Karen Rappaport discusses Israeli study abroad program

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Eunice Kim, staff writer

History teacher Joanie Garratt invited Karen Rappaport, a director of the admissions for the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI), to speak about a high school study abroad  program in Israel on March 14.

Students at AMHSI have a significantly different studying environment from other high schools. While regular high school students may study Jewish history in classrooms, AMHSI students study the subject in Israel with access to the actual locations and artifacts that appear in the curriculum.

Rappaport realized that Beverly was not aware of the AMHSI program while other high schools near Beverly, such as Santa Monica High School, had already attended the program. She explained what the program does and the benefits of attending. Students who attended the meeting were given an AMHSI key ring as well as candy.

AMHSI has allowed students to travel around Israel while earning high school credits since 1972. According to its official website, the high school was founded to “promote, build and strengthen lifelong bonds between youth and Israel through study of the history and culture of the people of Israel.”

The program offers summer and full-semester courses in Israel. Students travel around the country in the order of biblical chronology, which means the journey starts from sites that were mentioned in holy scriptures through sites mentioned in later history.

“We start in the biblical times and we’ll visit biblical sites and study biblical times,” Rappaport said. “When you’re studying the Roman times, you’ll visit Roman sites and all the way until what is going on in Israel [on] the day you leave to come back home.”

In the semester course, students take academic courses (primarily science, math and languages such as Spanish, English, Hebrew and French) on weekdays. Credits from these courses are accepted by high schools and some colleges. Each class contains no more than 20 students at a time, and in some cases, students can obtain a personal tutor. Students will attend classes taught by dedicated teachers who will travel around Israel with students.

If students want to see their relatives or friends in Israel, they will be able to visit them on weekends by making reservations. Students can invite up to three friends to see their progress in the program or hang out in the towns of Israel. Students can obtain an allowance through a student banking service.

“Students can withdraw money during set banking hours every week,” AMHSI’s official site stated. “In this way, students learn to budget their money, do not have to be responsible for safekeeping all their cash during the semester and also are alleviated of the hassle and fees of exchanging currency.”

Along with being responsible for their money, students will experience the college dorm environment by staying in designated dorms.

According to Rappaport, AMHSI may make students more attractive to colleges. Colleges see that a student has lived away from their parents, taken care of themselves, managed their time and traveled the entire country of Israel. Also, students can write about their experiences in Israel in their college essays.

“I went overseas when I was in college and it’s so much fun and unique. I’m convinced that my stay in Israel got me into Harvard,” Garratt said. “You meet people from all over the world, you learn about history from all over the world, you establish personal connections with people. [Studying abroad]  just makes the world a global village and that’s why [I invited Rappaport].”

Jewish students can benefit from AMHSI by learning more about their culture.

“I want to learn about Israel and I just want to live in the Israeli environment,” sophomore Lauren Hirsh said.

For non-Jewish students, the program won’t force them to attend religious sermons and meetings, but they will still have a chance to experience a new cultural life style.

“It’s important to know we’re pluralistic and non-denominational,” Rappaport said. “We are a history-based program.”

The summer program offers various programs. The starting time ranges from June 17, 2014 through Aug. 5, 2015. The semester program will have a fall semester, which starts Aug. 24, 2014, a spring semester, which starts Jan. 25, 2015 and a fall semester 2015, which starts Aug. 25, 2015. The program offers financial aid for people who are not able to afford the cost of the trip.

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