Masa participants met with Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky on December 24, 2009, at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Also participating were representatives from Masa the Jewish Agency, and the Begin Center.
“The post-college program is our biggest growth industry,” said Alan Hoffmann, the Jewish Agency’s Director General of the Education Department. The 2009-2010 year brought 9,000 young people to Israel – 2,400 on the post-graduate programs. “Our goal is to bring one out of five young Jews from across the globe to Israel,” said Hoffmann.
Another post-graduate program, the Masa Career Israel
track, matches 250 young people each year with over 300 internships in places such as hotels, consulates, and the high tech industry.
“Israel wasn’t a target for professional internships before, but now this gives young people the kind of global experience that they can put on their resume,” said Ayelet Shiloh-Tamir, CEO of Masa.
Igor Zaystev, 24, is a good example. “My parents thought I was crazy to quit my job and come to Israel,” said Zaystev, a graduate of Baruch College in New York who is now interning at the Tel Aviv University Hillel. “But [this program] has enabled me to tell my parents that I am getting professional experience that I can put on my resume.”
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Zaystev moved to New York at the age of six. He intends to return to the States after the completion of his internship. “I want to spread my experience with others and play a larger role in Israel advocacy to young people,” he said.
Like the other participants at the personal meeting with Sharansky, Zaystev expressed his gratitude for the scholarships offered through Masa
. Scholarships range from $3,000 for a four month program to $7,500 for a 10-month program. “Without the Masa grant I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
For Jessica Jaffe, 28, participating in the Tikun Olam program in Jaffa
has broadened her worldview. “This has been absolutely amazing. It’s such a special program that has really opened my eyes. I wanted to deepen my experience and do something outside my comfort zone, and this struck my interest in getting closer to my Jewish identity in a way that was not forced. This program fosters coexistence. You live and work in a mixed community with Arabs, Sudanese, Ethiopians and Jews,” she said.
Before embarking on the post-graduate Masa program, Jaffee graduated from Rochester University and worked for five years in market research in New York.