(Courtesy of Masa) Masa Israel Journey, a joint initiative of the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency and a global leader in cultivating Jewish connectedness through long-term, immersive programs in Israel, has released an extensive study quantifying the impact that programs in Israel lasting four months or longer have on young Jewish adults. Results reveal that long-term programs in Israel can transform young Jewish adults, even those who are largely unengaged from Jewish life, into deeply integrated community members whose impacts are felt locally and internationally.
The study was conducted by Impact:NPO, a consultancy that specializes in measuring the impact of nonprofit programs. Impact:NPO surveyed 2,433 young Jewish adults from the United States between August and October 2021. Among the 1,254 relevant respondents, 497 had participated in a long-term Masa program in Israel—called a fellowship—lasting at least four months between 2009 and 2019; 632 had participated in a short-term program in Israel lasting less than one month; and 127 had never visited Israel.
Findings from the study, compiled into a comprehensive report, include:
- 8-in-10 long-term Masa alumni agreed strongly with the statement, “Being Jewish is an important part of my life.”
- Nearly half of long-term Masa alumni regularly donate to Jewish-related charities or causes outside of Israel and a third regularly donate to Israel-related charities.
- 92 percent of long-term Masa alumni with children will raise their children Jewish, compared to 63 percent for short-term program participants.
- Long-term Masa alumni are over twice as likely to feel strongly connected to Jews around the world than individuals who have never been to Israel (62 percent versus 26 percent).
- One in five Masa alumni (19 percent), compared to (5 percent) of short-term participants, work for a Jewish organization or educational institution.
- Long-term Masa alumni are far more likely than short-term participants to have returned to Israel since their programs ended. Seventy-one percent returned to Israel after their program (versus 25 percent) and 41 percent returned three or more times or prolonged their stay (versus 6 percent).
- Two-thirds of long-term Masa alumni regularly participate in Jewish community programs or events.
“This study represents a tremendous achievement and a source of hope for the entire Jewish world,” said Masa CEO Ofer Gutman. “Looking ahead, we now have concrete evidence of the transformative effect long-term programs in Israel has on young Jewish adults. Israel gains devoted advocates, Jewish communities gain engaged members, and collectively, the Jewish world gains leaders committed to cultivating a strong Jewish future.”
The study includes specific insights into a long-term program’s ability to foster meaningful Jewish engagement among unengaged Jewish young adults. The surveyed Masa alumni were segmented into groups based on their attitudes and behaviors. Among the career explorers segment—of which 48 percent did not participate in any formative Jewish experiences such as bar/bat mitzvahs, Jewish summer camp, or Jewish day school growing up—the majority agree strongly that being Jewish is an important part of their identity, that they feel connected to Jews around the world, and that they feel connected to the Israeli people following their long-term Masa program.
“A new generation of deeply engaged Jewish leaders is critical to helping build a bright and strong future for the Jewish community,” said Eric S. Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York. “Masa’s report underscores the tremendous impact of immersive Israel trips for young Jewish adults, especially for those who’ve had less exposure to early life Jewish experiences. Every year, thousands of Masa alumni return home inspired to lead proud Jewish lives, immensely benefiting their local communities and far beyond.”
The report, “Israel Immersion: The Key to a Strong Jewish Future,” is divided into five sections, demonstrating the multilayered impact of long-term programs.
“Before my Masa program in Israel, I was disconnected from my Jewish roots and felt something was missing from my life. When I moved back to the United States, I knew I wanted to keep nurturing the part of my Jewish soul that blossomed in Israel,” said Charlene Green, a Masa alumnus from 2008 and the director of Changemaker Growth and Experience at the Jewish Federations of North America. “This led me to find fulfilling employment building Jewish community in North America, sharing the passion and love of Judaism I discovered in Israel. I 100 percent attribute my lifelong work as a Jewish nonprofit professional to my Masa program.”