March 23, 2009 / 27 Adar 5769
Born and raised in Oslo, Norway, Isak Aasvestad did not have a Jewish upbringing, but he did have Jewish relatives. "Seeing the influence of Judaism on their lives and how it affected them, affected me," Isak recalls. Driven by this curiosity, Isak began exploring Judaism. After moving to Sweden, he underwent a rigorous 15-month conversion program before enrolling in the one-year prestigious Jewish study program at Paideia, the European Institute for Jewish Studies.
When Isak first learned of MASA's one-year program to study in the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, it presented the perfect opportunity to learn and experience Torah, Judaism and Israel simultaneously. Although the program has been demanding, Isak says, it has also been rewarding. "The program is hard. Our study hours are long and we have no time for traveling much or even working. But it has connected me to Israel more. And I can see it now as my home."
Isak is says he is considering making aliyah in the future but first plans on enrolling in a Conservative rabbinical program either in the US or Europe. He's studying Judaic texts, both Hebrew and Aramaic, and steadily improving his Hebrew thanks to his ulpan. His family, all still in Norway, are very supportive of Isak's personal and geographical explorations. And whether he eventually moves to Israel or not, the connections and experiences gained through his year on MASA have certainly made Israel a central stop for this Jewish spiritual and intellectual explorer.
With the support of donors throughout the world, the Jewish Agency can continue to fund programs that provide young Jews with a love of Israel and a sense of belonging in the Jewish world. These programs have inspired thousands of young Jews to leave their homes and build better lives for themselves in Israel- with your help these numbers will continue to grow. To learn more about how you can contribute to these vital programs, click here.
To learn more about the MASA program, click here.