Zionist Federation of Australia launches “Israel Go”, a funding initiative providing financial support for Gap Year Programs in Israel
The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) is launching an exciting two year pilot program– Israel Go – which provides financial support for young adults to participate in gap year Israel programs in 2022 and 2023.
In partnership with UIA-Keren Hayesod and private philanthropists, Israel Go will ensure that participation in a gap year Israel program is accessible to everyone across the Australian Jewish community. Eligible applicants participating in a program of between 4 – 6 months will receive a grant of AUD$5,000, and those joining programs of over 6 months will receive up to AUD$10,000. Israel Go support is additional to any other funding support participants may receive, including the means tested Masa Israel Journey subsidy of up to USD$6,500.
Israel Go grants are provided by the ZFA to applicants on an opt-in basis and are not means-tested. Applicants will simply check a box on the application form to opt in to apply for an Israel Go grant if they require Israel Go funding to enable participation in a Masa program.
Israel Go is available to anyone who is approved to participate in a Masa Israel gap year program in 2022 or 2023 irrespective of when they graduated from high school.
ZFA CEO Ginette Searle said, “we can see from the data that participation in Israel Programs, be it a short or long term program, increases the connection to and relationship with Israel, and that participants of long term immersive programs are more likely to become active members of the wider-Jewish community on their return. It was important for us, particularly with the financial challenges that the pandemic created, to be a part of an innovative solution that will see the numbers of participants increase again.”
ZFA President Jeremy Leibler concurred, “we believe that this initiative will be a game changer in rebooting gap year participation by young Jewish adults. We have listened to the concerns of the families and stakeholders within the community, and whilst cost is not the only factor affecting the decision to go on a long term Israel program, it’s certainly a dominant one. We understand the intrinsic value of Israel programs for the entire community, and we do not want anyone to miss out because of financial pressure.”
UIA Australia President Lance Rosenberg said, “UIA Australia is extremely proud to be a part of this critical initiative of the ZFA. Israel Go is at the heart of what we at UIA do every day -connecting our community to Israel and connecting the global Jewish world in a very unique manner. There is no other organisation in Australia that connects the global Jewish family in the way we do while supporting Israel’s most critical asset – its People. Israel Go will ensure the next generation of Australian Jewish school leavers are connected, inspired and ready to make their mark as proud Jews and Zionists. We congratulate the ZFA for their proactive approach, the philanthropists who have supported this as our partners for their vision and look forward to the community embracing this project.”
The Israel GO initiative has also been well-received by principals and other staff in the Jewish education sector, who were consulted in the planning stages. Mount Scopus College Principal Rabbi James Kennard said, “This initiative from the ZFA will have a real impact in encouraging and enabling young people to live and learn in Israel for an extended period. We know that these opportunities make a great difference to one’s Jewish and Zionist connection, and so this funding will directly contribute to building Jewish life and Jewish lives.” Meanwhile Bialik College Principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, declared, “This program, which supports our young people to participate on gap year programs in Israel, is an impactful and meaningful way of helping young Melburnian Jews to develop their Jewish identity, social relationships and confidence, communal involvement and Zionism. It can only be applauded.”
In Sydney, Principal of Emanuel School Andrew Watt reflected, “For the last two years, Emanuel School students have been unable to participate in our Israel Immersion (Chavayah) program. This annual 6-week program is one of the highlights of their school experience, building strong connections with the culture, landmarks, history, and politics of Israel. The support provided through the Israel Go program will provide opportunities for these students and others to experience a gap year in Israel, and we are very thankful for this new initiative, which we hope will see more young people benefiting from immersive Israel experiences.” In Perth, the Director of Jewish Studies at Carmel School, Simon Lawrence, who also has a daughter in Year 12 who would benefit from the Israel GO grant said, “Both my wife and I took a gap year in Israel and we wholeheartedly support Hannah spreading her wings after school and learning more about her heritage in a meaningful way in Israel.”
President of AUJS Gabrielle Agosin added that Israel GO is an “exciting opportunity that makes Israel gap year programs more accessible and attractive to students, especially for those who missed out on year 10 programs. We all know the importance of engaging students in programs after school to provide enriching and growth opportunities. We at AUJS are excited to welcome those students at University campuses once they return to get involved.”
With the gap year program an integral part of our Zionist Youth Movements program, Chairperson of the AZYC Eli Libson said, “My experience on Shnat helped me understand the importance of giving back to the community and how youth movements are able to foster deeper connections to Israel. Shnat gave me the leadership skills I would need as a madrich (leader) in my movement, as well as inspire me to reach for greater leadership positions in my community. Israel is the only place I would have had these formative experiences, and I’m so excited that Israel Go offers an incentive and opportunity for people to go on programs who might not have been able to.”
Habonim Dror’s Rosh Shnat Kerryn Finn said, “Shnat is one of the most important experiences that Habonim Dror offers to young Jews and we believe that going to Israel is integral to the continuity of the youth movement. Seeing families struggle financially to send their kids on the program over the last few years has been heartbreaking and has affected the youth movement immensely. Israel GO will allow for Habo to make sure nobody is left behind by allowing us to make the transformative, inspiring and empowering experience that is Shnat Hachshara available to every young Jewish person regardless of their financial circumstances.”
Meanwhile, a number of parents had some wonderful feedback. Shoshana Berkovits has twin daughters in Year 12 in Melbourne. Of Israel GO she said, “Giving our children the opportunity to spend a gap year in Israel after school has always been a huge priority for Isaac and I but the cost is rather significant. Then add twins to the equation!
The new Israel-go initiative is a fantastic way to ensure everyone has that chance to go on a MASA program and we are so thrilled that this is now available.
Isaac and I believe our twin girls will gain so much from a gap year in Israel. After having a strong Jewish education at Beth Rivkah since kinder we believe the continuation of Torah study combined with living in, volunteering in and touring Israel will be so meaningful and valuable. It is the perfect opportunity to gain independence and mature while strengthening their Jewish identity and deepening their commitment to Israel.”
Praising the initiative, Sydney parent Gil Laishevsky concluded, “We are so lucky to have such a strong community supporting our families this way. These programs help solidify a bond our kids get and hold for the rest of their lives toward Israel. It’s great.”
To learn more about Israel GO visit www.israelgo.org.au