A delegation of counselors from North American high schools convened in Israel to gain a better understanding of Masa Israel Journey and the impact of its gap year programs. From April 30 to May 5, the 11-member cohort from the United States and Canada participated in a series of programs where they learned about the essential role that Masa plays in providing these programs for young Jewish adults from North America. The agenda highlighted the diverse opportunities Masa provides for recent high school graduates in Israel.

Founded by The Jewish Agency and the government of Israel, Masa Israel Journey provides opportunities for thousands of young Jewish adults to volunteer, intern, work, learn, and educate on long-term, immersive programs in Israel every year. Masa’s gap year programs provide college-bound high school graduates opportunities to gain an international perspective while living independently in Israel and pursuing hands-on experiences.

“We know there is no more powerful experience for determining impactful, positive Jewish and Israel engagement than through the immersive gap year after high school,” Vice President of Masa’s Leadership & Impact Center Sarah Mali said. “So, convening gap year guidance counselors to strengthen and advance our impact in this area is Masa at its best. Ultimately, Masa shapes the lives of young adults with Israel at our heart, and these high-level influencers are our partners on the frontier of achieving this mission, changing the game around a gap year.”

Representing schools from New Jersey, New York, Florida, Maryland, Texas and Toronto, the delegation of high school counselors visited ten gap year programs to learn about the benefits of each program. On May 2, the delegation attended a breakfast meeting hosted by Masa in Kiryat Moriah, Jerusalem with Masa’s Sarah Mali, politician and activist Natan Sharansky, and renowned scholar Dr. Gil Troy.

At the meeting, the counselors—along with Sharansky, Troy, and leaders from Masa—brainstormed ways to encourage high school graduates to experience gap year programs. Sharansky and Troy spoke about the importance of gap year programs in providing young Jewish adults a well-rounded, immersive experience that will serve them for a lifetime.

“A gap year between high school and higher education possesses life-changing benefits,” Sharansky said at the meeting. “It is a chance to learn about yourself, gain leadership skills, and develop personal and professional proficiencies while simultaneously acquiring a unique opportunity to experience Israel, and connect to Judaism, Jewish history, and roots.”

“We look forward to a productive brainstorming session with our friends and natural partners at Masa—thinking out of the box about how to build on our successes, while challenging the Jewish community to change the question we ask our young people,” Dr. Troy said at the meeting. “Instead of asking our high school students in the Diaspora, ‘where are you going to college,’ it’s time to ask, ‘which amazing Israel program are you going on, before college?’”

The counselors echoed Sharansky and Troy’s sentiments, embracing Masa’s mission to boost Jewish and Israel engagement within their communities by encouraging gap year participation in new and creative ways.

“Meeting with Gil Troy and Natan Sharansky was so thought-provoking and inspiring,” Co-Director of College Counseling at Gann Academy Sherri Geller said. “They are creating pathways for educators to brainstorm ways to change Jewish teens’ lives—with Masa leading the way! It was an honor to be invited to contribute to this important conversation.”

About The Publishers
Masa Israel Journey
Masa Israel Journey is the largest immersive, long-term educational experience for young adults ages 16-35. On its programs that range from two months to a year, Masa offers an authentic, unmediated, and challenging journey into Israeli society, culture, politics and history – and acts as the largest pipeline for the Jewish Diaspora to access the finest Israeli businesses, social enterprises and academic institutions. Since its 2004 founding by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and The Jewish Agency, Masa has served over 170,000 young people from more than 60 countries.
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