International travel always makes one look at the world in a different way. However, a young woman from Arizona, Sheeri A., found that attending the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program in 2003 helped her change the world around her after she returned to Arizona.
“I remember coming back from Israel and having a substitute teacher at my public school make anti-Israel remarks in class. She had no idea I just returned from AMHSI and was a vault of information. I raised my hand and combatted her disgusting remarks. The entire class was surprised, especially the Jewish students who knew what she said was wrong, but had no idea how to respond. I think the substitute teacher was also surprised that at 17 a student would know so much about Israel and current events. I was able to give concrete facts and information to those who didn’t understand current events in Israel, and it has played an important role every day of my life.”
AMHSI is a high school program in Israel that provides high school or college credit for English-speaking teenagers from throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, Latin America and Europe. Students live on a campus, attend classes daily and experience 5,000 years of Jewish history using historical sites all over Israel as the classroom.
AMHSI, now a part of Jewish National Fund, has rolled out a new program for Arizona students thanks to a generous donation of $150,000 from the Schwartz-Hammer Foundation.
The Impact Fellowship Program is being launched in Arizona. It is the first of its kind and will be rolled out nationally. Over the next three summers, it will provide a total of 15 Arizona high school Jewish teens an opportunity to attend the program all expenses paid – from tuition to housing costs to trip costs to airfare – with the expectation that these fellows will return to make an impact on their communities.
The Schwartz-Hammer Alexander Muss High School in Israel Impact Fellowship Program was established to provide Jewish teens in Arizona an extraordinary opportunity to discover their connection to the land, people, history and culture of Israel. AMHSI Co-Executive Director Rabbi Leor Sinai explains, “We provide the vehicle for students to explore their own identity as Jews, in the Jewish state, while simultaneously providing them the highest academic standard available. A student’s high school years are his/her most formidable. It is a time of self-reflection and realization in the world. “Who am I? What do I want to do when I grow up? What are my interests?”
Sinead McIntyre participated in the program when she was a high school student in Arizona. The experience changed her life. “I would say that HSI was the gateway to me finding my place in the world, because it gave me my first and deepest impression of Israel and set me on my path to making aliyah and creating a life here, for which I am so incredibly grateful.”
Sinead is not alone. Many students return home having had a life-changing experience in Israel and a greater understanding of their heritage, which provides them with lifelong tools.
AMHSI Director of Marketing and Communications Yael Tamar says, “Our students arrive from all kinds of backgrounds, but we take pride in inspiring our students to become active in their communities as well as advocates for Israel on their future college campuses and communities. It has been proven via an alumni study we conducted in the past that AMHSI alumni are much more likely to marry a Jewish partner, donate to Jewish causes and be involved in Jewish communities and Jewish and Zionist organizations.”
Arizona alumni Sheeri A. proves that point: “Recently, during Operation Protective Edge, the social media wars were intense, but I was able to articulate myself and use a lot of the information from AMHSI to support Israel on the web.”
The program, which runs year round, is open to students of all denominations and faiths and is one of the leading Israel programs in existence. The study-abroad program for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors offers full semester and eight-week academic programs, six-week summer programs and an eight-week trip with the International March of the Living that starts in Poland and continues in Israel.
“We have been around for 42 years, 23,000 alumni later, making us the pioneer of academic-abroad programs in Israel. We are the only pluralistic international high school study-abroad program in Israel geared for all teenagers of different Jewish backgrounds,” Sinai says. The board of Jewish Education in Arizona has offered a variety of scholarships for decades to students wishing to attend a program in Israel, including the Harold and Jean Grossman Israel Experience Scholarship Fund, which provides grants of up to $1,000 to area teens wishing to travel to Israel.
This new fellowship is open to Arizona residents entering their senior year of high school at the time of travel. Applicants must be nominated by a rabbi, teacher, coach or community leader and will have certain obligations. For more information on the Impact Fellowships, contact email@example.com or 480-447- 8100, ext. 980. For information about the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program, contact Elaine Hirsch at the Bureau of Jewish Education at 480-634-8050 or visit amhsi.org.
Masada Siegel is an international correspondent based in Phoenix. She has traveled to more than 40 countries, often solo. She has spent about two years in Israel over the course of 18 visits of various durations. masadasiegel.com