14 Dec Finding Community With Masa
Growing up in the South in Marietta, Georgia, Zoe, 23, experienced her fair share of antisemitism. When she went out west for college, she encountered more of the same when needing to miss classes for Jewish holidays. Those experiences made Zoe determined to find a strong Jewish community of her peers, leading her to explore Masa Israel Journey programs post-college.
“I was asked where my horns were as a Jew in Georgia and professors were not very accommodating when I needed to take off for Jewish holidays and make up projects and tests in college,” Zoe recounted. “Feeling that my Jewish experience was lacking the culture and the community I wanted, I knew Masa, and specifically Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, would be a perfect next step to give me what I’d been missing.”
Masa Israel Teaching Fellows (MITF) is a 10-month fellowship for college graduates who want to make a difference by teaching English to Israeli children in the socio-economic periphery in Israel while immersing themselves in Israeli society. Having been to Israel twice before, Zoe wanted a program that would allow her to live like a local, which she did in Rishon Letzion, a city south of Tel Aviv.
“I knew I wanted to do MITF because I wanted to do something different after graduating college that wasn’t just working a 9-5 job,” explained Zoe. “I wanted to really live in a different culture and grow, and doing so in Rishon Letzion, where I also got to spend time at the beach and with my host family, was phenomenal.”
Besides enjoying teaching kids English and having them help her better her Hebrew skills as well, Zoe found it meaningful to be living in a country with so many Jews.
“It is so nice to know these students now might have a little more confidence in their English abilities in whatever future they want. It felt like we really learned from each other,” Zoe said. “And it was so special to be in a country where I wasn’t in the minority, where people were celebrating the Jewish holidays and knew our history and culture.”
To others considering Masa programs or MITF, Zoe would advise them to lean in and embrace the chance to impact others and broaden their horizons.
“Being in Israel with MITF was the first time in my life I got to learn about the real nuances in our religion and culture which was so cool,” reflected Zoe. “I feel really fortunate to have gotten to explore our ancestral homeland in such an invaluable way. I have always loved Israel but now I feel such a stronger connection to it.”
In fact, Zoe loved living in the Jewish State so much that she’s in the process of applying to make Aliyah and hoping to work in sustainability in high tech.
“If you were to tell me a year ago that I would be trying to move to Israel and would have the life outlook I currently do, I would have laughed, eaten another piece of Bamba, and not believed you at all,” shared Zoe. ”But here I am, hoping to make Israel my permanent home soon!”