Volunteering for Social Activism in Israel: The Work of Ma’ase

Posted by: on May 22, 2012 | Leave a comment
A participant on Ma'ase Olam, one of the twelve Israel-based Immersive Jewish Service-learning programs that participated in the study.
A participant on Ma'ase Olam, one of the twelve Israel-based Immersive Jewish Service-learning programs that participated in the study.

Ma’ase was established in 2004 for the purpose of promoting the value of volunteering and leading programs for young volunteers in Israel on an egalitarian and professional basis. Ma’ase is intended for young volunteers from disadvantaged populations in Israeli society, who until now did not have the opportunity to be part of the volunteer and leadership circles in Israel[1].

Ma’ase’s volunteer activities take place in diverse communities in the periphery and include the full spectrum of Israeli’s population. The service year consists of three main components: (1) Professional and meaningful volunteering in the field of education, (2) developing personal and leadership skills, and (3) enhancing education and developing future possibilities. Ma’ase’s educational-values approach is based on an egalitarian demand for achievement, maximizing potential, and a belief in the ability of young people to develop and advance.

Ma’ase also provides content, training and placement services to other social organizations that work with volunteers. The aim of this activity is to influence and formulate a standard for volunteer programs in Israel and at the same time, create a source for long-term sustainability.

Ma’ase’s main components take practice through all of Ma’ase’s programs, including Ma’ase Olam, which is a joint ten-month service learning program for young Jews, ages 18-30, from around the world, and Israelis from the social periphery of Israel, joining hands in various activities for the benefit of Israel’s peripheral communities.

One of the highlights of the Ma’ase Olam program is its dedication to a holistic educational process. Since participants are scattered across North America before their departure to Israel, we use Skype to connect everyone. Participants are sent a brief curriculum of a few short readings to do, and then sign up for Skype calls during the spring and summer before their departure to Israel. The educational plan is based on the connection between Jewish values and identity with the notion of Tikun Olam.

Ma’ase Olam places social activism and service at its center. In addition to the training to prepare our volunteers as educators, they will also undergo professional training and leadership development from Ma’ase staff to prepare them to carry out a significant amount of time working on a project to meet the needs of members of the community. Importantly, the community project that they will develop will be collectively designed with their fellow Ma’ase Olam participants and with the members of the Israeli peer group.

Part of the training in Israel includes a focus on diversity in Israeli society, which is also emphasized through participation in Ma’ase’s unique seminar, Ma’ase B’Mifgash (“Ma’ase’s Meetings”), which takes place three times a year. Of the more than 700 people volunteering with Ma’ase in Israel, around 600 attend the seminar, which focuses on a variety of topics, such as personal identity and social awareness. The purpose of the gathering is to bring together all of Ma’ase’s volunteers, who themselves come from all across Israeli society – Jews, Arabs, Ethiopians, new immigrants, members of the Druze community and more – to learn from and with each other designed in a way to inform the participants’ volunteer work, which takes place in disadvantaged communities in Israel.

Our educational paradigm derives from years of experience that will be reflected in the program as –

  • Ma’ase is developing an advanced professional approach: Development of a body of knowledge required by the volunteers to take full advantage of their potential and improve the volunteer activities.
  • Ma’ase has a broad professional and organizational infrastructure throughout Israel, including cooperative endeavors with municipalities and implementation partners.
  • Ma’ase impacts bodies involved with volunteering: It has the ability to initiate and implement innovative projects, integrate varied social bodies and organizations, and influence policy-makers in Israel.

By using universal and Jewish values of social involvement, together with service, reflection and education, we empower our participants to find their own personal Jewish identity and to become active members in Jewish and social frameworks, in their home communities after the program in Israel ends, thus creating a Jewish continuity of Jewish leadership spreading from Israel to N.A.

[1] A new study commissioned by the Adalya Consulting and in partnership with the National – Civic Service Forum, which Ma’ase is a part of, has found real financial incentive for the Israeli government to increase investment in National Civic Service in Israel. The study, National Civic Service for Disadvantaged Populations – Benefit Outweighs Cost by Hundreds of Percent –found that by investing an average of 43,000NIS (around $11,300) for a young person to commit National Civic Service, the government will save between 200,000 (~$52,800) and 500,000NIS (~$s132,100) over the course of the volunteer’s working life.