A Woman at the Wall

I’m not going to tell anyone how to be Jewish and I expect the same respect from others. by Rachel Frank I’m a strong and impassioned supporter of many things, from afar. I have an Obama/Biden 2008 sticker on my water bottle but I never campaigned or donated my time to the cause. I’m a firm believer in a woman’s right to choose and to have control over her own body; I even donated online once to Planned Parenthood. I have a pretty substantial amount of student loans and a degree in sociology from American University in DC which means I care, a lot, about a whole lot. Like I said, I have a lot of opinions but rarely do I go out into the world and emphatically make them known. Can anyone think of a non-overused analogy to explain my point? Put your money where your mouth is. You talk … [Read more...]

Returning to Its Roots, OTZMA to be Transferred to Israel Experience

At the conclusion of this year's program, OTZMA is slated to become a program of the Israel Experience Educational Tourism Services Ltd., a subsidiary of The Jewish Agency for Israel, in a way returning the program to its early roots. Project OTZMA, founded 27 years ago, was originally a joint program of the Israel Forum and the UJA (North America) in cooperation with the Jewish Agency's Department for Jewish Zionist Education. Over the decades the OTZMA program itself has gone through changes; UJA became a part of Jewish Federations of North America, and roughly three years ago - in a cost-cutting move - The Jewish Agency moved away from direct program support. On November 1, 2011, Jerry Silverman - JFNA's CEO - announced the conclusion of OTZMA. Neither at that time, nor at any time since, … [Read more...]

OTZMA: A “Travesty” Not to Waste

OTZMA logo

by Marni Mandell In the two weeks since JFNA announced that it would no longer support or host OTZMA, many alumni have “come out of the closet” arguing that this is a travesty, not only for their personal memories, but also for the larger Jewish community. If this is indeed the case, then this is a travesty that must not be wasted. I started my tenure as the Director of OTZMA in North America in the middle of the second intifada. I was privileged to bring 12 courageous participants to Israel at the height of a time when many, if not most, Israel programs were either temporarily or permanently closed. During these years, many expressed a desire for us to halt operations. Our leadership - including JFNA - formerly UJC - however, believed in the program and backed it with dollars and … [Read more...]

On the Closing of OTZMA: Another Viewpoint

by Doron Krakow I share in the disappointment which has been so articulately expressed on the part of so many in response to the recent JFNA announcement about its planned discontinuation of support for the program at the end of the current program year. At the offices of the American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which is home to the recruitment arm of BGU’s Ginsburg-Ingerman Overseas Student Program, several members of my team are veterans of the Israel Experience world and one is an Otzma alum, so as you can imagine we are saddened to see the program drawing to a close. But while JFNA and its leadership have been taking a pounding from some quarters, I believe that a larger perspective is important. The good news is that Otzma has made an extraordinary contribution to the … [Read more...]

Shutting Down OTZMA – A Missed Opportunity

by Tova Serkin Last week, the Jewish Federations of North America announced they would be shutting down OTZMA, its flagship Israel experience/leadership program. The announcement, made rather coldly and with a sense of defeat (and with little explanation), was sent out with no prior notice to alumni or other stakeholders. Whether this was intentional or accidental, the way in which shutting down the program was handled reflects a problematic view of organizational lifecycles in the Jewish community. … [Read more...]

Reflections on OTZMA’s Closing

Otzma  21; photo by Sandy Schlenoff, North American Director, OTZMA

by Sharna Marcus I received the news that the JFNA will be closing Otzma from a current participant who I encouraged for years to do the program. She wrote, “Hey, I don't know if you have heard but they just told us and the announcement is been made tomorrow that this is the last year Otzma will be run by JFNA. If they can't find a new organization to take it over this will be the last year. I just wanted to make sure I took the time to let you know and thank you for telling me about it/encouraging me. I am absolutely having the best year of my life so far. Hope everything is good with you!” … [Read more...]