Rachel Zieleniec

Rachel Zieleniec

Yahel Social Change Program
Program: 
After graduating from Ohio University, I knew I wanted to spend a year volunteering in Israel. While in college, I started Bobcats for Israel, the pro-Israel group on campus, and volunteered at Ethiopian absorption centers during an alternative spring break trip to Israel. This sparked my passion for the Ethiopian community and compelled me to enroll in Masa Israel’s Yahel Social Change, a five-month service program among the Ethiopian community in Gedera.
 
Though that was my fifth time in Israel, I saw a side of Israel that is completely new to me. Every week, I took part in Homework at Home, a home-based tutoring project meant to empower families to create positive learning environments for their children.
On my first day of tutoring, I entered one of my student’s homes to find it covered in trash. It was impossible to differentiate between the furniture and the floor, and there was no place to work. At my other student’s home, the situation was only slightly better—amid the blaring TV and screaming babies, at least we could find a surface to work on.
 
Things did not immediately improve, but I consistently showed up with pencils and paper so that we could get to work. Now, three months later, my student’s mother turns on the light when it’s tutoring time. She lowers the volume on the television and tells the babies to quiet down. A few weeks ago, the whole family joined the tutoring session, and watched their child answer question after question correctly in English. I will never forget the mother’s smile when I wrote 100 on her child’s paper.
 
These kids have a ton of potential, but need a safe space to grow. In weekly hangouts at the community trailer, we set up food and games, and gave them a place to blow off steam. With Chaverim b’Teva, a nonprofit that seeks to empower the Ethiopian Israeli community, we tried to empower the kids and their families to feel pride in their background.
 
Aside from feeling lucky that I was able to see small improvements in the children and families around me, I also felt fortunate that I was able to immerse myself in such a rich culture. Seeing another community express their Judaism in a way that is different from my own has made my Judaism so much broader. Historically, Ethiopian Jews do not celebrate Chanukah because they did not have access to the holiday’s roots, but on the last night of Chanukah, we led a celebratory camping trip for them.
 
In the middle of the forest, a counselor, who had set up a DJ booth, announced that it was time to light candles. Instead of saying the prayers in the quiet way that I am accustomed to, the counselor turned on a techno/reggae version of the blessings and the kids started singing them from the top of their lungs. I had never experienced such a display of Jewish pride, and it was amazing to see them not only celebrate a holiday that their ancestors never even knew about, but to see them make it their own.
 
In just a few months, it’s been incredible to become immersed in this community—to experience its frustrations and celebrate its successes. For a person coming right out of college, I cannot imagine a more inspiring opportunity.

Naomi Siegel

Naomi Siegel

LIFE
A few years after graduating from the University of Wisconsin and working in the non-profit world, I wanted to go back to Israel. During high school I spent a semester in Israel, but because it was the Intifada, I had little opportunity to explore the country. When I found out about Masa Israel's LIFE program, a nine-month service-learning program in Israel and India, I knew it was the perfect fit. I had also been very drawn to traveling to India, but I didn’t know the opportunity would appear so soon in my life. As part of the LIFE program, I would have the opportunity to not only spend time in both countries, but to give back while doing so. There I would be able to pursue community projects with the support of NGOs, working and living alongside the local populations.
 
Backed by an NGO that worked to promote sustainable rural development, I worked with another LIFE participant to develop an art curriculum for Indian schools. Observing elementary schools throughout the state, we were able to create a curriculum that spoke to the needs and interests of the students and teachers. Ultimately, the curriculum called for the use of recycled materials, which not only added an element of environmental awareness to the curriculum, but also made the projects accessible to students from every economical caste. We also created a teacher-training program that encouraged student participation and alternative methods of teaching that utilized art, music and drama. Eight teachers from all different types of schools received this training as well as a CD full of lesson plan ideas.
 
In Israel, I had the opportunity to use my background in alternative medicine to organize an event for the One Family Fund, a support center for victims of terror and their families. In addition to donating my skills as a Reiki Master, I recruited 18 alternative medicine practitioners to offer massage, reflexology, and other healing modalities. I matched individuals to the right practitioners and witnessed beautiful transformations from both givers and receivers.
 
To complement our work in the field, we traveled throughout Israel and India, meeting leaders in non-profits that have significantly impacted the different countries and took part in discussions about social action and cultural sensitivity. With participants from Israel, North America and England, and mentors from India and Israel, we were constantly challenged to look at issues from diverse perspectives, creating an environment of constant learning and growth.
 
Back in the United States, the knowledge I gained through Masa Israel's LIFE program has proven to be invaluable as I take part in creating a center for social activism and sustainable community in Washington. At the center, leaders and activists will learn about social change, leadership and personal wellness. I also continue to practice Reiki healing and network with other practitioners interested in social change. Once again, I am creating something from nothing, and I feel confident in the guidance I gained from LIFE.
 
I encourage more young adults to take on the challenge of LIFE.

Lisa Wilder

Lisa Wilder

Oranim Community Involvement
As a volunteer English teacher in Israel, I recently took a class trip to Caesarea, the picturesque coastal city scattered with Roman ruins. The tour was conducted entirely in Hebrew and I was thrilled that I understood so much of it. Yet, that didn’t stop me from joking and chatting with the students in English throughout the trip. I was amazed that visiting a historical site with 2,000-year-old ruins constitutes an ordinary field trip in Israel. After almost five months in Israel, I've stopped being surprised by things that would be out of the ordinary in other places.
 
I came to Israel for the first time four years ago on Birthright. I loved it and knew I had to return the first chance I had. After graduating from Carleton University with a degree in Public Affairs and Policy Management, I decided to head to Israel through Masa Israel Journey. I am so glad I kept my word.
 
As one of nine volunteers with Oranim’s Community Involvement program, I have spent the last five months living in Ness Ziona, a small community outside of Tel Aviv, and volunteering as an English teacher at a local middle school. One of my favourite activities with the students is interpreting fairy tales and presenting them to the class, which I did with grade 7 students.
 
Before this experience I never realized how much I would enjoy working with students. Even though I do not plan on becoming a teacher, I know that I want to continue working with children from this age group because they are so full of creative energy.
 
Teaching older students is more challenging because it is harder to make an impression on them. However, it is very rewarding when we do manage to impress them, as we did when we assigned them a MadLibs activity and led a debate in English.
 
Aside from becoming part of the Ness Ziona community through my teaching, I have had the opportunity to become close to my mishpacha ma’arahat (host family). Not only have they given me extra support while in Israel, but they have welcomed the other eight Oranim volunteers into their home as well.
 
My host parents’ seven-year-old son, Lotem, is the best Hebrew teacher I have ever had. We only speak in Hebrew and he is not afraid to correct my mistakes. His family has never been to Canada but they told me that a future trip there is inevitable. Hosting them in Canada is the least I can do, considering the amazing trips, meals, and genuine care they have provided me with over the past few months.
 
Living in Israel has brought the kinds of challenges and joys that I could never have experienced on a short trip. Though I will soon leave Israel to begin law school at the University of Toronto, I know that I will always be looking for an excuse to return. With my new family and friends, those excuses won’t be hard to find.

Rachel Present

Rachel Present

Otzma
Program: 
Age: 23
Hometown: Rochester, NY (USA)
Profession: Student, activist
Hobbies/interests: American politics, cooking
Masa program: Otzma 
Future plans: Work on Capital Hill in Washington DC
 
Rachel came to Israel after the war with Lebanon as a volunteer to help with Israel's recovery. As an Otzma participant, Rachel worked with Druze, Arab-Israeli, Palestinian, Christian and Jewish children in the pediatric oncology ward at Haifa's Rambam hospital. 

Getting ahead, and giving back

<div class="masa-blog-title">Getting ahead, and giving back</div>

 
By Rina Gluckman, Otzma
 
I chose to participate in Otzma at the age of 23 because it had everything I wanted in an experience abroad.
 
During the first part of the program, I lived in northern Israel with other Otzma participants and volunteered at the Nazeret Elite absorption center with new Israeli immigrants. With my economics degree and business interests, I was in heaven.
 

Safety and security

Safety and security

FAQ Weight: 
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The safety and security of Masa Israel Journey program participants, staff and partners is our top priority.Masa Israel Journey maintains strict standards for safety and security on all program sponsored activities.
 
As a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, Masa Israel programs receive updated information regarding safety and security regularly and are able to respond to official recommendations.

Volunteer

Masa Israel Journey offers unique opportunities for you to volunteer in communities throughout Israel. Through our partnerships with grassroots and community-based organizations, you can affect change in some of Israel’s most vulnerable populations.
 
Masa Israel’s volunteer programs focus on building strong communities, ensuring the success of at-risk youth, encouraging collaboration and coexistence between local Arab and Jewish populations, teaching English as a foreign language and more.
 
All of Masa Israel’s volunteer programs draw on the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and are guided by the principals of social responsibility and social justice. As a Masa Israel volunteer, you can integrate service with the exploration of Jewish values as you work to create a more just society.
 
Israel's future in your hands. Get started here.
 

Israel Teaching Fellows: A Year of Service for Israel

Israel Teaching Fellows: A Year of Service for Israel

Israel Teaching Fellows: A Year of Service for Israel

June 23, 2011

Masa Israel, an organization most widely known for its assistance for Jewish students spending a year in Israel, has initiated a groundbreaking program for the young Jewish community.
Israel Teaching Fellows, a program created in partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Education, will allow 100 college graduates from the US or Canada to travel to Israel for a year and volunteer as English language teachers in the Israeli school system.
 
"This program is inspired by the thousands of young Jewish adults who travel to Israel looking to give back to Israeli society, says Aaron Goldberg, Director of Marketing and Communications for Masa Israel. "It represents an incredible personal and professional opportunity for these young adults, but also opportunities for Israeli students to learn English from native speakers and to build bridges between Jewish communities in North America and Israel."
 
According to Goldberg, this is the first large-scale program of its kind, specifically working within the Israeli educational system. Masa is taking its cue from other successful educator volunteer programs working in different countries across the globe, such as in Korea, France, and Chile.
 

Good things are growing in Gedera

<div class="masa-blog-title">Good things are growing in Gedera</div>

 
“The first time I tried to grow them for the greenhouse, the seedlings all died – I forgot to water them,” says Annie Shore, without sounding a bit guilty. Her second time around, she was more successful.
 

African Refugee Seder with Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa

<div class="masa-blog-title">African Refugee Seder with Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa</div>

 
Recently many of the current volunteers and alumni of Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa shared their Jewich culture by participating in an early Passover seder with about 500 African migrants in South Tel Aviv.