Shafron Reflects on Masa Israel Teaching Fellow Program, Heading to Vanderbilt

Tags: Federation, Israel, Overseas, Young Adults

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Partnership: Ellie Shafron in front of the Cleveland-Beit Shean partnership sign at a traffic circle in Beit Shean. Submitted photo


Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

After graduating from the College of Wooster in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Ellie Shafron did not know where her career path would take her, but knew she wanted to spend the next year in Israel.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Shafron, 23, began looking for post-college programs in Israel. That is when she discovered the Masa Israel Teaching Fellow program in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and soon her path was clear.

Clevelanders Abigail Herbst, from left, Ellie Shafron and Allison Cohen at the Masa Israel Teaching Fellow closing ceremony. Submitted photo

After spending 10 months in Israel teaching English to students in Tel Aviv and Beit Shean, Shafron is now starting at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., to study education with a focus on multilingual learner education.

“I really had no idea what to expect walking into it,” Shafron, a resident of Shaker Heights and congregant of Park Synagogue, told the Cleveland Jewish News of the MITF program. “But, it was awesome. I loved it, and I feel like I got a lot of great experience from it that I will take into my schooling and career.”

While fellows can choose where they teach and often spend the entire year in one city, Shafron opted for the dual city track to spend five months in Tel Aviv and choosing Beit Shean for the other five months due to its status as Cleveland’s sister city. In Beit Shean, she stayed with the Yossi and Eti Blise family while at the same time their daughter, Tomer, spent the year in Cleveland as one of the shin shinim.

Ellie Shafron, second from right, celebrates Chanukah with her Israeli host family, Yossi Blise, Eti Blise, Alma Blise and Noya Blise. Submitted photo

Outside of the classroom, Shafron stayed busy exploring Israel with other fellows, volunteering at the English cafe to help professionals practice their English and joining the rugby team in Tel Aviv. But inside the classroom is where she saw the impact she could have.

She described seeing a student go from struggling to reading books in English on her own and the connections made with the children despite the language barrier.

“I really did have a strong impact on these kids, and they had a really strong impact on me as well,” she said.

Not only did Eti Blise host Shafron in her home during her time in Beit Shean, but she was also the hosting English teacher, a role she has served since the program began. Blise chooses a group of her students for the fellow to work with as they learn English and about another Jewish culture through games, studying and experience.


“English teachers are always needed in Israel, especially in our area,” Blise told the CJN. “And it helps me a lot because I teach very large classes, and when a fellow takes a group of kids, it’s a big relief for me. Instead of teaching 30 students, I teach 25 – it’s very helpful.”

Ellie Shafron runs English games for students in Tel Aviv. Submitted photo

While fellows reach several cities and regions in Israel, the program fits in well with much of the work being done in Beit Shean through the Cleveland partnership, helping those in the region improve their English skills and open more opportunities.


“The further you go from the center of Israel as you get into the periphery, which Beit Shean is in, English-speaking opportunities become less and less,” Mark Holz, Federation’s Beit Shean subcommittee chair, told the CJN. “And it’s proven that for the job market in Israel, you need to have these English skills.”

The program is open for young adults between 21 to 35 with a bachelor’s or associate degree that identify as Jewish, according to Masa Israel’s website. No teaching experience or Hebrew is needed. The cost to the participant is $1,200 plus a portion of the cost of their flight, but includes housing, health insurance, a monthly living stipend and $1,000 toward the flight.


“This is a role for people who want to connect with people in a way that will help them long term, but that they can immerse themselves in now, especially Jewishly, especially for a sense of community,” Elle Henig, Federation’s manager of international experiences told the CJN.

Learn More: Federation, Israel, Overseas, Young Adults