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CEO Message

OTZMA Experiences Strengthen Federations


May 25, 2012 In 1987, Brian Eglash departed on OTZMA, to live in Israel, learn Hebrew and volunteer in a small community in partnership with his local Jewish Federation. It was just the second time hed visited the Jewish state. In Or Yehuda, where he volunteered as an English teacher, Brian became fully integrated into Israeli society and bonded deeply with his homeland. Two years after returning home from OTZMA, he made aliyah to Israel, served in the Israel Defense Forces, then took a job as Israel coordinator for OTZMA. Brian is now the senior vice president of Financial Resource Development at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Although I had a very strong Jewish upbringing, the experience on OTZMA solidified my bond, says Brian. It gave me a wonderful start to my career in Jewish communal service. To this day, one of my closest friends is a fellow OTZMAnik, two of my OTZMA students are working for me at Federation and several others are involved as lay leaders. Thats amazing. This June, OTZMA will commemorate 26 years of operation, celebrating Brian and the 1,400 other Jewish young adults from nearly 100 communities in North America who have experienced the Federations premier long-term Israel program. Some, like Brian, had a Jewish upbringing. Others knew they were destined for Jewish communal work. But many had little Jewish background. Most were unaware what Federation does and the impact it makes on so many people worldwide. But because of OTZMA, these young people invited Jewish Federation into their lives. They learned about the valuable work we do in North America and in 70 countries around the world, and realized how OTZMA connects them to Israel and creates an opportunity to be a part of the life-saving mission of Jewish Federation. Their OTZMA experience began in local Federations, where they met our colleagues and prepared for 10 months of Israel immersion. In Israel, they met local Federation representatives and learned about Federation projects taking place in their partnership communities. They later resided in those communities, got to know the residents, and ultimately lived as Israelis. These OTZMA participants, who arrived in Israel with little more than a Federation contact in their pockets, left with a deep understanding of how Federation supports the community and helps those in need in Israel and around the world. OTZMA is one of many inspiring initiatives offered through the Jewish Agency's MASA program, although the OTZMA-Jewish Federation

connection remains unparalleled among Israel experiences. As a result of OTZMA, 65 percent of alumni have returned home to work for the Jewish community, while 25 percent have made it their long-term career. Whats more, 56 percent of OTZMA alumni have donated to their Federation, while 63 percent have encouraged their friends and family to get involved in the community. Look out at our Federations today, and you can find OTZMA alumni everywhere. Molly Chadis, who attended OTZMA in 2008, is now the development associate for Major Gifts at Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston. Dana Silberstein, of OTZMA Class of 2008, is now the overseas mission coordinator at UJA-Federation of New York. Michael Hoffman, a member of OTZMA 1995, is vice president of community planning and allocations at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. And theres so many more. We are forever grateful for their dedication, energy and support. With so many Israel programs to choose from, OTZMA stands out. It is OUR Jewish Federation program. No other Israel experience produces the caliber of OTZMA alumni, who have contributed so much to Jewish Federations and the community. For 26 years, this program has nurtured and infused our communities with committed, passionate, knowledgeable and transformed young Jews who get involved in the work we do in Jewish Federations and become connected to the Jewish People worldwide. We owe it to our young people, and we owe it to each other, to make OTZMA a priority in our Jewish communities. Display a link to OTZMAs website proudly on your Federations homepage, use your local Birthright alumni lists to reach out to hundreds of potential future Federation professionals and lay leaders, and send the message to the Jewish community that we are investing in the future of Federation by investing in OTZMA. Over the next month, more will get ready to come home, and more will be recruited to go. Who do you know between the ages of 20-30 that could benefit from this experience? How could you help these young adults transition back home? I encourage you to get involved in this effort. For more information on OTZMA, the application process and our alumni, go to www.OTZMA.org or email Sandy Schlenoff, OTZMAs North American Director. For OTZMA and Jewish Federations, lets proudly look forward to the next 26 years! Jerry Silverman President and CEO The Jewish Federations of North America