With mounting pressures on Jewish communities around the world, many parents are looking for a way to get a quality and affordable high school education for their children without compromising on their Jewish identity.
For over 1700 Jewish teens, the answer lies in Israel. Not willing to wait until after high school to start their future, they have come to the Naale Elite Academy. The Naale program gives teens the chance to complete high school at Israeli Youth Villages, yeshivas and ulpanot on a full scholarship. Making Aliyah is not a requirement of the program; students who wish to make Aliyah after graduating receive all the help and the support they need.
We spoke to Naale students in order to see what motivated them to make the courageous move of coming to Israel for high school without their parents.
Sense of belonging
The wish to be surrounded by a larger and more diverse Jewish peer group was a motivating factor for many. David Peterman, 16, from Montreal, finally found his niche at Naale. He explained, There weren't many Jewish school options for me. I was homeschooled for two years before I came to Naale. I came to Israel on a two-week trip and I fell in love with Israel and wanted to return. The need to feel like an integrated part of the student body is important for teens. Sophia Zylbersztajn, 18, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, expressed it clearly: Jewish life is hard in Brazil. I wanted to come to a Jewish high school and make new friends.
Many Naale students had been on a search for a sense of belonging. Yechi Fulzbacher, 17, from Antwerp, Belgium, saw Naale as a chance to find a place where he belonged. I didn't feel like I fit in the school I was attending, he explained.
Arriving at Naale, the teens feel an overwhelming sense of belonging. In Germany, I was different from other people, here I am free to be myself, Odelia Bergauz, 15, from Munich, Germany, said with a wide smile.
For those teens who knew that they wanted to make Aliyah in the future, the Naale program offered the chance to get a jump start on their acclimatizing into Israeli society. Adam Bernitz, 17, from Johannesburg, South Africa, told us, I wanted to go to university in Israel. I'm very Zionistic, so it was even better to come for high school and get a good grounding in Hebrew.
All students take the Bagrut – the Israeli matriculation exams. Naale offers intensive Hebrew classes during the first year, with the aim of attaining a solid level of Hebrew by the end of the first year. Therefore, students are not required to know Hebrew prior to being accepted into the program. After graduating, students can choose to go study in universities worldwide as the Israeli matriculation is recognized as a high school diploma. Students who decide to remain in Israel receive a full scholarship for their undergraduate degree in Israel upon completing their Army service or Sherut Leumi (national service).
Many parents have jumped at the opportunity to give their children an amazing chance to grow and become more mature. Simmy and Yaakova Pollock, parents of two teens who are currently studying at the Naale Elite Academy, saw incredible changes in their children. They have grown in their self-confidence and have realized previously unknown abilities to travel alone and successfully navigate the Israeli transit system. Furthermore, they have become bilingual and have successfully been mainstreamed into Israeli classrooms, Pollock said.
For any parents who might be concerned that their children will lack the family experience at Naale, host families across Israel volunteer to offer students the chance to have an adoptive family. Eliezer Gershonov, 17, from Bulgaria, explained that his host family is one of the highlights of his Naale experience. My host family is very warm and inviting. They really help me adjust. Needless to say that those who have relatives in Israel can spend weekends and holidays with them.
In addition, in all the schools, the Naale students have a dedicated staff that is there to look after them 24/7. Each Naale group has two counselors, a homeroom teacher, a house mother and additional support staff.
Atara Trudler, 17 from Philadelphia, USA, summed up the feelings of all Naale students. I was really pleased to discover that such a program actually existed, she says. For teens wanting to express their Jewish identity, have an adventure and feel at home, the chance to finish high school in Israel can be a dream come true.
What is Naale?
The Naale Elite Academy program is fully subsidized by the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Jewish Agency for Israel. The program offers both religious and co-ed schools. Naale accepts students at the ages of 14-16 who graduated either from the 8th, 9th or 10th grade. Prior to admission, students need to participate in a screening day that takes place in cities around the world.
The Naale scholarship includes school tuition, room and board, health insurance, a flight ticket to Israel, trips, extra-curricular activities and more.
For more information about the Naale Elite Academy, visit www.naale-elite-academy.com