URJ Receives $5m Gift To Enhance NFTY-EIE High School in Israel Program

Largest Gift Ever Secures EIE’s 55-year Program’s Future

Photo courtesy URJ
Photo courtesy URJ

The Heller family of Scotch Plains, NJ, has made an endowment gift of $5 million to fund the NFTY-EIE High School in Israel Program. The program will be renamed URJ Heller High: Isaac and Helaine Heller EIE High School in Israel. The gift is both the largest in EIE history, and the URJ’s largest non-capital gift.

Building on the existing Heller Family Scholarship Fund, which has provided more than 1,000 student scholarships over 40+ years, the gift will provide significant annual scholarship funding for greater program participation with a focus on underserved Jewish communities and those without other sources of scholarship support. To extend the impact of this gift, the URJ is launching a comprehensive scholarship campaign to raise additional funds necessary to meet student needs.

The new funds will also provide for continued programmatic excellence, and investment in marketing and recruitment to elevate awareness and understanding of URJ Heller High as a premier personal and educational development opportunity for Jewish youth. The gift celebrates the program’s 55th anniversary and honors the family connection of Helaine and Isaac Heller with EIE, beginning with their daughter Audrey’s transformational experience as a participant.

Isaac Heller, an industrial park developer and philanthropist who cofounded Remco, one of the US’s leading toy manufacturers, died in 2015.

URJ Heller High is a fully accredited, intensive academic program for North American high school students in grades 10-12 to spend a semester living and learning in Israel. Established in 1961 by NFTY, the Reform Jewish youth movement, in honor of past URJ president Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, the program has served more than 3,000 students and counts many current Reform Jewish clergy and leaders as alumni.

“This is my way of honoring my husband, Ike, preserving his memory, and carrying on the love that we’ve both had for this program for 41 years. Since we saw its wonderful impact firsthand when our daughter Audrey came home, we have wanted to help even more students to have this important experience. The program and the URJ have been so meaningful to both of us, and I know Ike would be very pleased,” said Helaine Heller.

URJ Heller High students are based on Kibbutz Tzuba, located in the Judean Hills approximately fifteen minutes outside of Jerusalem, enjoying small class sizes, an advanced Hebrew language ulpan, and their regular general studies courses to fulfill the requirements of their home high schools. Tiyulim are taken regularly along with numerous week-long trips such as studying the Holocaust in Poland, simulated Israeli army training called Gadna, and sea to sea, a cross-country hike.

Registration is currently open for URJ Heller High’s Spring 2017 and Fall 2017 sessions. The Fall 2016 semester is in full swing with 31 students from 13 states plus Australia, who represent NFTY, ten URJ summer camps, and 28 URJ congregations across North America.

The URJ’s youth engagement initiatives incorporate 60 immersive programs reaching more than 23,000 youth, teens, and young adults every year.