We sat down with Rabbi Levi Margolin, Executive Director
of Mayanot's Birthright
Israel department to hear what he had to say about the upcoming
Birthright Israel season, the growth and expansion of Mayanot Israel and the newly
renovated office space for his marvelous team.
Interviewer: Thank you so much for sitting down with us and sharing all the
good news at Mayanot, we are excited to hear about the goal and vision behind Mayanot's Birthright Israel
Levi: Thank you for taking an interest, it's a pleasure to talk with
you, especially about such exciting
One of my key operating principles
is that people need to feel that work provides an
exciting and comfortable atmosphere. I also
believe it needs to be colorful, bright and vibrant! You want happy people doing a happy job!
will have more space for flexibility and relaxation. Our brand new
conference space will allow us to come together to
be more effective and communicative as a team.
I figured, let's add light, color and more
space to breathe, because I personally believe that
breeds creativity and success.
Interviewer: Can you share a bit about what it was like during Covid and what
starting up again looked like?
Levi: When we embarked on our post Covid
relaunch, it was fast and furious! Our motto during Covid was "Gam Ze
Yaavor, this too shall pass! And when it does, we'll be here to have you as our
guests in Israel!" And last summer, we did that
in amazing fashion with over 3,000 participants!
Our goal going forward,
while obviously to expand the numbers within the limits we have, is to offer a
high quality product, not just quantity, but quality. The Lubavitcher Rebbe
spoke often about the importance of both quality and quantity. His words are a blueprint for our vision.
able to actually focus on quality itineraries, quality staff, quality training,
quality preparation. And this ties into the new space as well. If you walk in
and you feel like you're in a quality workplace, you're able to put out a
really what I want for the team. For them to
actually feel the difference they are making, and that begins at home -
or, in this case, in the office.
Interviewer: Amazing. So the program is growing as the office is expanding and
leveling up physically and spiritually. That's very exciting to hear. Does your
team have anything to say about the new renovation? Have you heard any positive
Levi: Just to see the team’s reaction when they first walk in here,
makes the whole project worth it. Both for those who worked in the old office
and for the new people who don't know what the old office was like.
walk in you feel like you are in the right place! It's bright. It's
colorful. It's vibrant. It feels special. There's a beautiful
conference room with a glass wall which will have colorful pictures of our
trips on the back wall…and it just opens up
the space and it feels important in a way.
People walk in and
they're very Wow’d! When they come in here it's very much filled with light. We
designed it in a way that a lot of natural light comes in and it just feels
like a bright day and people appreciate that.
Interviewer: It's good when people feel comfortable and happy at work
especially since they are doing such important work here. It’s very nice that
the space reflects the image of the organization, bringing in lots of light.
These are all really important things! Levi, can you give us some insight into
how you see this summer shaping up?
Levi: We are looking at just
over 2,050 participants
on 52 different groups, including our Friendship Circle, special needs group, and our first ever Russian-American Jewish Community Trip, which will be taking place
on June 21st. We are very excited about that.
We have another 50 trips
of almost exclusively college campuses. The University of Wisconsin has about
315 students traveling with us. That's more than 15% of our entire summer participant total!
Several dozen other schools are
bringing anywhere from 5-10 students to 2-4 full groups! We are so grateful to
all our partners, especially our steadfast partners
over the last two decades. I'm proud to thank
our campus partners who really keeps us going. We feel that in a big way and we
want you all to know it, especially this summer!
Interviewer: Are you guys prepared? That sounds like a huge number of students
coming to Israel with us?
Levi: I would say we feel the most prepared than I remember ever
feeling and that’s thanks to our amazing teams. Hotels are booked, tour guides
are booked, airlines booked, names are on tickets, and staff are confirmed.
Our first group will
arrive May 8th. That’s a
little less than two months away. It gives us time to tweak and fine tune the
trips and make sure that they're the best possible product that we can put out
for our participants and partners
know my favorite line! "We don't need to
be perfect, but we do need to be the best!"
So we have almost two months from now to ensure that the product we're putting
out there is indeed the best.
I must mention our land providers,
Arnon Katz, Shmulik Israel and their teams at Masa Yehudi - The Jewish Journey.
With much thanks to them, we feel very much ready to go!
Interviewer: Can you share with us why you think this summer will be even
better or possibly the best yet?
Levi: This summer has the potential to be our best season because of several factors.
Firstly, the team that we have in place, people that know what they're doing.
People with experience either within Mayanot or other organizations.
Also, our partners at Masa Yehudi are fine-tuned
and ready to go.
Secondly, some of the
tools that we're setting up to prepare the groups; For example: pre-trip
orientations for our participants, so they come to Israel prepared with their
questions already answered. Those are going to be held on Zoom so the groups
can meet each other beforehand. They can ask their questions ahead of time.
We are also reinventing
our staff training. We're making it more interactive so we know if people have
questions, they can have the
opportunity to be involved with other staff members, to learn from them and to
learn their techniques.
Interviewer: Wow that all sounds amazing, what a groundbreaking summer it’s
shaping up to be. Just to wrap up, is there anything else you want to share
about the renovation project or the people involved?
Levi: I do want to thank Shana
Cohen from Sunshine Interiors, who came in here and in two hours, set up
the vision of what you see, the natural lighting coming in, the open space, the
vibrant colors. She was able to envision what we needed and really pull it
together in a way that just worked out so well.
a very special thank you! He really spearheaded the
project, pushing things forward and making sure that everything was getting
Also, Shlomo Chaimson for his expert help
with the construction side of things and being the brain behind the project.
Of course, special thanks to Rabbi Gestetner
and Rabbi Shemtov for putting the
investment into this place, for knowing and trusting and believing that, when
we have a more vibrant and exciting workplace, the product will be more vibrant
and exciting as well.
And last but not least,
I have a little cart in my office, for lack of a better term, let's just call
it the whiskey cart. And when
you come visit us in Israel you are welcome to come make a l’chaim and join us
in celebrating the success of Mayanot's Birthright Israel program!
Interviewer: It would be very special for people to have a l’chaim with you
Levi, to celebrate bringing Jews to Jerusalem from all over the world.
I think you guys did a
great job here. People are really going to be effective and bring a lot of
goodness to the world from here. Thank you so much for sitting down with us and
sharing the amazing future we hope to see from Birthright Israel: Mayanot!