A NEW initiative by the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) in partnership with the United Israel Appeal (UIA) will offer subsidies of up to $10,000 for graduates to participate in long-term Masa Israel programs.
IsraelGo will offer subsidies of $5000 for four to six month programs or up to $10,000 for programs longer than six months.
ZFA CEO Ginette Searle told The AJN that it was important for the ZFA to be part of an “innovative solution”, while UIA Australia president Lance Rosenberg concurred.
“Israel Go will ensure the next generation of Australian Jewish school leavers are connected, inspired and ready to make their mark as proud Jews and Zionists,” he said.
Around $1.5 million has been raised by generous philanthropists from the community who see the importance in investing in young leaders to secure the future of our Jewish and Zionist community.
Unlike some programs, IsraelGo is based on self-identification of need, allowing funding to be easily accessed by families who require a helping hand.
This is part of the reason ZFA president Jeremy Leibler has called the initiative “a game changer in rebooting gap year participation by young Jewish adults”.
“We have listened to the concerns of the families and stakeholders within the community, and while cost is not the only factor affecting the decision to go on a long term Israel program, it’s certainly a dominant one,” he said.
“We do not want anyone to miss out because of financial pressure.”
Melbourne mother Shoshi Berkovits said she has always dreamed of sending her twin girls on an Israel gap year, but the major cost has been a looming concern. She and husband Isaac were thrilled to hear they are eligible for the new program.
“It is a perfect opportunity to gain independence and maturity while strengthening their Jewish identity and deepening their commitment to Israel,” she said.
Australasian Zionist Youth Council (AZYC) national chairperson Eli Libson, who went on a nine month gap year to Israel in 2017, said IsraelGo will offer “an incentive and opportunity for people to go on programs who might not have been able to”.
“My experience on Machon, learning alongside other shnat participants from all over the world and discussing ways to help our respective communities, was a major source of motivation for me to get involved in volunteer work in Melbourne,” he said.
Reflecting on the leadership skills he gained, he added, “Israel is the only place I would have had these formative experiences.”
Jewish schools have also welcomed the initiative.
“These opportunities make a great difference to one’s Jewish and Zionist connection,” said Mount Scopus College principal Rabbi James Kennard, while Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, principal of Bialik College, said it was “an impactful and meaningful way of helping young Melburnian Jews to develop their Jewish identity, social relationships and confidence, communal involvement and Zionism”.
“It can only be applauded.”
Year 12 Carmel School student Hannah Lawrence said she was so excited to head off to Israel next year that she wrote a speech imploring her cohort to also consider the trip.
“A gap year, often incorrectly referred to as a ‘year off’ is in fact an incredibly essential ‘year on’,” she said, “A year to explore, exercise, challenge and grow one’s fundamental value system.”
Her father Simon Lawrence, the director of Jewish studies at Carmel School, in advocating for this new initiative, reflected on the gap year he and his wife took in Israel, and said he was looking forward to “Hannah spreading her wings after school and learning more about her heritage in a meaningful way in Israel”.
More info: israelgo.org.au, email@example.com.