MASA: By the dollars and sense

MASA began in 2004 with a budget of $18 million, created equally by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the government of Israel. Though landmark, it’s still a small portion (less than 8 percent) of both organizations’ budgets.

The Jewish Agency and the Israeli government will eventually each contribute $50 million to MASA, which could fund more than 20,000 high school and college graduates on semester or yearlong trips in Israel.

MASA could help fill social gaps in Israel. As the economy increasingly is privatized and the government cuts welfare benefits, MASA participants will provide more than 200,000 days of community service in 400 fields this year.

Everyone who attends one of MASA’s 150 programs will receive a grant next year. Jews from poorer countries such as Russia and Argentina will receive more money than Jews from wealthier countries like the United States and United Kingdom. Grants will range from $2,000 to $10,000, with additional money available for individuals or families with greater needs.

All U.S. undergraduate participants will receive $2,000, while post-graduates will receive between $3,000 and $4,500. The average program costs $13,500.

Nonetheless, MASA doesn’t want to be thought of as a bank.

“We don’t want to be known as a scholarship fund. Our mission is bigger than that,” said Elan Ezrahi, executive director of MASA.