Bayonne graduate spotlighted in Israel government film
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Bayonne graduate spotlighted in Israel government film

JERUSALEM – Michael Faivush of Bayonne, 24, didn’t come to Israel to be a movie star.

He came to take part in Israel Government Fellows, a professional internship program for young adults from overseas. He is in the middle of a 10-month stint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Jewish Communities Department and its Department for Combating Antisemitism. But Faivush was put in front of the camera for a short promotional film about the program, which will be posted on its website, www.igf.org.il.

“It’s meant for perspective applicants, and it showed some glimpses of our experiences,” Faivush said.

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Government Fellow Michael Faivush in front of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For his internship, Faivush, who graduated from Bayonne High School and New Jersey City University, was assigned two main tasks: planning this summer’s Young Jewish Leaders Diplomatic Seminar and coordinating the fourth international Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism. Both will take place in Jerusalem while he is still in town. He is being mentored by Ami Mehl, a former Israeli ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Until participating in a Birthright trip two summers ago, Faivush never had visited Israel. He was raised in an affiliated Reform household; his grandparents were founders of Temple Beth Am and his mother at one time served as its president. “I was engaged with the Jewish community but not so much with Israel,” Faivush said. “Birthright gave me the motivation to come back.”

It was a Birthright mailing that brought him to an Israel conference in New York, where he learned about the IGF through MASA Israel Journey, a Jewish Agency- and government-supported clearinghouse for gap-year, study-abroad, post-college, and volunteer programs in Israel for young Jewish adults. “I spoke to someone at the IGF, and it interested me, so I applied for it and got it,” said Faivush, a psychology major with double minors in philosophy, religion, and international studies. Faivush dorms with 21 other fellows in the International Student Village at the Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus in Jerusalem.

“I feel positive about Israel now,” he said. “The relationship has grown and matured from living here. I’m somewhat in a bubble, because everyone speaks English to me and I live in a student village. But it’s as close I can get to real Israeli life, and I am taking a lot in, so it’s changing my relationship with Israel.”

The film in which he is featured also turns the spotlight on fellows from Russia, Canada, and the United States as they speak about their experience working at the heart of government.

Established in 2007, the IGF program is based in the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, bringing to life the former prime minister’s vision of strengthening connections between the diaspora and Israel. Fellows join the program after graduating college or a few years later, after spending some time working in their field.

“Most countries are not rushing to bring foreign nationals into key ministries,” the IGF’s program director, Paul Gross, said. “However, we believe that one way to connect diaspora Jews with Israel is to provide them with the opportunity to be involved with the decisions being made at the highest level in Israel.”

For Faivush, the program has provided “a chance to examine Jewish identity in a Jewish society. It’s very different than the Jewish identity we know in New York and New Jersey.

“Being around Jews nonstop impacts the way you view what it means to be Jewish. It gives you a fuller Jewish connection,” he said.

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