride away from being able to pursue your artistic interests.
 

You know you’re in Bat Yam when…

<div class="masa-blog-title">You know you’re in Bat Yam when… </div>

 
By Elana Stern, Young Judaea Year Course, Livingston, NJ
 
Monday of this week was completely hectic. After turning in my Zionism paper and having a morning of classes, we all boarded buses for Jerusalem. Our first stop was the AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel) memorial service for fallen members of the IDF and victims of terror who were originally American or Canadian citizens.
 

8 crazy nights (or days) out for Hannukah

<div class="masa-blog-title">8 crazy nights (or days) out for Hannukah</div>

 
With eight whole days of celebration, you’re probably looking for ways to make the most out of the festival of lights—Israeli style!
 

Learning from a Jewish hero

<div class="masa-blog-title">Learning from a Jewish hero</div>

By Cara Frazin, Masa Israel Campus Intern, University of Illinois at Chicago
 
On September 15, 2010, I had the rare opportunity to meet Natan Sharansky before the annual Jewish Federation Annual Meeting Luncheon where he was the main speaker.
 
As an active participant with the Levine Hillel at the University of Illinois at Chicago and as the Masa Israel intern for my campus, I spend a lot of time educating people about Israel and promoting Israel advocacy. When I was invited by The Hillels o
 

Sharron Topper-Amitai: Bringing Greater Phoenix to Israel and Israel to Greater Phoenix

Sharron Topper-Amitai: Bringing Greater Phoenix to Israel and Israel to Greater Phoenix

April 12, 2011

Now on her second shlichut in Phoenix, Arizona, Sharron Topper-Amitai had her first taste of international Jewish communal work 10 years ago in Manchester, England.
“I was there for two years and I loved every minute of it,” she says. While there, she created Jewish and Israel-related programming for Jewish community members of all ages and started a youth from the northern Jewish communities of the UK.
 
“My husband and I were both born in Israel and it’s been very important for us to work in Jewish communities outside of Israel,” she says. “I love being able to learn about diverse Jewish identities, while sharing my own experiences as an Israeli.”
 
Following her return to Israel, Sharron worked as a JCC director in Israel before setting out on her second shlichut in Phoenix. There, she works to bring Israel into her community’s daily life through concerts, movies, lectures, discussions, and other cultural events.
 
One of Sharron’s main aims has been to introduce college students and young professionals to Israel through Birthright trips and Masa Israel programs, experiences that often follow each other.
 
“When they decide they want to go, we sit together and discuss their options. Then they go and I’m so excited because I know what Israel does to people,” she says.  “They return with sparkles in their eyes and tell me that it was ‘amazing.’ What I love is when they ask me how they can contribute to their local Jewish community and how they can return to Israel.”
 
To keep the momentum going from their Israel experiences, Sharron created an Israel alumni group where Phoenix-based Birthright and Masa Israel alumni meet to take part in Israel-related events. “The work isn’t finished when they enroll in their programs. It’s just as important to keep them connected to the Israel Center when they return,” says Sharron.
 
At a recent Arizona State University graduate fair, where Sharron represented Masa Israel academic programs, Sharron felt especially prideful about her work. “I’ve gone to many recruitment fairs, but I was shocked when I entered a huge hall filled with tons of representatives from universities throughout the United States,” says Sharron. “My first thought was, Israel al-hamapah, which literally means, Israel is on the map. It was incredibly exciting see that Israel had a presence among all those institutions. Lots of people stopped by to show their support and learn about graduate programs in Israel.”
 
Sharron is thankful for the opportunity to be a shlicha today. “We live in an era when Israel and Judaism are changing so quickly. Although it’s a challenge to influence what’s happening, it’s a privilege to be able to try,” says Sharron. “I believe that Masa Israel programs certainly make a huge difference.”
 
Sharron is being honored with Masa Israel’s “Outstanding Achievement in Recruitment” award the this year’s Kenes Shlichim, a conference for Israeli emissaries from across North America.

Exploring ideology and pluralism at the Masa Israel Keshet seminar

<div class="masa-blog-title">Exploring ideology and pluralism at the Masa Israel Keshet seminar</div>

 
By Flora Cantacuzino Levy and Zara Tobias, Netzer Olami
 
On Thursday the 28th of October, gap year participants from one American and six British Zionist youth movements gathered in Kiryat Moriah in Jerusalem for the first Keshet Seminar, which was a collaboration beween Masa Israel, Machon, British Youth Movements, and the UJIA and UJF. Coming from all over Israel, 150 participants met for the weekend in order to discuss and explore issues and opin
 

A Chanukah Tweet Up in Israel

Just your average week in the desert…

<div class="masa-blog-title">Just your average week in the desert…</div>

 
By Leora Lana Kaufman, Young Judaea Year Course, Rye, NY
 
This post would be way too long if I described everything in detail, so I’ll list a few highlights since Sukkot Break.
 
A few days after returning home from our break, nearly our entire section took a bus to the Dead Sea to attend a Matisyahu concert. The bus was noisy, packed, and short a few seats but we all made it there in one piece.