Zionism: The Modern Version

Originally published in the Education 3.0: The Magazine written and produced by the Society for Advancement of Education, Jerusalem and distributed at the SAE’s Education 3.0 Symposium in New York City on November 5, 2019.

Naale Elite Academy is a free high school program that has been shaping Jewish identity for teens from around the world for the past 28 years. 18,000 graduates, many of whom have made Aliya, claim that it is a life changing experience.

It is well known that Jewish education during teen years is the key to creating the next generation of the Jewish people.

But no whirlwind tour or summer program can replace the experience of living in Israel and absorbing Jewish identity on a constant basis.  Additionally, the rising cost of Jewish education causes many families to seek other solutions in the place of traditional Jewish day schools. A unique Israeli high school program, Naale Elite Academy, offers the perfect solution to both issues.

Naale Elite Academy come from dozens of countries around the world to attend and graduate from Israeli high schools.

Naale Elite Academy – the only fully subsidized Jewish high school program, has been shaping lives, strengthening Jewish identity and building the State of Israel for the past 28 years.  It combines the best of Jewish outreach with a fully supported Aliyah absorption process.  To date, more than 18,000 students have taken part in Naale.

The joint Jewish Agency and Ministry of Education program, operated by the Society for Advancement of Education, offers a quality Jewish education to teens from around the world at Israeli boarding schools.  Students attend Israeli high school for 3-4 years, starting from either 9th or 10th grade.  Upon graduating with an Israeli Bagrut matriculation, students can take this internationally recognized qualification to any further education institute around the world.

Originally from the USA, Chaya Ticker joined the Naale program in 10th grade.  “I was born and raised in Brooklyn, but with Naale, I grew up in Israel”, she says.  “I believe that if you want to live the authentic Israel and get an amazing Jewish education, then Naale is the place for you”.  Her experience attending high school in Israel, learning about the land and strengthening her Jewish identity, has shaped her life.  “I didn’t just experience Israel.  I learned about Israel from the inside.  And most importantly, I came to understand who I am as a Jew and a Zionist.”

Developing Students Beyond the Classroom

The Naale full scholarship covers all tuition fees, full board in the on-campus boarding school, health insurance, extracurricular activities, trips and excursions, and initial flight to Israel.

As one might expect from a twenty-first century program, the focus is not exclusively on academic studies but also on developing students beyond the classroom.  In the best Israeli tradition, there are opportunities to take part in social activities, non-classroom educational activities, as well as all kinds of sports, including basketball, running and even mixed martial arts.

The impact of living with Jewish teens from around the world has a life-changing effect on the Jewish identity of Naale students.  Shemaya Greenberg from Boca Raton, FL explains: “There’s such an amazing blend of cultures here with people from all over the world.  “But much more than this, we all have being Jewish in common.  No one told me that you’d find yourself here (at Naale) but you really do.”

Lior Tal, an 18-year-old former Milken High School student from Los Angeles, says: “One of the reasons I wanted to join the program was that I felt like I was living in a bubble.  Being exposed to different people, cultures and languages has helped me become a more open-minded person”.  Looking back on her time at Naale, Tal considered it like a second home, and her fellow students like family. “I can’t recommend it enough”.

A Change for the Better

It may sound a bit daunting to send teens to study abroad, but this challenge is a powerful opportunity for personal development and prompts incredible self-growth and transformation.

Simmy and Yaakova Pollock, parents of two teens who studied abroad at Naale in Israel, saw incredible changes in their teens.  “Their self-confidence has grown by realizing previously unknown abilities like traveling alone to a new unfamiliar country, becoming bilingual and succeeding academically in mainstream Israeli classrooms”, Pollock says.

Everyone can find their right place since Naale Elite Academy runs specialized tracks, including secular and religious programs and intensive level science and art programs, as well as separate groups for students from English, French, Spanish and Russian speaking backgrounds.  While on the program, students are supported by a whole network of professional assistance, including dorm counselors, social workers, language specialists, psychologists and, of course, dedicated teachers.

This network of student support creates an overall environment of growth. The Pollacks found that the benefits of Naale went far be-yond the academic.  “We noticed an increased sense of independence in our kids”, they say, “from learning to self-advocating, budgeting and show tolerance towards others”.

The personal growth and development engendered by the experience had a ripple effect on the entire family.  “Our kids talk and communicate with us more now than they ever did when they were here – and we were always a close family”, Pollack describes.  “We believe that Naale is the best possible start for our children’s future.  It is certainly a life changing experience – a change for the better”.

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