Elisheva Massel

On aligning personal values with organizational mission

Elisheva MasselElisheva Massel, MA/MBA’14, Director of Outreach, Hazon

If you know Elisheva Massel you know she's a "glass half-full" type of person who is exceptionally determined and capable. So when she admits to being uncertain about anything, it comes as a surprise.

“I try to [be positive] and I have good days and bad days!” she says, laughing. “That's the story I like to tell.”

The narrative she's constructing is like the white painted line on the side of the road, keeping her on the path and going in the direction she's determined to go. Her Jewish upbringing, family and community illuminate her way.

“Wherever I have traveled or lived, I sought out the Jewish community in one way or another. For me, the Jewish community has offered a sense of belonging in times and places where differences can be both exhilarating and overwhelming,” says Elisheva, who after living on five continents is no stranger to moving from place to place.

“To say that moving is not stressful would be a lie. There's always an element of stress involved with trying to re-establish oneself, for me at least. All those questions and concerns bubble up at the same time as the real logistical work of packing up and leaving.”

Elisheva is now happy to call New York City home. After she graduated from the Hornstein Program in 2014, she took the position of assistant director of Federation relations at the Birthright Israel Foundation where she oversaw the Federation funding for Birthright Israel.

Earlier this year she moved from the Birthright Israel Foundation to Hazon as their director of outreach. Hazon's mission resonates deeply for Elisheva.

“Hazon believes in creating a more sustainable Jewish community and a more sustainable world for us all. That's something that's easy to get behind!” says Elisheva. “It's important to me to be able to internalize an organization's mission at a local level in terms of who I am and then expand that into the context of the Jewish community and then again more broadly towards positive impact globally.”

Elisheva's positive approach to life and career includes a healthy dose of flexibility, allowing for serendipity to play its part.

“There was a string of serendipitous events that led me along the path I'm on today and in a direction I hadn't actually planned out,” she remembers. “Essentially, it was in the middle of my third year of college when I led the Australia March of the Living contingent which then led to an internship and then to a fulltime job at the Sydney Jewish Museum.”

“I totally loved [the work]. It was my entrance into the Jewish communal world as a professional. If I hadn't participated in March of the Living, and if a few other pieces hadn't come together, I wouldn't have found myself working at the Jewish Museum.”

Elisheva credits her family and her Jewish community in South Africa and Australia for providing her with a strong foundation from which to launch into Jewish professional leadership. Not having seen too many women in leadership positions in the Jewish nonprofit sectors in South Africa and Australia, she imagines herself taking up those reins.

How she's going to pay back the generosity of the Jewish communities in which she's lived and worked and been educated, she's not sure. Paying it forward might be the answer. It's in the narrative she's living.

In Her Own Words: An Interview with Elisheva Massel

This interview with Elisheva was published in the Hornstein Program's Impact Newsletter, July 2016. If you would like to quote any part of this conversation, please attribute content to the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University and link to this page. All rights reserved.

“I feel, as a woman who has been given so many opportunities, a tremendous sense of responsibility to take a leadership role. I don't remember growing up and having female role models in positions of leadership. Maybe there were one or two in serious leadership positions in the context of the Johannesburg and Sydney Jewish communities, but not many. I feel a deep sense of responsibility as a woman to take a leadership position and lead responsibly and well, because women historically haven’t had these opportunities open to them.”

Elisheva Massel, MA/MBA’14