Year studying in Israel fills in the 'gap'

Year studying in Israel fills in the 'gap'

Year studying in Israel fills in the 'gap'

August 1, 2013

Bu Sue Hoffman
 
For Rachel Kraus, a 2012 graduate of Solon High School and an alumna of The Agnon School in Beachwood, a gap year in Israel before starting college yielded substantial benefits.
“I definitely made the right choice,” said Kraus, who had deferred her start at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., to this fall. “One of the most important things I gained was independence. Being in Israel, you’re really on your own. I had to learn to do my own laundry. We shopped for food and took public transportation. I learned to cook and bake. I even had to go to the doctor by myself. “And I made so many friends -- friends who watch you grow as a person,” she said. “I now have places to stay all around the world.”
 
Kraus had traveled to Israel twice previously, the first time as an eighth-grader at Agnon, and again as a high school student through the Diller/Ambassadors of Unity student exchange program. “I fell in love with the people and the culture,” she said.
 
From September 2012 to June, Kraus lived in Israel through the Young Judaea Year Course, a gap-year program for recent high school graduates combining academic study, community living, volunteering and travel. “Our section was international,” said Kraus, who heard about the program from friends. The group included 30 Americans, 20 students from Great Britain and Scotland, three Israelis doing a service year, and a student each from Sweden and Belgium. Like the other Young Judaea sections, they lived in three locations during the nine months. Kraus’s section started in Jerusalem, where they resided in apartments on Young Judaea’s Beit Ar-El campus. Students concentrated on Hebrew and other studies and toured the city. Kraus’s second location was in Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv, where she volunteered in a kindergarten three mornings a week.
 
“I still took day trips once a week to different places in Israel and took a Zionism class as well.” For her final three months, she traveled to the place of her choice, Arad, in the south of Israel, where she volunteered at a day care four days a week.
Kraus, the daughter of Bonnie and Solon City Councilman Edward Kraus, who are members of Solon Chabad, said about her gap year, “I would totally recommend it to anyone. It is so worth it.”
 
Opportunities abound
Young Judaea Year Course is one of many gap year programs in Israel, according to I Connect and Masa Israel Journey regional coordinator Mirit Balkan at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. Masa (Hebrew for “journey”) is an umbrella organization with more than 200 different programs that involve study, travel and volunteer work in Israel.
 
“Today, we see more and more kids in Cleveland going on a gap year,” said Balkan, an Israeli living in Shaker Heights. “In the last year, we had an increase of 20 percent in total Masa numbers,” she said, from 64 in 2011 to 76 in 2012. The students include high school graduates pursuing a gap-year program, college students studying abroad and college graduates seeking further study and internships.
 
“The gap year is a win-win,” Balkan said. “Students are having fun and relaxing, and they are more motivated to go to college. They also earn 12 to 15 college credits. Parents are happy because the experience strengthens their Jewish identity.”
 
Masa programs offer several different courses of study, from science and music, to cooking, dancing and fashion design. Depending on their interests, students can attend classes at the University of Tel Aviv and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which were added to the list of the 100 best universities in the world in 2012, Balkan said. Other available institutions include the Technion in Haifa and the Weitzman Institute in Rehovot, “top leading institutions for science and research.”
 
I-Connect is a local effort of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland to provide “a continuum of meaningful Israel experiences” for young adults ages 18 to 30, Balkan said. Experiences start with Birthright and continue with Onward Israel summer internships and Masa programs.
 
Among Masa gap-year programs is Aardvark Israel, a program recently featured by The Jerusalem Post, which combines immersion into Israeli society with community service, internships, and educational programs, according to Helen Wolf, Israel programs director at The Jewish Education Center of Cleveland. JECC offers need-based scholarships for Masa programs. Wolf said the Jewish Federation of Cleveland realizes the importance of a gap year in Israel and helps with Masa funding.
 
Orthodox community
Of those students taking a gap year in Israel through Masa, 65 percent are graduates of Fuchs Mizrachi, a Modern Orthodox day school in Beachwood, Balkan said.
 
“Just about every student goes,” said Rabbi Avery Joel, who heads Mizrachi’s high school. “We view Fuchs Mizrachi as a five-year program with the fifth year in Israel. It’s the norm. Each year, we have a number of students stay a second year (in Israel). It’s a great opportunity for them to solidify their Jewish identity.”
 
“A year in Israel was amazing,” said 2012 Mizrachi graduate Leora Jaffe, who spent her gap year at Midreshet HaRova seminary in Jerusalem’s Old City. “By the end of the year, it surpassed all of my expectations. I learned so much inside and outside the classroom.”
 
In October, Jaffe, the daughter of Marlyn and Ari Jaffe of University Heights, said she will return to Israel to study at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, where she will major in political science and minor in Jewish history.
 
Scores of students from Orthodox day schools Hebrew Academy of Cleveland and Mosdos Ohr Hatorah in Cleveland Heights are spending the year in Israel annually. Hebrew Academy has been sending its graduates to Israel since the 1950s.
 
Study abroad
In addition to those going to Israel for their gap year, local students are traveling to the country for post-college study. Neil Weeks, the son of Deidre and Tim Weeks of South Euclid, is completing his master’s degree in conflict resolution and mediation at Tel Aviv University.
 
“I’ve wanted to come to Israel since I was a teenager but did not find the opportunity with just the business of life,” said Weeks, who has a bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University in international relations with a concentration in the Middle East. He said he had “a desire to connect with my people, to be part of the larger culture and community, and to walk the land of my forefathers.” He also wanted to see the holy sites and to gain a deeper understanding of Israel’s domestic and international struggles. Studying at Tel Aviv University allowed him to realize all of those goals, he said.
 
Highlights of his year ranged from experiencing an election season to participating in Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) in the country. “The spirit of community and the reality of feeling like I am at home is something that is not like any other place I have been in the world.”

Originally published in the Cleveland Jewish News. Photo credit: Rachel Kraus

Annie Lascoe

Annie Lascoe

West Coast Regional Director

Times of Israel: Dizzy for the dance

Times of Israel: Dizzy for the dance

Times of Israel: Dizzy for the dance

July 22, 2013

Students of the Vertigo dance workshop perform for an audience of family and friends at the troupe’s eco-art village.
By Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel
 
The lights were down in the house and the room was hushed as the audience waited in silence for the performance to begin. And then, a small fat dog trotted across the floor pillows being used as front-row seats, until it was quickly scooped up by a boy sitting, cross-legged, nearby.
 
It’s the kind of scene that always seems to take place at Vertigo, a modern dance troupe made up of the husband-and-wife team of Adi Sha’al and Noa Wertheim, plus two of Wertheim’s three sisters, and their families. They all live at the troupe’s Eco-Art Village, which is situated within Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Heh. Call it a post-modern take on the kibbutz, a collective coexistence of dancers and their families living ecologically and communally and finding a way to meld their art, belief systems and families into one generally cohesive whole. And now, they have brought a host of students into their midst.
 
They were all gathered Wednesday night, kids and all, for Batzir 15 — Harvest 15 — an evening to mark the culmination of the students’ recent work. There are Israeli students who either are completing a two-year program with Vertigo or are midway through it, and six American students who spent the last five months at Vertigo as part of a Jewish Agency Masa internship program.
 
All the students have been dancing together at the Eco-Art Village studio as well as at the company’s headquarters in Jerusalem’s Gerard Behar Theater. It’s been a tremendous learning experience.
 
“The best part about this is you don’t even know who’s who anymore,” Sha’al said, pointing at the mix of Israeli and American students onstage. “They’re all learning how to be artists and thinking about how to do this in real life.”
 
For the Israeli students, the Vertigo workshop generally comes after their army stints and before university education, while the Americans had just completed their university degrees or were in the middle of their studies
 
“The Israelis have had such a different life experience… they were doing the army and then they came back to dance,” said Suzannah Dessau, 20, a junior at Boston University, who has been dancing most of her life. “At Vertigo, they taught me to calm down and relax, to accept that things are as they should be and that it will all come.”
 
For Dessau, a New Jersey native who had only visited Israel once before, the opportunity to live and work in Israel has altered her trajectory. While she hasn’t yet completed college, she decided to accept admission to another two-year dance program, this one with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. She’ll be staying in Israel, living at Kibbutz Ga’aton in the western Galilee, where the dance troupe is based.
 
That’s a fairly common outcome for these Masa students, at least three of whom will be remaining in Israel for the time being. Some of the others are auditioning for other dance troupes in the US and Europe, on the notion that now is the time to try and dance professionally.
 
“What I see is them aspiring to stay,” said Sigal Roth, Vertigo’s coordinator for the program, while handing out mini ice cream bars during intermission. “They want to make it work, here in the troupe and then with auditions and finding work. They’re all really motivated.”
 
Vertigo’s Masa program is still quite new, as the spring semester saw the arrival the troupe’s second group of students from abroad, and it’ll be receiving 14 dancers in October.
 
“The Israelis bring seriousness to the program,” said Sha’al. “They know they want to be in the dance world. And then the Americans try to figure out how to stick around; they arrive as kids and leave here as adults.”
 

Masa Israel Alumni North American Board Retreat

Masa Israel Alumni North American Board Retreat

August 9, 2013 (All day)  -  August 11, 2013 (All day)

  TBD, United States  - 

All Masa Alumni Board members are invited to attend the first annual Masa Alumni Board Retreat.
The retreat will focus on leadership development, programming techniques, and other skills alumni will need to engage fellow alumni in their area and run outstanding events! Details on Retreat location will be announced shortly. For more information or to start a Masa Alumni Board in your community, contact Dena Stein at denast@masaisrael.org.

3,000 Masa Israel Participants Gather for End-of-Year Conference

3,000 Masa Israel Participants Gather for End-of-Year Conference

3,000 Masa Israel Participants Gather for End-of-Year Conference

May 23, 2013

3,000 young Jews from around the world, participants in long-terms programs through Masa Israel Journey, attended the Masa Israel Journey Conference and End of 2012-2013 Academic Year Event at the Jerusalem International Convention Centre this past Monday.
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: The Masa program participants were addressed by the Israeli Minister of the Economy, Naftali Bennett, and Chairman of Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky. They also participated in a panel discussion with the outstanding Israeli sportsmen and women Ariel "Arik" Ze'evi, Karen Leibowitz, and Andi Ram. 
 
Olympic medalist, judoka Arik Ze'evi said, “After a year in Israel, you will be the best ambassadors for our country.”
 
Naftali Bennett, Minister of the Economy said: “I salute those of you who are planning on making Aliyah. We need every one of you. For those of you that are planning to return home, I am certain that after a year here, the State of Israel will remain close to your hearts and that you will continue to visit us.”
 
Natan Sharansky held an open dialogue with the students during which he told them: “Masa participants discover their roots while visiting Israel and they discover that the Jewish people is one family. It is very important to us that you feel part of our family and that you represent us upon your return home.”
 
Masa Israel Journey is a joint project of Government of Israel and The Jewish Agency for Israel. Its aim is to strengthen the connection between young Jews around the world and the State of Israel.  Participants spend 5-10 months in Israel and can choose from a wide range of programs involving volunteer work, studying or professional internships.  Over 10,000 young Jews from 60 countries participate in Masa programs each year. Upon their return to their home countries, many graduates become involved with their local Jewish communities and become ambassadors for Israel.
 

Masa Israel Commemorates Israel's Fallen on Yom Hazikaron

Masa Israel Commemorates Israel's Fallen on Yom Hazikaron

April 15, 2013

Last night, Masa held a moving Yom HaZikaron ceremony for over 4,000 of its participants at the historic site of Latrun. Together, we honored Israel's fallen.
Speaking to 5,000 Masa Israel Journey participants at a Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers ceremony, Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky said, "While in the Soviet prison, … I thought about the three Israeli sportsmen who had visited Russia and had bravely met with us. They told us that Israel was a place of great joy."
 
"I later heard that one of the three was killed in the Yom Kippur war. But, mostly I thought about Yoni Netanyahu. The fact that the State of Israel was prepared to send its soldiers to rescue Jews all over the world gave me great strength. Yoni was 29 when he was killed and was 29 when I was arrested. Every time that I felt that I didn’t have the strength to keep resisting the authorities, I thought about Yoni Netanyahu and it gave me the strength to keep going."
 
 
Minister of Econonmy Naftali Bennett also addressed the participants:
 

Dating Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">Dating Israel</div>

By Ayal Feinberg, M.A. in Conflict Strategy and Diplomacy at Herzliya IDC
 
THE LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP. Like many American Jews, I grew up with an intense infatuation with Israel.
 
 

Technion - BSc in Civil and Environmental Engineering

http://masaisrael.org/sites/default/files/Civil_Engineering_Description2.jpg

Program Description

Taught entirely in English by world renowned Technion faculty, the B.Sc. in Civil and Environmental Engineering program is a four-year degree consisting of 160 credits. The program prepares future engineers to meet the 21st century’s infrastructure creation and modernization challenges.
 
Students will be exposed to economical and management aspects of environmental and resource preservation, and learn how to be proactive in developing clean technologies and infrastructure, and implementing renewable resource alternatives.
 

IDC - B.A. Computer Science

Program Description

IDC's Efi Arazi School of Computer Science offers a one-year gateway program to a B.A. degree in Computer Science. This program offers students a mathematical foundation and exposure to computer programming. Successful completion of the gateway course will enable students to continue on to a 3-year B.A. in Computer Science.
 
The B.A. in Computer Science provides a rigorous analytical foundation in mathematics, a thorough understanding of computer science and IT theory, as well as practical software development skills. Courses in business, marketing, finance, and high-technology entrepreneurship, and a wide variety of general study courses are also available. Optional "systems security" and "computer gaming" specializations are also offered.
 
IDC students are taught by prestigious academic faculty, leading figures in industry and guest speakers, and also have the opportunity to participate in company field trips, internships, and on-campus recruiting activities. IDC has access to a network of over 12,000 IDC alumni working in key roles in top companies both in and outside of Israel.
 

Hebrew University - Hebrew & Israeli Culture Year

http://masaisrael.org/sites/default/files/hebrew-u-culture.jpg

Program Description

The Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is pleased to introduce an innovative option designed for recent high school graduates entitled The "Hebrew and Israeli Culture Program." This academic program will enable students on all Hebrew levels to achieve a high degree of fluency in Modern Hebrew through exposure to the language and culture of Israel. In addition to 8–14 weekly hours of Hebrew language instruction, students will take courses in Israeli politics, culture, history and society. 
 
All courses are accredited and upon completion of the program, students will receive a transcript in order to transfer credits to universities abroad, including Australia, Europe and North America. Students at the Rothberg International School hail from over 60 countries.

Highlights

Participants also enjoy study trips, guest lectures and tours of Israel. The program is held on the beautiful Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University 15 minutes from downtown Jerusalem.
 
 

For more information, contact:

 

United States:
Tel: 1 800 404 8622 or (212) 607 8520
E-mail: ugrad@hebrewu.com
 
Canada:
Tel: 1 (888) HEBREWU or (416) 485-8000
E-mail: admissions@cfhu.org
 
Israel and all other countries:
Rothberg International School
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Boyar Building, Mount Scopus
91905 Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: 972 2 5882610
Fax: 972 2 5882363
E-mail: risundergrad@savion.huji.ac.il