I Was Born and Raised in Brooklyn. But, With Naale, I Grew Up in Israel.

Naale Elite Academy – how a free high school program has been aiding Aliyah and shaping Jewish identity for teens from around the world for the past 25 years.

children with israel flag
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The experiences of youth shape our entire lives. We all know that Jewish education is the key to creating the next generation of the Jewish nation. But no whirl-wind tour or summer program can replace the experience of living in Israel, absorbing Jewish identity on a constant basis. Additionally, the rising cost of Jewish education causing many families to seek other solutions in the place of traditional Jewish day schools. A unique Israeli high school program, Naale Elite Academy is offering the perfect solution to both issues.

The only fully subsidized Jewish high school program, Naale Elite Academy has been shaping lives, strengthening Jewish identity and building the State of Israel for the past 25 years. Originally from the USA, Chaya Ticker joined the Naale program in 9th grade. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, Ticker said. But with Naale, I grew up in Israel. Her experience attending high school in Israel, learning about the land and strengthening her Jewish identity, has shaped her life. I didnt just experience Israel. I learned Israel from the inside. And most importantly I came to understand who I am as a Jew and a Zionist.

Naale Elite Academy combines the best of Jewish outreach with fully supported Aliyah absorption process. To date 17,000 student have taken part in Naale. The joint Jewish Agency and Ministry of Education program 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.

students arrive at Ben Gurion Airport
Naale students arrive at Ben Gurion Airport. Credit: Naale Elite AcademyNaale

While Aliyah is not a requirement of the program (most participate on a student visa,) more than 90% of students eventually make Aliyah. With over 70% of students parents ultimately joining them in Israel, Naale has been one of the most successful Aliyah initiatives, bringing tens of thousands of new Olim to Israel.

Naale was created by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to facilitate youth Aliyah from the former Soviet Union (FSU.) The program has been lauded by a successive stream of Israeli leaders. In October 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin welcomed 750 new Naale students, saying that There is no more lofty enterprise than Naale. 

Setting it apart from other Aliyah programs, Naale offers a smooth transition into Israeli society. Instead of attending Ulpan in an isolated environment entirely with other new immigrants, Naale offers students a fully supported Ulpan within an Israeli boarding school. This gives students an emersion into Israeli society as well as the mutual encouragement of other new comers. Naale Ulpan prepares students for eventual integration into standard Israeli classroom with Hebrew language instruction while their other studies continue in their native language. This allows for a gradual development of their Hebrew skills without jeopardizing their other academic studies.

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Naale uses the latest technology to give students a high level of education. Credit: Naale Elite AcademyNaale

Although it is a high school program, completing all four years at Naale Elite Academy is not mandatory. Students are free to transfer back to their home countries at any point in time. 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. Limited registration and acceptance fees do apply.

For those students that do not make Aliyah and instead return to their home countries, the Naale experience provides anunforgettable window into Israeli society. For Shemaya Greenberg, from Boca Raton, FL, Naale provided a unique opportunity to experience Israel. I wanted to come to Israel. I thought I'd have to wait until college so when I discovered I could come to Israel in high school with Naale, I jumped at the chance.

The impact of living with Jewish teens from around the world has a life-changing effect on the Jewish identity of Naale students. Greenberg shares how the difference between students from different backgrounds actually worked to strengthen their sense of Jewish unity, There's such an amazing blend of cultures here with people from all over the world. And we all have being Jewish in common. She adds, No one told me that you'd find yourself here (at Naale) but you really do.

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 Elite Academy in Israel, saw incredible changes in their teens.  They have grown in their self-confidence by realizing previously unknown abilities like traveling alone and successfully navigating the Israeli transit system, becoming bilingual and succeeding academically in  mainstream Israeli classrooms, Pollock says. 

Students from Elite Academy
Students from Amana Elite Academy (one of the schools in the religious track) include sisters Oriya, Shira, and NoaAbargelNaale

Naale Elite Academy runs specialized tracks, includingsecular 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 beyond the academic. We noticed an increased sense of independence in our kids; from learning to self-advocate, budgeting, and tolerance for others, they explain.

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. It is certainly a life changing experience - a change for the better.

The latest school to join the Naale program, is Dror Elite Academy, in Jerusalem. With co-ed religious studies, Dror opens the door to Naale to even more families across America, especially those who are looking for a more familiar American style of Jewish education for their children. The  newDror program offers the same high level of academic education as throughout Naale.  Unlike the other observant tracks of Naale, which are in separate gender schools, Dror offers mixed gender academic and Jewish studies. Both boys and girls learn Talmud, take part in prayer services, and their Social Beit Midrash is a space for students to collaborate on social activist projects and meaningfully contribute to the surrounding community.Thanks to this level of diversity, with different schools and tracks catering the a variety of family backgrounds, whatever a teens Jewish expression there is a place for them at Naale.

Naale is more than just a free Jewish high school. At Naale, Jewish families are finding more than an affordable education, they are finding the best start to their childrens future. Chaya Ticker sums up the Naale experience, If you want to live the authentic Israel and get an amazing Jewish education, then Naale is the place for you.

To learn more about the Naale Elite Academy – Free High School in Israel click here>>

Ryan Frank, a Naale graduate from LA,wanted to explore Israel. Naale was a perfect fit because, It's a good education, so it seemed like a great idea, Frank said.  It turns out that his instinct was spot on. This is the greatest thing that ever happened in my life, Frank said, I can't recommend it enough.

The Pollacks certainly saw this in their teens.

YossiKalman, of Riverdale  It can be hard for parents to send their children overseas but the benefits far outweigh the downsides.Kalman said, My family is very supportive. My mother is a little worried about the political situation but she knows I'm being careful.Kalman was eager to come on the Naale program, I wanted to perfect my Hebrew and have a high level of Torah learning.

Naale is open to all Jewish teens, not just whose families are making Alyiah and has recently expanded its options to include Dror High School. Many teens will find Dror a game changer as a co-ed modern orthodox high school. Though the school is situated in Kiryat Moshe, Naale students at Dror board at the Ein Carmit Boarding School in Jerusalems picturesque Ein Karem neighborhood.