Israel’s MASA Global Summit Molds Future Jewish Leaders

Published: 
January 23, 2019

Source: Jewish Journal 

 

In late November, 2018, 125 Jewish young professionals from 30 countries converged on the Kibbutz Ma’ale HaHamisha hotel for the MASA Global Leadership Summit, a four-day conference packed with speakers, activities, site visits, workshops and networking.

What is MASA Israel? Its staff, alumni and current participants will tell you it’s “the best kept secret” in the Jewish world. Since its founding in 2004 by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel, more than 120,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 from more than 60 countries have participated in its programs, including study abroad, internships and volunteer opportunities in Israel. Its team operates in 20 countries, where they recruit and provide resources to MASA hopefuls looking to launch careers or gain valuable personal development through the organization’s diverse offerings.

At any given time, more than 2,000 students and young professionals are interning or volunteering across Israel at startups, hospitals, venture capital firms, schools, small businesses, media outlets and more. Many end up making aliyah, while others return home and bolster global Jewish communities.

MASA offers the summit twice a year as a forum for participants to meet and learn from one another. On the first day of last November’s summit, attendees gathered in one of the hotel’s conference rooms after a hearty Israeli breakfast. They had arrived the night before, finding their way to Ma’ale HaHamisha by bus or train from around the country.

After a day listening to a variety of speakers, including one of the Israel Defense Force’s first openly gay commanders, and a principal at an Arab high school, participants split into their groups and were asked to make a short video about the meaning of leadership.

They filmed with their phones on grassy patches; formed human pyramids and climbed trees; sang songs and ran around to answer the prompt. The evening was spent networking in the lobby, drinking wine and taking cigarette breaks in the chilly night air.

Participants weren’t just kept to the confines of the hotel. They were taken to different sites to see some of Israel’s most controversial issues play out on the ground. Some visited the impoverished neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv, where African migrants live in relative squalor and face racism from locals. Others took a trip to an Arab village to learn about the lives of Arab-Israeli citizens. These real-world experiences, coupled with the classes and speakers, are all designed to create well-rounded MASA leaders of the future.

It appears that MASA is helping young Jews make that difference. A 2018 survey conducted by Berkeley-based Rosov Consulting of 1,000 MASA alumni going back seven years, revealed that 13 percent of alumni go on to work in Jewish organizations, while 36 percent serve on the boards of nonprofits. Over half of the participants surveyed viewed themselves as “leaders” in their communities.

Read more at the Jewish Journal.

Updated: Feb. 18, 2019
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