The History of Our Future--Educators Mission Arrives at Alexander Muss High School in Israel
July 15, 2016
Adam H. Brill, Director of Communications
The History of Our Future is Now
Educators Mission Arrives at Alexander Muss High School in Israel
By: Efrat Lev
Members of the Educators Mission at Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI-JNF).
There is no shortage of programs for high school students from around the world wishing to study abroad in Israel. However, Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI-JNF) is different in that it offers students unique 6-, 8-, and 18-week programs in a pluralistic, experiential setting.
AMHSI’s Hod HaSharon campus, which is located just minutes from Tel Aviv and is generously supported by Jewish National Fund (JNF), hosted an Educators Seminar this week comprised of guidance counsellors from American public high schools. Not only was the trip opportunity for the educators and faculty members to learn about more about AMHSI on campus, but for many, it was also their first time visiting Israel.
A goal of this mission was "to open the door for recruitment," explained Leor Sinai, co-executive of AMHSI. Educators spent time learning about the school’s philosophy, meeting with staff, and seeing students studying in class – some 150 are on campus this summer for six weeks.
Upon their return to the U.S., the educators will be better equipped with the necessary knowledge to encourage future students to enroll for a session abroad at AMHSI. A crucial component for this like other study abroad programs run during the academic year is assuring students that their curriculum meets high standards and that every class they are enrolled in back home will also be taught overseas. Muss meets those concerns and it is fully accredited by the University of Miami and the Middle States Association.
The school’s unique approach to educating the next generation was a recurring theme during a morning session led by AMHSI’s educators and staff, who spent time expanding on the school’s teaching methods.
"I have never experienced these types of methods in any college classroom," said Jessica Sharkey, an independent educational consultant from Arizona. The teachers and AMHSI are a "walking, talking, and breathing history. They make students want to learn. They are building up students’ learning endurance. I was riveted and excited myself," Sharkey added.
Robin Moore, director of counselling at Winston Churchill High School in Washington D.C., who is also a licensed clinical therapist with years of experience working in brain sciences and learning difficulties, said that she was most impressed by the range of teaching approaches used at AMHSI, such as the incorporation of music during the classes.
"It was just wonderful to see such hands-on teaching," said Varda Cheskis Sauer, a teacher at North Springs Charter High School in Georgia. Sauer has been promoting AMHSI and encouraging students to enroll for over 20 years. To her, the programs offered have been "life-changing" for her students' Jewish identity. With visible tears in her eyes she remarked "It's about having that feeling in your heart."
AMHSI was also praised for the groundwork it lays down in preparing students for college life. Mark Millet, a school counselor from Sycamore High School in Ohio, said that "Students have so very little real world experiences, and Muss is proving that it can be an integral part of students’ future at institutes of higher education." The college dorm environment, albeit with closer guidance and strong student-teacher relations, provides a "softer transition."
The students' testimonies indeed support all the feelings expressed by many of the visiting educators. Nora Marcus, 16, a student at Whitman High School in Maryland, said that the program instilled in her a profound sense of heritage. "I feel so much more in touch with my Judaism,” she said.
Her peer, Liat Feldman, 17, a student at Jupiter High School in Florida, added that even though it was her third time in Israel, AMHSI’s program provided her with a unique learning experience that blends subjects covered in class with the added benefit of going to the actual sites of where history took place. "Looking at something and hearing the meaning behind it, furthers the connection you feel with your own history,” she said.
The students are also imbued with a sense of mission upon returning home.
Noah Zedeck, 18, a student at Steamboat High School in Colorado, is the son of an AMHSI alum. In fact, AMHSI boasts a large number of second generation students, as the program has been around since 1972. Zedeck explained the importance of advocacy and awareness in the small Jewish community he resides in, as well as its implications in creating an impact in the greater public. "It's important for me to make sure that people know what's really going on here in Israel", he said. Indeed, many of the educators and students were surprised by the sense of security they felt while in Israel and on campus, and wanted to convey this message back home.
While Jewish identity and heritage are the focal points of the programs offered at AMHSI, Mordechai Cohen, the head of school, strives to give students options for advocacy and activism upon their return. Options are a key element to the school's pluralistic program. "It's important to allow the students to see diversity, and to expose them to varying schools of thought. The students choose for themselves what’s best for them," Cohen said.
When asked if the students return to Israel and to AMSHI, Cohen smiles proudly and refers to students returning as nothing less than a "homecoming." He remembers one alum saying that "He's got more memories of his time here than in all four years of high school."
AMHSI’s campus is impressive, with newly renovated facilities that include an indoor and outdoor gym and a radio studio. In addition, the educators’ mission coincided with a visit by the JNFuture Leadership Institute Mission (JLIM), a program designed to prepare participants for college campus activism. Unsurprisingly, many of the JLIM participants were themselves AMHSI alumni.
As Cohen summed up: "We're taking history and drawing out the most interesting lessons from the past so we are better prepared for the present and the future. It’s the history of our future. That’s what we want to instill in the students and it’s a central part of what they take away from this great experience."
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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.
JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.
JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.
For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.