By Deb Silverthorn
Masa Israel Journey programs have made experiences happen for more than 190,000 young people over the last 19 years. This year, 14,000 fellows, Jewish young adults from around the world, are sharing in gap years, internships, study abroad programs, volunteering and career development immersive programs. Brice Kohleriter and Kathryn Soria this year, and Grey Slade two years ago, have the Masa Israel Teaching Fellowship to add to their resumes and their memory banks.
Masa was founded in 2004 by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency. It has had more than 190,000 participants from more than 60 countries.
“Lifelong connections of friendship, business networking and more happen throughout the Masa Israel Journey programs. The connections to Israel and the connections to people they spend time with are lasting. More than 60% of our participants come home and are involved in their Jewish communities,” said Ofer Gutman, Masa CEO.
A Dallas native, Brice Kohleriter is the son of Ilise and Kevin and the brother of Juliana and Rhett. He is an Eagle Scout, former BBYO Berger member and Plano West Senior High alumnus. He and his family are members of Adat Chaverim.
Kohleriter earned a marketing degree from Stephen F. Austin University in 2021. He wanted to travel and see the world while also making a difference — something more than a stamp on his passport.
“I’d never been to Israel and I learned about Masa’s teaching fellowship. It’s been a great experience. In Tel Aviv I see the technology, the modern and the city life. In Nazareth, it’s about creating an environment where Israel’s diverse groups create a home, living together in peace. Masa allows you to find independence with a support network nearby and it’s taught me skills I’ll use throughout my life,” said Kohleriter. He teaches fourth through sixth grade students in Tel Aviv and in Nazareth.
A lover of the outdoors, Kohleriter has hiked in the Negev, in the Golan Heights and in Nazareth. During Passover, he plans to meet his grandmother’s cousin, a family member he’s never met.
“There’s a lot of charm here. It was amazing in the Negev to see greenery breaking through the barren landscape. In Tzfat, there was more hiking and I learned about art and kabbalah. Everything about the last seven months has been very special. I’ve been captivated by so much,” he said.
For Kathryn Soria, the daughter of April and Larry Soria and sister of Abel and Lance, participating in Masa’s teaching fellowship was a going home, of sorts. She’d spent summers visiting her grandparents, Sheree and John Garcia, who formerly lived in Israel and now reside in Grand Prairie. Masa has meant seeing Israel, working there and growing for herself.
A Red Oak Life School graduate with a degree in early childhood education from the University of Hawaii, she worked at a preschool on the Big Island and then as a nanny and camp counselor in Dallas. In August 2022, she decided to go to Israel to work at the Aliyah Return Center run by the family of her boyfriend Justus Malespin.
While there, she learned about Masa, met a recruiter, interviewed and in a short time began teaching middle school in Rishon LeTzion and Ramle. Since January, she’s been teaching by day and learning for herself by night.
“We do an Ulpan learning class and my Hebrew language and dialect has really improved. We went to a movie last week and there was very little I couldn’t understand. Almost every week Masa has provided events and seminars with information about what life could be here for those considering aliyah and how to have the best tangible experiences while we are here,” she said.
Grey Sharpe is a 2013 graduate of Flower Mound’s Marcus High School and then Austin College, with a degree in political science and history. It took him years longer to get to Israel but his time there made an impression. He had been raised without much connection to his Jewish heritage.
“I feel like I won the lottery, no longer like an incidental Jew, like part of something bigger. I was embraced as a Jew, regardless of my lack of observance or affiliation. My host mom just kept telling me ‘We’re here to teach you,’” he said.
Sharpe taught in Tel Aviv and Ramla, where he found a community of Mexican and Venezuelans who had made aliyah; with them, Spanish was an easier language to connect.
“The culture of Israel is the most accepting I’ve ever experienced. I stayed with Israeli friends for a month after I left the program and then went back again and stayed at a friend’s place while he was abroad. I’m thinking about making aliyah myself, something I never would have dreamed of before this. The people, the country and the attitudes were something I couldn’t have imagined,” said Sharpe.
In September, Masa released a report based on a study conducted by Impact: NPO, which demonstrated that the organization’s alumni are more than twice as likelyto feel strongly connected to Jews around the world. Eight in 10 long-term Masa alumni agreed strongly with the statement “Being Jewish is an important part of my life”; one in five program alumni who are employed full-time work for a Jewish organization.
For information and applications for a dozen Masa Israel Journey programs, including the Israel Teaching Fellowship, visit