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Taking the Next Step: JFNA participates in Masa Conference
By Matt Cohen

The Jewish Federations of North America joined over 2,500 young Jews from around the world at MASA’s first ever Next Step conference on Tuesday as the young people prepared for life after their post-high school or college programs in Israel.  MASA Israel Journey, which runs 200 such long-term programs throughout Israel, is a joint project of the Government of Israel, The Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Keren Hayesod – UIA.

The opening session for post-college participants featured a lively discussion about how young adults can engage with and find their place in their respective Jewish communities in the Diaspora. Rebecca Caspi, Executive Director of JFNA’s Israel Office and Senior Vice President for Israel and Overseas, urged those returning to their home communities to balance the individual passions and interests that define the younger generation with klal Yisrael, caring for and loving the entire worldwide Jewish community.  Daniel Gordis, Senior Vice President of the Shalem Center and author, discussed the importance of recognizing how much Israel has done for worldwide Jewry and how radically different Israeli society and innovation is today than ever could have been predicted 65 years ago.

A highlight for both “gap year” and post-college participants was a discussion with Natan Sharansky, CEO of the Jewish Agency, on how his Jewish and Zionist identities gave him strength to survive nine years in Russian prisons before being released and making aliyah.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave the keynote address at the closing session, walking through the auditorium and shaking hands with participants along the way. He stressed the connection between Jews around the world and the Jewish people’s historical connection to the land and State of Israel. The hip-hop/funk band Hadag Nachash capped off the event with an electric show, performing several songs from their latest album, 6 as well as the popular “Sticker Song”, a collection of sayings taken from political bumper stickers seen around Israel.

 

Matt Cohen is a participant on OTZMA, a 10-month post-college MASA program. You can contact him with comments or questions.

"Hip-Hop Tziyoni": Hadag Nachash gets the crowd moving at MASA's Next Step conference.