Mahla Finkleman, Canadian national manager of partnership and outreach for Masa Israel Journey (standing, fourth from the left), at Kits Beach in July with participants of the Shalom U’Lhitraot event. (photo from Masa Canada)
While the skies were closed for the first waves of the pandemic, with many organizations canceling their Israel trips, Masa Israel Journey saw an increase of almost 40% of North American students and young professionals traveling to Israel to partake in immersive four-to-10-month programs.
Since its establishment in 2004 by the Jewish Agency and the government of Israel, Masa has served more than 180,000 Jewish students and young professionals ages 16 to 35, from more than 60 countries. Offering experiences in gap, academic and career segments, Masa provides an unmediated and challenging journey into Israeli society, culture, politics and history, as well as access for global Jewry to Israeli businesses, social enterprises and academic institutions. Masa strengthens the Jewish leadership pipeline through the Impact and Leadership Centre, based in Jerusalem. When fellows return from Israel, they are ready to engage as active members in their community and many take on leadership roles.
Masa has regained a strong presence in Canada, with a new Canadian national manager of partnership and outreach, Mahla Finkleman, who sits within the Federation of Greater Toronto, and visits communities across the country. Since Finkleman started just over one year ago, Masa has sent more Canadians than ever before to Israel on programs.
This past summer, working from Vancouver, Finkleman partnered with the Community Kollel for a Shabbat dinner for Tu b’Av. Some 60 to 70 young professionals, including many Birthright alumni, gathered to learn about Masa opportunities and ways to get back to Israel for a meaningful experience, living like a local.
Earlier in the summer, in July, the first of three Shalom U’Lhitraot events took place, welcoming back Masa alumni from Israel and sending off others to Tel Aviv University, Masa Israel Teaching Fellows (MITF) and other programs.
A new condensed version of MITF is available now. MITF is an option for 21-to-35-year olds who have a bachelor’s or associate degree and whose mother tongue is English. Applications are due Nov. 1, with three city options to choose from: Rishon LeZion, Bat Yam and Ramle. The program, which costs $720 US, runs in 2023 from Jan. 5 to July 2, and is an exclusive partnership with Israel Experience.
Each city offers its own unique charm. In Bat Yam, you can take surf lessons and deep dive into the Israeli-Russian community. Rishon is Israel’s fourth largest city, with malls, parks, beaches and a zoo. And, in Ramle, an ancient city with mixed cultures and a rich history, the Pool of Arches is a top attraction, as is the Ramle market – additional perks are the spacious homes and a pool pass.
This Rosh Hashanah, look out for Masa alumni postcards on the seats of your local Vancouver shul.