Ten students from the Philadelphia area will be selected for the program, which covers everything — airfare, tuition and living expenses, usually an $8,000 to $9,000 cost — from Jan. 31 to March 31, 2017.
For 24 years, the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) has operated with little fuss.
Every year, it would open its doors to welcome students from Jewish day schools throughout the world, enabling them to maintain their secular studies while simultaneously enhancing their Jewish identity.
But now the school wants to take it a step further, expanding its horizons to include kids from outside the day school parameters. The Hans and Gloria Schott Impact Fund, run in conjunction with the Jewish National Fund and Muss, will offer some of them the opportunity of a lifetime.
Ten students from the Philadelphia area will be selected for the program, which covers everything — airfare, tuition and living expenses, usually an $8,000 to $9,000 cost — from Jan. 31 to March 31, 2017. During that span, in addition to attending class at Muss’ Hod HaSharon campus outside Tel Aviv, they’ll travel throughout the country, getting to visit the sites where much of the history they’re studying occurred.
Having tried out this aspect of the program in Phoenix and Atlanta with great success, Muss’ board of governors decided to bring it to the East Coast. Philadelphia, where there’s been a longstanding relationship between Muss and the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, was a logical choice.
“We want the word to get out that we want the best and the brightest to apply for what we think is a unique opportunity,” said Joe Wolfson, Muss’ Villanova-based national board president. “Kids can to go to Israel to have this unique Zionist education, while also continuing the secular studies they have in high school.
“It’s a seamless transition in and out of public school, where they’ll come back learning the exact same things in Israel.”
The application process runs through Oct. 5, after which a screening committee will narrow the field and bring in finalists for interviews. Winners are expected to be named shortly after Thanksgiving.
While the cost of the trip is covered through a bequest by the Schotts, who designated it for Zionist education to create future Zionist leaders, there are clear expectations.
“When they go, they understand that when they come back they need to speak at synagogues and youth groups,” explained Wolfson, who’ll serve on the steering committee.
“What we’re also hoping and have seen is when we pick these leaders, it creates a buzz among other kids.”
However, while being linked to JNF, which also sponsors Nefesh B’Nefesh, the movement that brings hundreds of Americans to Israel annually to live there, their goals are completely different.
“We are not trying to encourage kids to make aliyah,” Wolfson said. “AMHSI is the best program out there to educate young Jews about the facts and history of our background.
“We strongly believe if we give people the facts it will translate into them becoming Zionists. What we want, at the end of the day when they come back, is to be advocates for Zionism and Muss.”
In addition to seeing Israel, the Muss experience includes a side trip to Poland.
“They do go to Auschwitz and work with the Taube Foundation [for Jewish Life & Culture],” said Shana Sisk, Muss’ associate director of marketing. “The Taube Foundation talks about the Holocaust, but puts more of an emphasis on Polish Jewish history and the resurgence of Jewish life in Poland.”
The key to the Muss program is the way it incorporates secular studies with studying the religious, historical and cultural aspects of Israel and Judaism, Sisk said. It doesn’t favor any particular denomination but religious pluralism, though the dining areas are strictly kosher.
As Sisk explained, the students chosen won’t have to worry about falling behind their classmates here, since everything is worked out beforehand.
“They also have eligibility to earn college credit for the University of Miami, which is transferable to most universities.”
As enticing as this might sound to students — and especially to parents, since it’s essentially a free trip — those accepted must realize they are making a commitment.
“We’re expecting them to be the leaders of tomorrow in the Jewish community and to be ambassadors for the school,” Sisk said. “The school’s really excited to bring more students from Philadelphia.”
Any students in their sophomore or junior year this fall may apply. For more information, contact Dana Gerbie Klein at email@example.com or 617-438-8775.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 215-832-0729