by Russell Robinson
I think Theodore Herzl would be proud.
Two weeks ago, Jewish National Fund, of which I am [Chief Executive Officer], declared its vision for a bold future when a new and expanded partnership was announced with the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI). AMHSI brings American teenagers for a semester or part of a semester, where they study their regular American school curricula together with an extensive Zionist history curriculum including site visits to the places where Jewish history occurred. We believe this will catapult Zionist education to the next level – something that is sorely needed – and here’s why.
Many people in the Jewish world today – even the most committed – are afraid of the “Z” word: Zionism. Not Jewish National Fund. It is part of our everyday vernacular – whether we speak to young or old, whether we are talking about our work in Israel or our Zionist educational activities here in the U.S., when we refer to our rich history and when we speak about our vital and promising future. We show its relevance in today’s world.
The story of Jewish National Fund is the story of Zionism and reaches back to 1901 when Theodore Herzl first established the fund. Now over a century later, JNF is the largest organization that provides the most Zionist impact to the greatest number of young people. Starting with children planting a tree on Tu b’Shevat, to learning about the historical sites in Israel, to young adults participating on Alternative Spring Break or Birthright, Jewish National Fund knows how to connect young American Jews to Israel – from kindergarten through college and beyond. Jewish National Fund knows Zionism.
For over 40 years, the Alexander Muss High School in Israel has led the field in providing transformative pluralistic Israel experiences for high school students. AMHSI has developed fully accredited academic programs for teens to strengthen their Jewish identity while developing deep-rooted connections to Jewish life, to the Jewish people, and to Israel. Today, the school has more than 20,000 alumni – many of whom are active leaders in their Jewish communities. Some HAVE BECOME celebrities.
As AMHSI is the leading high school program in Israel, and JNF has the necessary and highly-regarded oversight and operational infrastructure to broaden AMHSI’s reach, we believe this expanded partnership will help ensure future generations of students – and Jewish community leaders.
I’ve read the recent reports and studies on American Jews. Some of the numbers are frightening; others show promise. The best way to strengthen Jewish community is through Jewish education – and that is what this partnership is all about.
Now is the time to engage young people and get them excited about their heritage. Get them to love the land of Israel. Get them to feel their heritage – one that goes back thousands of years. Create a visceral experience for today’s youth and you will create a Jewish future.
I say Zionism just claimed a victory with this partnership. I think Theodore Herzl would say the same.