Sunday, February 12, 2006

Masa to disaster

I was quite sceptical when Israel announced its Masa programme, mostly -- but not exclusively -- because it would drain funds from the already proven birthright, which is also potentially much more appealing to un/under-affiliated diaspora students. Several months on, it's been announced that the two organizations are negotiating a merger, because -- you guessed it -- the competition for funding wasn't benefitting anyone.
How would this work? The JPost quotes birthright people suggesting quite heavily that it would mean additional funding for birthright. Ha'aretz hedges its bets with the fears of both sides:
Critics of the union, including Beilin, say it will endanger the reputation and success of birthright. "Masa will not take off, and it might bring birthright down with it," Beilin says.
The Jewish Agency is concerned that the union will mean marginalization and a loss of control for Masa, which is considered to be the Jewish Agency's flagship project for the coming years. The chairman of the Jewish Agency's Education Department, Amos Hermon, says "Masa is a strategic move of the government and the Jewish Agency. Bringing in partners requires very serious consideration."
Personally I'm with Beilin on this. As I've said before, I just can't see thousands of Jews from the diaspora lining up for an entire year in Israel, unless they are already extraordinarily committed (mostly = going to yeshiva for the year), which the kids targeted by birthright, who are the ones whose Jewish futures we should be really concerned about, by definition aren't (see my previous posting on this, link above). Does birthright really want to be in bed with these guys? Wouldn't they be better off waiting a couple of years for Masa to collapse, at which point much of the money would revert back to them anyway? So far, there's been all this money lavished on Masa and it doesn't yet have anything at all to show for it -- other than the harm it's done to birthright.

1 comment:

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