Response to Avi Rubel’s article, “Who’s Going to Lead the Jewish Community in the Future?”

by Grace Fantle

In his article on February 10th entitled, “Who’s Going to Lead the Jewish Community in the Future?” Avi Rubel refuted the assumption that there is a lack of young talent interested in pursuing professional work in the Jewish community. I could not agree more with his assessment. As a Masa-Israel and Birthright Alumnus myself, I am one of those students he described. It is my professional goal to increase the number of children going to Jewish camp each summer. I want to work in fundraising in order to ensure that camps have the ability to continually learn, grow and prosper.

I first traveled to Israel on Birthright in 2010 and returned, through the support of Masa Israel Journey, to study at Hebrew University for the spring semester of my Junior year. I knew going into my semester abroad that I wanted to be professionally involved in a Jewish organization after graduation, however I was unsure what exactly I wanted to do or how I was going to make that goal a reality.

Early in the semester I applied to take part in the Lainer-Masa Fellowship, an opportunity that was available to students studying abroad at Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University (and this year at the University of Haifa as well). The Fellowship included a class in which we engaged in robust discussion on Jewish education based issues that were important to us and sparked our interest. Topics included Jewish summer camps, youth movements, day school, Hillel and much more. We also met weekly with outstanding American and Israeli Jewish professionals. Upon returning to the United States and to our respective universities, the Lainer-Masa Fellows had the opportunity to come together at the JFNA GA in Baltimore. It was another fantastic opportunity to network and navigate our way closer to careers in Jewish communal work. Finally, we were all placed into Jewish education related internships both in Israel and back home in the U.S. All in all the fellowship has provided a fantastic platform for us to meet fabulous people and experience first-hand what makes Jewish organizations tick. It has also driven us closer to identifying our career goals.

Throughout this career searching endeavor I have been so fortunate to receive copious amounts of support from both JESNA and Masa. One of the most supportive elements of the program is the mentorship component. As a Fellow you are matched with a Jewish professional, many of whom are actually Fellowship alumni. My mentor is a Jewish professional with ample experience in the field. She has been essential in setting up introductions and connecting me with people affiliated with Jewish nonprofits within the cities I am interested in relocating to after graduation. This mentorship program is something that should expand and be made available to all Masa Israel program participants to aid in their professional careers post graduation.

As I am in my last semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I could not be more excited about my future in the Jewish community. My extended stay in Israel, and the opportunities I was able to take advantage of, helped guide me toward my interests in young adult engagement and development. There is no need to worry about the leadership of the Jewish community in the future, especially with the outstanding work that Masa is doing to ensure that teens and young adults have the ability to spend periods of time in Israel where they can find where they belong in the greater Jewish world.