JTA — Masa, which runs hundreds of long-term programs in Israel, said participants under age 22 from North America and Britain are no longer eligible for grants for yeshiva and seminary programs.
The move is due to cuts in funding to Masa Israel Journey, Haaretz reported, citing a statement from the program. The budget cuts came as a result of the coronavirus crisis the Jewish Agency for Israel, which helps funds the program, said.
Masa receives half its budget from the Israeli government and half from the Jewish Agency. According to Haaretz, Masa’s typical annual budget is $58 million.
The Jewish Agency in an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency said it wanted to clarify that “there is no specific exception in the cuts made to the Jewish Studies program, which is very important to all parties concerned.”
“Unfortunately due to the Covid 19 implications, we are facing a year where we had to reduce and adapt our overall MASA annual work plan and budget, as both the Government of Israel and The Jewish Agency are facing significant budget cuts.
“We therefore had to adapt many of the MASA programs and scholarship models, not only the Jewish Studies program,” the email said.
Students in yeshiva and seminary programs in Israel make up about half of Masa participants from North America and, according to Haaretz, the grants for such students are not large.
The change for the 2020-21 academic year was announced to the affected schools on Tuesday.
Last month, Masa said it has over 7,000 young adults registered for its programs for the coming year. Demand has increased due to the coronavirus pandemic as universities are still working out if they will have in-person classes or distance learning for the coming school year.
Grants and scholarships for gap-year programs run by the non-Orthodox movements and several Zionist youth movements will remain in place, according to the report. The organization is looking for other funding to make up for the cuts.
Israel closed its borders to the entrance of non-citizens on March 18. It has twice pushed back reopening to foreigners, with a tentative date set to allow in non-citizens for July 1.
The Ministry of Interior has approved special visas to participants in Masa programs, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine, including the seminary and yeshiva programs, most of which begin on Aug. 21 this year.