Days after the Orthodox community worldwide raised an outcry against the elimination of all Masa grants and scholarships to religious programs for students under age 22, Masa Israel Journey has had a change of heart, much to the relief of yeshiva and seminary bound-students and their parents.

As previously reported in The Jewish Press, coronavirus-related budget cuts had Masa drastically trimming its budget, the axe falling on its Jewish studies programs. Previously, qualifying American students had received nearly $3,000 in grants, with as much as $7,800 allocated to British students. After an initial outcry, Masa did agree to match funding raised to replace the grants, explained Rabbi Reuven Taragin, dean of overseas students at Yeshivat HaKotel, but even that amount still left parents facing a shortfall that could have imperiled their child’s year of study and had potentially devastating financial repercussions for yeshivas and seminaries.

The global Torah community moved quickly, with the World Mizrachi Movement leading the charge, leveraging its relationships within the Jewish Agency to advocate for the funding to be restored. Within a period of just 12 hours, more than 50 yeshivas and seminaries spanning the spectrum of Orthodox Jewry, as well as Yeshiva University, the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America, AMIT, NCSY, National Council of Young Israel, Religious Zionists of America, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and United Synagogue, Mizrachi and Bnei Akiva of Great Britain all signing on a letter asking the Jewish Agency and Masa to reconsider its decision. Also joining in the effort from the sidelines was Rabbi Pesach Lerner and his fledgling Eretz HaKodesh movement representing the Charedi community, who reached out to Charedi members of the Knesset, rallying them to the cause as well.

After multiple emergency meetings, Masa agreed to restore 75 percent of the funding it would have normally allocated for students attending religious schools, with yeshivas and seminaries agreeing to pay the remaining amount. Plans for a fundraiser to cover the shortfall are already underway, said Rabbi Taragin. Read more at JP