Throughout the semester, students are thoroughly acquainted with the history of the Jewish people through a comprehensive class called Israel: Land, Culture, People. Israel as the birthplace and the center of that history throughout the ages is the ideal place to teach and demonstrate the development of the people, culture, and land. By combining classroom and field study, students witness, in a hands-on manner, the flow of Jewish history.
The method employed for this course is an interdisciplinary core curriculum in which students study history during 70 class days, 25 of which are spent at sites which reflect the period of history under investigation. All classes and field trips are based on the reading of primary source material from the appropriate period and group discussions. Students are expected to take notes during hikes and are examined on the presented material. A core curriculum teacher is appointed to guide students through all of Jewish history. Classes are small, never exceeding 18 students, thus allowing for the maximum participation of all students.
The content of the class draws upon the following disciplines: Archeology, World Literature, Comparative Literature, English Composition, History, Sociology, Geography, Comparative Religion, Western Civilization, Political Science, and Physical Education. As the course covers many disciplines, a student's transcript may reflect the grades and credits earned in these subjects under either a reciprocal or specific course heading.
The study of Hebrew is a crucial tool in understanding the history and culture of ancient and modern Judaism and Israel. URJ Heller High (formerly NFTY-EIE) students don't need to have any previous knowledge of Hebrew to attend the program; all students are tested and placed in Hebrew classes based on their level of Hebrew knowledge. Up to five different levels of Hebrew language instruction are offered each semester. A formal textbook including workbooks and readers are used in the Beginner and Intermediate levels, while the Advanced levels employ various resources such as Hebrew newspapers. The Hebrew Ulpan is 100 classroom hours per semester and 30 field hours per semester.
As part of the Hebrew Ulpan, students study the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) in its original Hebrew and learn to converse with their Israeli peers. An anthology of contemporary Hebrew literature containing songs, poetry, and short stories is integrated into the course instruction. Emphasis is placed on the acquisition of language skills that will facilitate students' ability to communicate within contemporary Israeli society, and students are encouraged to utilize their Hebrew skills as they meet Israelis and travel throughout Israel.