JNF-USA summers and semesters in Israel
Photo: Jeremy Gothard
“Here, Jews from all over are learning about each other and about ourselves,” said Jeremy Gothard, left, overlooking the Red Sea in Israel with fellow Alexander Muss High School in Israel classmate Max Lapidus, of Nashville, Tennessee.

Deadlines approaching for applications and grants

By Deb Silverthorn 

Jewish National Fund-USA has been bringing education and Israel adventures together for decades, and generations of DFW residents are among those who have experienced them. The Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) school year programs, and AMHSI summer Roots programs are open for registration with local and JNF-USA scholarship opportunities available.

Now in its 51st year, JNF-USA’s high school in Israel has had more than 30,000 students complete its programs of academics, travel, volunteering and more. 

“The impact of these programs is immeasurable. Our alumni are among the leaders in their communities, their professions and in their lives across the world,” said Rabbi Greg Litcofsky JNF-USA executive director of recruitment and partnerships. “I was a participant 30 years ago and it changed my life, in the very best ways, forever.”

Jeremy Gothard, a Plano West Senior High School junior, is on the program, spending this semester in Israel. 

“After one month, the friendships I’m making and the classes and trips we’re taking are great. It’s better than anything I could’ve imagined,” said Jeremy, who is following in his sister and father’s AMHSI footsteps. 

AMHSI school year programs, accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, are offered in the fall and spring with total immersion programs with students continuing their general studies schedule, then adding Hebrew language and History of Israel courses, which most schools accept for elective credit. Semester-long participants may travel to Poland, exploring past Jewish life and experiencing today’s Jewish revival, spend a week in basic training with the Israeli Defense Force and enjoy a three-day hike from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee. There are also two-month mini-mesters available, from January to March or April to June, with up to four general studies classes including honors and AP.

For Lindsay Gothard, the opportunity arose during the pandemic when her Plano West classes were all online. Online in Plano, or online in Israel? No question.

“We’d been to Israel before as a family, and with Temple Shalom, but living there — getting to spend so much time doing so much more than a general tourist itinerary — was amazing,” said Lindsay, who spent nine weeks from April to June 2021 at AMHSI. She is now a freshman at Northeastern University. She explained that despite the challenges of a no-vaccine COVID-19 environment, the trip was rewarding. “I’m still in touch with friends from around the country,” she said.

Thirty years after his own experience, Sander Gothard, Jeremy and Lindsay’s father, is the AMHSI regional chair and glad his children have been able to be in Israel learning, growing and finding their own meaningful connections.

“I grew up in a Zionist home, I went on Teen Tour and when we learned about Muss it was whatever my folks could do to get me there,” said Sander. When he was a junior at Grace King High School in Metairie, Louisiana, he spent the last eight weeks of the school year at AMHSI. 

“The programs help create young adults who are well rounded of Jewish history and with a deep love for the land,” he said.

This year’s AMHSI Roots Israel Program, four-week travel program, from June 28 to July 25, focuses on learning, traveling and community service opportunities. Six-week sessions are available with an academic program with credit for some high school and college programs, runs from June 19 to July 31, and a non-academic session from June 19 to July 31. Both programs split their time between on-campus and exploring Israel. There is also a five-week session, Entrepreneurship Israel, from June 26 to Aug. 2, offering teens the opportunity to discover Israel as a startup nation from inception to present day and gives NYU students the opportunity to earn a certificate.

Samantha Goldberg spent last summer on AMHSI’s Summer Roots tikkun olam program. Having also been to the country with her family, and seen many of its sites, she most appreciated the chance to give back to Israel, to help the residents there.

“We got to volunteer at a number of programs and to really spend time with people who live there and that was very special,” said Samantha, a Plano West Senior High Schol senior, whose mother Kari is also an AMHSI alum. Samantha said her favorite activities were spending the time spent with children receiving cardiac care and helping to harvest at a kibbutz.

“The independence I’ve gained, in just four weeks, is something that will always help me, but there’s so much support from friends, teachers and the staff. Here, Jews from all over are learning about each other and about ourselves,” said Jeremy.

For information and applications go to amhsi.org or contact Alicia Press at apress@amhsi.org.  

Grants available for AMHSI educational programs

AMHSI Summer Roots program participants, who live in the Dallas and the surrounding area served by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas are eligible to apply for need-based scholarships.. According to the Dallas Federation’s website, in addition to living in its service area, applicants and the programs must also meet the following qualifications: 

• demonstrate financial need

• be a current high school student and have the same status at the time of the program 

• the program must be longer than 10 days

• the program must have educational content

The deadline for programs through Spring 2024 is noon, Friday, March 3. To apply, visit jewishdallas.org/israel-overseas/teen-scholarships. 

Students who live in Tarrant County and meet financial aid need qualifications, can apply for one of two grants, for rising 10th through 12th grade students. provided by an individual donor concerned with the continuation of Tarrant County’s Jewish community. For Tarrant County grants and additional JNF-USA grants for all prospective students, email Alicia Press at apress@amhsi.org. 

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