URJ Heller High’s Largest Semester in Years Begins

Last week, 76 students from 23 states across North America, plus Canada and Israel, began their semester on URJ Heller High. These high schoolers come from 49 different URJ Congregations, and 44 are alumni from 14 different URJ camps. Seven of them had an older sibling on the program, and one student is a second generation Heller High/EIE participant!

Students pose with tools during their first Tiyul: an archaeological dig

The group’s first two days in Israel were spent getting to know one another, touring their new home at Kibbutz Tzuba, meeting teachers, and getting placed into Hebrew classes. In addition, our students were divided into their bus groups and met their madrichim—counselors who will be with them throughout the semester. One of this semester’s madrichim is also an alum of the program! Later in the week, the students began general studies classes and had their first tiyul (field trip). The group ended the week by celebrating Shabbat in the Old City of Jerusalem.

In their first Jewish History class, our teachers asked the students to share what they were most excited about. Many of them expressed excitement about all of the tiyulim (field trips) and the opportunity to tour the land of Israel and learn about history where it took place. Others are looking forward to meeting new people and making lifelong friends. One student shared that she was eager to experience what it was like to always be surrounded by other Jewish people, because she is from an area without many Jews.

Spring ’18 students Dani and Noya are all smiles in the Old City as they prepare to celebrate the first Shabbat of the semester

These 76 students have now embarked on what promises to be a challenging and fulfilling experience – a full semester living and learning in Israel. They will be fully immersed in Israeli culture, learn Hebrew, and explore the history of the Jewish people at the sites where it took place. The will also grow as individuals as they gain independence and strengthen their own connections to Judaism and Israel.

Since 1961, thousands of teenagers have spent a semester in Israel on URJ Heller High (formerly NFTY-EIE), the Reform Movement’s most intense and powerful Jewish living and learning experience.

URJ Heller High has received an extraordinary endowment gift of $5,000,000 to help fund scholarships and to invest in program excellence. We now offer scholarship support for as much as 40 -50 % of the tuition in order to allow more students to have this rich experience. This gift enabled the participation of many of the students on the Spring 2018 semester.

Know of a teen who is interested in Heller High? Please contact Casey Wright, Heller High’s Recruitment and Marketing Director, at cwright@urj.org  or 212-650-4095. She will help answer any questions you have about the program. Please also share Heller High with your friends, family, and clergy and staff at your synagogue. We are now accepting applications for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019.

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