Brooke Cohen, 27, returned from her three-week trip to Israel in 2010 a bit frustrated. She had just landed from her pilot trip, the two- to four-week trip that Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization which facilitates aliyah from North America, encourages those considering aliyah to take. The group helps plan meetings with potential employers and tours of cities with those curious about becoming an oleh, or moving to Israel permanently. Cohen loved the neighborhoods she’d visited in Jerusalem and felt good about the interviews she’d taken, but she still felt like a tourist in the country. She realized she wanted to spend a year there, to learn the ropes of the place and to give herself a leisurely amount of time to shop for a job. She applied and was accepted to the Israel Government Fellowship through Masa Israel Journey. In September 2010, in the office of the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, we met. We were two of about 30 individuals in that program, spread throughout the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance and a few other governmental offices. That year and every year since, around 10,000 Jewish young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 take advantage of Masa’s myriad volunteer and internship programs.
For those of us out of school, the opportunities to spend some time in Israel can be limited. Most programming is centered around gap years or study-abroad programming. Masa, however, has dozens of programs that allow applicants to intern or volunteer in a place of their choosing—anything from the Israeli government to agricultural kibbutzim in the Negev. Many Masa participants I’ve met are looking to either boost their resumes or explore the country before they make the bigger decision of aliyah.
And Masa is only one of several groups that offer such opportunities. Young Judea and the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) have a five-month internship open to 21- to 35-year-olds interested in volunteering in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Past participants have worked in theater companies and afterschool programs for low-income students. The WUJS program incorporates Hebrew language learning, or ulpan, throughout the program, a perk many other programs do not offer. Other programs abound, and more are opening every year.
The advice from alums of these programs is pretty universal: be ready to work hard and voice your opinion. Time management and your ability to manage your number of projects are important in any job, so come to Israel with a clear idea of what you want to get out of a program, and there’s very little you won’t be able to do.
Merav Ceren is a contributing writer to JLife magazine.