I HOPE you can come. Spend a long time in Israel for a CHANGE

I HOPE you can come. Spend a long time in Israel for a CHANGE

Five months free in Israel? That’s crazy! I mean 10-days is audacious enough as it is, but 5 months? Crazy or not I spoke to Momo Lifshitz, founder and owner of Oranim Educational Initiatives who claims that thanks to a partnership with Masa (an initiative that helps subsidize long term study for young diaspora Jews in Israel) and some private philanthropists, he can help you weather the economic storm as you spend time in Israel learning, traveling and doing service work on a program called Israel Service Corps (ISC). For free. That’s nuts right? No. As you’ll see, it’s just Momo. As usual, my questions are in italics.

So Momo… what’s the deal here?

Momo: We are going to have at least 200 people participating in ISC through Masa. We are going to be the biggest Masa organizers thanks to this awesome, long term, service oriented Israel program – that is free!

You want to tell us what ISC is?

ISC is my dream. To bring young Jews for a significant experience in Israel, to give back, to do tikun olam, to grow up, to learn Hebrew. Basically it’s a 5-month Masa sponsored program that focuses on education and community service. It began as a pilot program based out of Ramleh and now we will have it in other smaller towns like Netivot, Acco, Arad, Haifa, Yokne’am – in as many cities as we can in Israel. On top of all that, this coming January we have an internship-based program based out of Tel Aviv that already has 50 participants working in exciting areas like high tech, business, education, hospitalty, non-profit management etc.

ISC Participants will enjoy communal life in furnished apartments. Each will be assigned a host family in their respective communities who they can use as a resource, for family dinners and things like that so that they can enjoy a more intimately Israeli experience. There will be intensive Hebrew language courses, tours in Israel, lectures and conversation about Jewish identity and Israel. In return they do volunteer work in education and related issues in the community they live in.

OK, so what does this whole thing cost?

Momo: Cost? It costs $6000. But what do the participants pay? A refundable $500 deposit. That’s it. Masa covers $3000 and the balance comes from private donors who wish to remain nameless at least for now.

Oooh! You’re so mysterious Momo. Come on… give me a hint.

Momo: אל תתחיל איתי דוד

OK, ok relax. So this is pretty much the only Masa-sponsored program that’s free, right? What you’ve done here is kind of bold, some would say audacious. Others would just say crazy.

Momo: Am I crazy? Of course I am, but that’s nothing new.

Well, it kind of makes sense, I mean given Oranim’s position as a leading Birthright-Israel trip provider, this seems like an ideal post Birthright experience for those who want to supplement their initial trip with something a little more long term, no? I mean when you think about it… not really so crazy…

Momo: Of course! And you get the full Oranim atmosphere – warmth, family, welcoming – a positive jewish experience in a pluralistic, open minded environment. ISC is the only MASA program that is completely free – and as far as your airfare goes, we help participants connect with their local Federations and other programs that help subsidize or pay that.

That’s awesome. Where can you go to get more information?

Momo: Just go to the Israel Service Corps Web site and all your questions will be answered.

So why do you do this Momo?

Momo: It is all about love.

I knew you were going to say that.

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About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • How did you write a post about Momo without his most famous line – “come live in Israel and make Jewish babies!”

  • That too. But he’s well known in certain Birthright circles for the other. And he preaches those exact words at many a presentation in the U.S.

  • Ck…is this a legitimate option for my half-frum/half-treif daughter after Yeshiva High School so she can go and learn how to make out with soldiers, I mean learn about Israel because 12 years of Yeshiva failed to teach her one ounce of conversational hebrew or zionism,)and tour the land without having to be in a “we are going to FRUM YOU UP” Seminary were the pressure to become a baby-making wig-wearer will be extremely intense?

    I did 3 months at Livnot 20 years ago and it was the best experience of my life. I just should have listened to it’s Founders when they told me to stay away from Aish and Ohr Somayach boys. My bad. REALLY REALLY BAD!

    Seriously though, I don’t think $6000 is expensive. 3 credits at Touro is $2500.00

  • Hurray for MASA! It offers over 150 programs, all worth checking out.

    The link in the article didn’t work so I’ve listed it here.

    Go go go, lech lecha.

    P.S. Make sure you’re aware of MASA’s eligibility requirements.

  • Thanks Masa Intern. I put the link back on. My bad. Yes, Masa does indeed support participation in over 150 programs by eligible candidates and it is a great program. And I say this despite the fact that y’all decided not to place banner ads on Jewlicious in your last round of advertising. It’s cool. I’m not upset because Masa really is great. Soon enough you will learn who really loves you.

    What’s the feeling in the office about crazy Momo’s initiative? I mean he really is the only one offering a Masa sponsored program for free.

    And that link to Masa again is http://www.masaisrael.org/

  • Listen… Momo is not in this MASA business for the money. How can you even make that comment if the program is FREE?

    There’s one goal behind Momo’s Israel Service Corps programs: bring more young Jews to Israel. This country was founded by young pioneers. Momo shares this same philosophy and is just trying to bring more young pioneers to volunteer and work here.

    Read through the website – you’ll actually find the Israel Service Corps programs to be just that!

  • I read an article late last spring about how the Israeli gov’t wants to reinvigorate Allyiah and how MASA is a huge platform that is underperforming on a larger scale. MASA is great but more needs to be done.

    Seems to me Momo is grabbing the bull by the balls and doing soemthing about it. Good for Him. Good for all of us!

  • I think it sounds like a great opportunity!
    Good luck to those who do it!

  • Hey as Former Director in Canada for MASA Israel in Canada, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity. BUT, my criticism is as follows: We’ve created a culture of entitlement that going to Israel is FREE. MASA helped give scholarships/grants but in the end the student invested their own money to go. This basically tells Jewish people – Money? not yours, not now, not ever.

    What they don’t realize is that private donors make up the shortfall, and the government of israel, the federations make up the MASA grants. The money comes from someplace. If these students that go on the progarms then started to donate to their federations and/or continue to support the Jewish community (and I don’t just mean marry JEwish and make babies).

    With birthright, with this, with a lot of things, we are creating a monster.

  • I agree with Alex, and agreed with him last year when he communicated similar thoughts to me. The intention of MASA is amazing–just another step in the stairway to Aliyah. However, it has become a monster. MASA has so much money they really don’t know what to do with it all. I think they could be much more effective if they reexamine their spending.

    Side note, why is this posted on Jewlicious? This is free advertising for them, and not the usual news, gossip and thoughts processes of your bloggers. Lo tov Jewlicious, lo tov.

  • Hey Ex-Masa Intern – please notice – no MASA banners on our site. None. I don’t really know enough about MASA to be able to offer informed critiques on the program. I know a few people who were/are on MASA based programs and they seem pretty positive about the experience. That having been said, I welcome the feedback of insiders such as yourself and others who have contacted me directly since the publication of this post. I know a heck of a lot more now – and that’s what it’s all about – the dialog!

    As for Momo, well, I know Momo and he’s a crazy guy. Nuts. Totally. And then he popped up with this crazy free 5-month Israel program… well, dude. I had to write something. I think it’s a good idea to encourage folks who qualify to go on any MASA-based program. If you think otherwise, then by all means, I’m not censoring comments!

  • The thing is, it would be so much more attractive if the participants can MAKE MONEY while in israel for 5 months.

    Sure it’s free, but not having any income for 5 months is extremely hard!– Even if they are offering internships, it’s not enough.

    If the programs’ goal is eventually aliyah, then show participants that they can create a life there, career and all..

  • Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of MASA and think they do an amazing job of promoting long term programs in Israel. They are in their second year of having campus reps, and while I haven’t seen numbers, I would like to hope that there are more participants on long term programs in Israel than two years ago. If MASA wanted to put ads on your site, by all means let them. Because they have a lot of money, they are able to do a phenomenal job of advertising and getting their name out there, in order to let the public know about these programs. No one outside the small Israel programs community would know about such programs as Budokan (martial arts on the beach) or Artneuland (creative arts, and best name EVER for a program) without MASA.

    That being said, I am uneasy about the idea of giving out free money to participate in programs in Israel. Taglit-birthright israel was an experiment that had incredible success in building the Zionist scaffolding and putting Israel on the agenda for Gen X/Gen Y. Having these common shared experiences amongst our generation is vital to the perpetuation of the Jewish future. One would hope that participation in Taglit or a MASA program will lead to Aliyah or a sustained commitment to Israel, but unfortunately this is not always true. Some participants “take the money and run,”without wanting to give back. At some point though, we have to stop giving individuals free money. Especially in today’s economic crisis, I wonder if the MASA grants are better off used for something else. Other than give free money, what can we do to perpetuate the Jewish future?

    As for Lin’s comment, I agree, being on a MASA program is rough on your bank account. It is possible to get a work visa (or get paid under the table) while in Israel. Additionally, if you go on a program like CareerIsrael or Stagerim, or another program that has an internship component, many of the employers ask the interns to stay on for pay past the end of the program.