We were well into the 24th hour of the national Masa Israel Journey staff training and it seemed like we’d crammed in every topic possible: marketing campaigns (or, how to present Israel as a more attractive destination than the headlines make it seem), the new CRM (or, how to gather information about every young Jew in North America), and recruitment (or, how to sign up as many people as possible for internship, service and academic programs in Israel). Our boss reminded us: “Our work is all about numbers!” Or, in other words, we measure our success by the number of young adults that we register for Israel programs.
It was 8am and we were just about to begin our final hours of training when Zoe Jick, one of our dedicated recruiters, made us pause. “Isn’t it funny,” she mused. “Our work revolves around Israel and yet, I don’t know any of your politics.”
I looked at the 23 other staff members around the room and realized that the same could be said for me. I have worked at Masa Israel for four years. Some of my co-workers are good friends. We speak about Israel non-stop. We have Israeli counterparts we communicate with each day. We follow Israeli news, sharing the hope that Israel stays out of conflict. After all, we need to keep our numbers up.
Still, Zoe’s words were true. I know nothing about the nuances of my co-workers’ politics, but this, in fact, isn’t too surprising. The work we do has no relation to our individual politics, nor to our beliefs, ideologies, or religious backgrounds.
My co-workers are diverse—we come from cities across North America, including New York City, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Cleveland. We are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, unaffiliated, and disinterested in Judaism as a religion. We are hippies, straight-laced, hipsters, and intellectuals. We are fourth-generation American, Israeli, Iraqi, Mexican, and Indian Jews. We are products of Birthright, day school, Jewish camp, or fate. Though we each spent time in Israel through a different program—be it on a service program like, Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv, or a gap year program, like Young Judaea Year Course, a yeshiva, like Ohr Sameach, or a study abroad program, like Hebrew University—we all share one thing in common. Each one of us had an experience in Israel that changed our lives and made us passionate about giving that experience to others.
As our director of recruitment, Jaclyn Mishal, later said, “We might get caught up in our day-to-day tasks, but when we take a step back, we see that through our work, we are transforming a country and a people. We are giving Jewish young adults the opportunity to fall in love with Israel and make it a part of their lives forever.”
I received a call on Friday afternoon from a boy I babysat while I was in high school. Now in college, he wanted to learn about internship programs in Israel. Thrilled, I sent him a ton of information and told him to be in touch with all of his questions. Hanging up the phone, I thought: One more recruit to add to our numbers, and most importantly, one more person on the brink of having a life-changing Israel experience.