OTZMA is a leadership and service experience in Israel that offers Jewish adults ages 20-30 (college graduates preferred) an opportunity to live and volunteer in Israel in a variety of settings for 10 months.
· Promotes direct contact and strengthen ties between the North American Jewish Community and Israel.
· Provides its participants with the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution of service to Israel.
· Facilitates opportunities for development of leadership qualities and personal exploration of Jewish identity.
· Offers experiential and educational opportunities that foster a deeper understanding of Israel.
The Story of OTZMA's Establishment
In 1983, a group of young North Americans and Israelis involved in all facets of society -- private industry, communications, business, education, the military -- gathered at the Moriah Hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea.
Both groups had a deep concern about the growing gap between Diaspora Jewry and Israel and were anxious to find true partners with whom they could conduct a meaningful dialogue on the issue of Israel-Diaspora relations.
This group understood that younger generations of Jews don’t share the common experiences of the Holocaust or the establishment of the State of Israel like their parents and grandparents. If they wanted to bridge the growing gap between Israeli and Diaspora Jews, they would have to create a new common experience that would be relevant for both groups.
This, they concluded, would be done in two ways:
· To continue to engage in an open dialogue that would facilitate further understanding between Israeli and the Diaspora Jews
· To initiate hands-on projects. The goal of these programs would be to bridge the gap between Diaspora Jews and Israelis by initiating meaningful and personal contacts.
By January, 1985, the group had created the Israeli Forum -- a volunteer organization with its members dedicated to reaching out to the Diaspora. Its sister organization, the North American Jewish Forum, was created as the counterpart for the dialogue. Once the Forum became an organized body with lay and professional leadership, the idea of OTZMA (meaning STRENGTH) moved from theory to implementation. The program would expose its participants to the diverse facets of Israel, challenging them and allowing them to grow and to develop skills and knowledge applicable to the Jewish communities in North America upon their return.
For the first 25 years, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) would recruit and select young Jewish adults with motivation, commitment and initiative for a service-oriented year in Israel while the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) would implement the program by creating the educational content and facilitating volunteer placements in local Israeli communities. In 2010, the JFNA took over full operation of the program and oversaw the success of OTZMA 26 and 27.
In January of 2013, it was announced that OTZMA would be passed in to the hands of the Israel Experience, a subsidiary of JAFI. The Israel Experience is a leader in the field of providing quality short and long-term Israel programs. We are thrilled that OTZMA will be able to continue its 27 year tradition of excellent Israel programming and are excited for the possibilities that await us in our new home with the Israel Experience.