– by Donna Breitbart
A group of ten Greater Philadelphia high school sophomores and juniors will now have the opportunity to embark on a spiritual journey and connect with their Jewish identities by attending the Jewish National Fund’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI-JNF). The selected students will travel to Israel as fellows of the 2017 Hans and Gloria Schott Impact Fund.
Established through the generosity of Hans and Gloria Schott and the JNF Boruchin Israel Education Advocacy Center, this fellowship opportunity will enable Jewish high school students from the Philadelphia area to explore and discover their connection to the land, people, history and culture of Israel. The fellows will receive tuition, on-campus housing, meal plans, educational materials and trip costs for the Winter 2017 eight-week session at AMHSI-JNF, all part of AMHSI’s Leadership Track.
AMHSI-JNF, a pioneer in Israel education, is a college-preparatory, international study abroad program for high school students where the land of Israel is a living classroom. This program has inspired thousands of students over the last 44 years. Among its alumni is Michael Levin, the young man from Philadelphia who made aliyah, joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and was killed fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Devorah Treatman, daughter of Philadelphia Jewish Voice editor and board member Ronit Treatman, also went on to join the IDF after her experience at the Alexander Muss High School. Her younger brother David participated in AMHSI-JNF when he was in high school too, and he created the following video of his experience.
“For many of these students, this will be the longest period of time and the farthest distance that they spend away from home,” says Director of Admissions Dana Gerbie Klein. “It is an incredible opportunity that not only prepares them for college on both an academic level and in maturity, but allows them to find their own voice for and connection to Israel.”
Mollie Blum, a student from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting who returned from AMHSI-JNF in April, described it as “an unforgettable experience.” She said, “It gave me the opportunity to learn, in depth, about the history of my people in the places where the events occurred, all while creating everlasting friendships. After being at AMHSI, I feel much more connected with Israel and in tune with Judaism.”
Blum added, “I learned a great deal of responsibility.I had to learn quickly how to manage my time and my money, which I know will come in handy when I head off to college. I am so grateful to all of the people who helped me get to Muss, and I can’t imagine a high school experience without it.”
Along with the transformative weeks the students spend in Israel, the Hans and Gloria Schott Impact Fellows also spend a week in Poland. This part of the trip is consistent with the philosophy of the AMHSI-JNF core curriculum of Israeli and Judaic studies. Students visit Poland as part of an intensive course covering Israel, as well as a pioneering pedagogical approach to teaching the chronology of 4,000 years of Jewish history. The history of the Jews of Poland is part and parcel of the Jewish narrative to this day, and this trip encourages students to explore pre-Holocaust Jewry, and the effects of the Holocaust, through a number of significant sites that are examined within their historical context.This joint Israel-Poland program provides students with a deeper and more meaningful understanding of history, enabling them to internalize what they learn by experiencing it.
Upon their return, the Hans and Gloria Schott Impact Fellows will share their transformative experience through a variety of activities within the Philadelphia Jewish community, on high school campuses and in synagogues. The goal is to use their knowledge to positively impact those around them.
“The Impact Fellows return to the U.S. taking on an important role within their communities as high school leaders and activists, then onto college campuses as Campus Fellows, and ultimately becoming leaders within society,” says AMHSI-JNF Co-CEO Rabbi Leor Sinai. “Through these fellowships, we invest in the ‘Israel continuum,’ ensuring that our next generation forges their link to the chain of Jewish continuity and Israel connectivity.”
Philadelphia high school students entering their sophomore or junior year in the fall of 2016 are eligible to apply for the Hans and Gloria Schott Impact Fund Fellowship. Applications are due on October 5, 2016. The students selected will leave on January 31, 2017, and will return two months later, on March 31.
For more information about AMHSI-JNF and the Hans and Gloria Schott Impact Fund, please email Dana Gerbie Klein, or call her at 617-438-8775.