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Amazing Reflections from Spring 2017 Students

Spring 2017 was an incredible and powerful experience – but don’t just take it from us! Below are some powerful quotes from Spring 2017 students and their parents:

This trip has turned me into someone I can be proud of. It has formulated and solidified my thoughts on Judaism, Israel, and, most importantly, myself. Everything about this trip was absolutely incredible. My Jewish History and Hebrew classes really helped me appreciate the country for what it is; a Jewish state for the Jewish people. I think the most impactful and greatest week of my life was the week with Yom Hashoah, Hazikaron, and Haatzmaut. I never felt more pride towards the State of Israel than during that week. Whether it was during the most somber moments of Yom Hashoah, or the crazy moments of Yom Haatzmaut, it was beautiful to see a country unite under one common cause; a cause that I connected with and will love for the rest of my life.
Matthew Shabelman
Naperville, IL

Group at the top of Masada

Because of this trip I have fallen in love with learning. I’ve learned better studying habits, how to take good notes, and I have really learned how to stay engaged in school. Heller High has really been the best learning environment for me. Being able to study with friends on my own time without anyone telling me when or how to do my homework has been incredible as it has taught me a sense of responsibility. Besides becoming a better student I’ve also become more independent. I admit, being away from your parents for four months is extremely long, but when you are in the type of community Heller High offers, being independent comes naturally.
Carmen Garrigos
Minneapolis, MN

I feel a connection to Israel that I didn’t have before, and I have finally gotten to learn in depth about the Jewish state, what it means, and the problems it faces today. I know I will be put in positions where I must defend Israel, or be the person to teach about it, and that no longer scares me. I now feel equipped with the knowledge to handle those situations, and I want to advocate for Israel going forward. Thank you again for providing me with the opportunity to grow as a person and as a Jew at Heller High.
Kaila Goldstein
Hopkinton, Massachusetts

Pictured from left to right: Jessie, Lydia, Leah and Ryan at a shuk

Being in this country makes me feel proud to be a Jew. I love walking through the streets and saying Shabbat Shalom to strangers and receiving a smile and Shabbat Shalom in return. Knowing that the vast majority of people here are Jewish allows me to feel even more pride towards my amazing religion.
Ryan Gordon
East Brunswick, NJ


The relationship that I forged with the people in my class, my teacher, the land, its history, and its people have all come to construct a better understanding of my role in Judaism. I never thought it was possible to begin to identify with a history and people that was five-thousand years old, but whether it be hiking through the ruins of Ancient Israeli terraces or observing the processes that went into the creation of the state, I have been proven wrong. This land, its people, and its history have meant more to me than any other subject or topic that has crossed my sixteen short years of existence. Being in Israel and being engrained with the language and history of the people has proven to be an experience that is insurmountable. The history of the land has truly become my history, and the language has become my language, and the Israel that used to be so distant is the Israel that I have walked upon for the past four months. It has become my Israel; an Israel that is not just defined by a newspaper headline or a word-of- mouth, but an Israel that cannot be defined in a text, a conversation, or an article.
Jack Resnick
San Francisco, CA

Parent Reflections:

I can only imagine the impact this experience has given to these kids for four months. I’m so grateful to the leaders, teachers, staff and all participants, including the other students! This program’s success is because of each and every piece involved.
Laura Gordon (Ryan’s mom)
East Brunswick, NJ

While reading their yearbook, I couldn’t stop crying. Aaron can’t understand that those tears were of happiness and pride. I’m so grateful to Heller High for the incredible experience it gave my child. He came back so matured. He is of course on FaceTime talking to one of his friends from the program right now. He has plans to travel and host friends in the next three weeks. They all have a home in Los Angeles.
Elana Elke Dombrower Tarlovsky (Aaron’s mom)
Los Angeles, CA