They Came to Israel as Interns. Thanks to COVID-19, They’re Staying

Jul. 22, 2021

Source: Haaretz 


There is growing cadre of Jewish graduates and professionals from overseas who have decided against returning home once their internships in Israel are up. Instead, they are applying for new immigrant status, having concluded that their social and professional prospects are better in Israel.

Mostly in their mid-twenties, they are enrolled in internship programs offered by Masa Israel, an organization that brings thousands of young Jewish adults to Israel every year to study, volunteer and work. It is the largest sponsor of internship programs in Israel, which typically last from several months to a full year.

According to the organization, an estimated 3,000 Diaspora Jews participate in its internship programs every year. In past years, on average, 35 percent would stay on after their programs were over and make aliyah. However, since the outbreak of the pandemic, their share has doubled to 70 percent.

“Interns in Israeli companies have the opportunity to jump into the deep water right at the start, as opposed to their counterparts abroad who typically begin at the bottom of the totem pole,” says Masa CEO Ofer Gutman. “But what we have seen since the outbreak of COVID is that many young Jewish adults from around the world sense that their career opportunities have narrowed and they’re looking for other options.”

According to Elan Ezrahi, who served as Masa’s first executive director when it was founded in 2004, promoting aliyah was never the organization’s prime mission.

“It’s not that we wanted to discourage aliyah, but we didn’t see this particular project as a vehicle for it,” says Ezrahi, who teaches graduate courses on Jewish world affairs at the University of Haifa. “The original idea was to provide young Jewish adults with impactful experiences in Israel so that they could be more committed Jews, wherever they were.”
He notes that young professionals from certain countries – primarily France, Russia and Ukraine – have long seen Masa programs as an opportunity to segue into life in Israel rather than a short-term, living-abroad experience.

But if this trend is spreading to other countries like the United States, he says, “that would be very interesting.”

Read the entire article in Haaretz.


Updated: Aug. 01, 2021