Masa careers have no limits for this Australian artist J-Wire – J-Wire Jewish Australian News Service

Posted By on August 22, 2022

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August 22, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk

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Avraham Vofsi, originally from Australia, is currently a Masa Career Fellow on Maslool living in Tel Aviv.

The 32-yr-old Avraham said: I grew up very secular and not at all connected to the local Jewish community in Melbourne. I knew I was Jewish, but after celebrating my bar mitzvah, it ended there.Israel and Judaism just werent part of my identity growing up.

Seven years ago, Avraham, an artist, began painting portraits. I moved from making films to being a portrait artist. I was interested in having people share their lives and stories through the medium of portraiture. There is something uniquely intimate about the medium that captured me. I wanted to understand their story and their identity so that my painting could reflect how they see themselves. Without realizing it exactly, each time I painted a portrait of someone elses story, I couldnt help but reflect on my own identity and story. This led me down a path of serious self-reflection.

Avraham started thinking about what it means to be Jewish. He started connecting to other Jewish people online. I never even had Jewish friends. Finally, I was connecting with young people my age who were Jewish and excited to be Jewish.

As Avraham began connecting to his Jewish roots, halfway across the world, in Israel, Operation Guarding of the Walls broke out. This was the first time I was connected to Jewish people when this kind of thing happened in Israel. There was a war going on in Israel, but there was also an online war. This was the most anti-Semitism Ive ever been exposed to. I started seeing my friends posting anti-Israel posts and anti-Semitic propaganda. I had good friends who started ignoring me just because I was Jewish.

This was a huge revelation for Avraham and made him realize that he needed to be more proactive as an advocate for a country he only recently felt connected to, but still never visited. I began reaching out to people who were posting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic posts to begin a dialog. I experienced pure anti-Semitism, but I could not sit back and stay quiet.

After the operation ended, Avraham knew he needed to come to Israel, as he couldnt just advocate from the sidelines. In June, he came to Israel on a Masa Career program with Maslool, where he can develop his skills and tools as an artist, and experience Israel authentically at the same time. With my new connection to Judaism and Israel, my art pivoted as well. I realized that no one else is going to tell the stories of our people as we would, and its a responsibility I have as a Jewish person to share our stories for people today, and for future generations.

In the past, Avraham supported Israel from afar. This time, it is a bit different. Experiencing the most recent operation Breaking Dawn made him understand what life in Israel is really like. This was the first time I ever had to run for shelter from rockets. It made everything more real.

Avraham continues, Im proud that I am here in Israel, spreading the stories in the best way I can, through my art. Im working on a project now about Israelis with meaningful stories. This experience is what ties all Israelis together. Diaspora Jewish experience is totally different from the Israeli Jewish experience. That key difference inspires me to understand what it means to be a Jew in Israel and find common ground.

What is next for the Australian artist trying to spread the story of Israel and Israelis through his art? After this experience, I look back and I am proud of the fact that I was an advocate on behalf of Israel on the internet, even if that meant losing friends over it. This experience will help me reflect through my art on the incredible humanity of this country. I feel more confident when and if I need to go into these conversations again, that Ill know what to say. I know it now firsthand.

The ZFA Israel Programs Department is the local representative for Masa Israel Journey. Post-pandemic, the department is currently experiencing increased interest in Masa Israel programs which range from school leaver gap year programs, internship programs, academic study, Jewish learning, volunteering, teaching and high-tech employment programs. For more information on Maslool or any other Masa Israel Program, please contact the ZFA Israel Programs Office

israelprograms@zfa.com.au or call 03 9272 5584.

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Masa careers have no limits for this Australian artist J-Wire - J-Wire Jewish Australian News Service

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