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From Our President - URJ Heller High

Back in November, I wrote about the many programs and organizations that exist under the umbrella of the URJ.  Last month, I mentioned one which has had a great impact on our family:  URJ Heller High. Our daughter Kaila attended in the Spring of 2017. It is no exaggeration to say that her semester there was life-changing.

Heller High is a semester program open to high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  Students live and study together on Kibbutz Tzuba, “nestled in the beautiful Judean Hills.” For four months, they continue their secular studies in the afternoon, taking the same courses they would at their home schools, while spending mornings studying Modern Hebrew and Jewish History from biblical times to today’s news. Because Israel is a small country, 3 or 4 times a week their classroom studies are supplemented with a tiyul, or trip, to a relevant location.  Think Roman amphitheater, Crusader castle, a tour of the Bauhaus architecture of Tel Aviv. Longer trips include a Negev adventure, a 3-day yam l’yam (sea to sea) hike, a stint with Gadna (an army orientation program for teens) and a pilgrimage to Poland, to learn about the centuries of Jewish history in Eastern Europe leading up to the Holocaust.

Kaila appreciated the small class sizes, which encouraged much more engagement and discussion compared to her classes back home. The intense schedule challenged her and forced her to manage her time more carefully. Her experiences of the land and culture clarified her academic interests, and the intimacy of the program confirmed her desire for a small liberal arts college.

Second semester junior year of high school, when Kaila went, is a busy time, with standardized tests to take, colleges to explore, extracurricular activities to pursue, and GPAs to maintain. How could a college-bound student possibly go abroad without dire consequences? Easily.  The test prep, college counselling—even the tests themselves were all right there. From the Heller High webpage:

"There was nothing more readying for college. Four months of living and studying independently among a radically diverse group of people in a country that challenges you... is the ultimate preparation for college."

– Jason, Spring 2012, Binghamton University class of 2016

 

At the end of the semester, the change in our daughter was noticeable. She came home with a stronger sense of who she was, and with more confidence.

Of course we missed her, but we were able to visit as part of the “parents’ pilgrimage.” After sitting in on “J Hist” class on campus and in the field, we were ready to send Kaila home and take her place!

I hope that I’ve piqued your interest in this incredible high school experience.  We would be happy to have a conversation with any teen or parent who is interested. We can also direct you to other alums and parents. Or take a look at the website: www.hellerhigh.org . Not so incidentally, there is significant scholarship money available.

L’shalom,

 

Mon, April 12 2021 30 Nisan 5781