Next month, some 70 students from the 10th grade at Milken Community High School
in Los Angeles will arrive for a semester of study in Israel.
are part of a Zionism program at Milken called the Tiferet Israel
The program, which accompanies the students during their
three years of high school, has for a goal to “foster the development of its
fellows into individuals who are passionate about Israel,” as its mission
Metuka Benjamin, president of Milken Community High
School, founded the program seven years ago.
The initial program allowed
youngsters to live in Israel for three months while studying and being hosted by
a local family, but then evolved into a full semester abroad that takes place
from January to June.
“They study the history of the country in the
classroom in LA, but being in Israel, living here and seeing everything that
they are studying about, makes it real and penetrates into their heart,”
Benjamin said. “You can tell, when you speak to the kids, that it’s internalized
and has become part of them.”
The teens study in a boarding school in Hod
Hasharon where they are taught in both English and Hebrew. In parallel, they
discover Israel and volunteer.
Students then go back to Los Angeles to
complete the rest of their studies.
There, they learn how to formulate
what they learn about advocating for Israel and even attend two AIPAC
“We bring speakers in, we teach them conflicts of the
country, and we also teach them how to speak effectively with all the knowledge
that they have accumulated in Israel,” Benjamin said.
curriculum, Milken hopes “to create ambassadors for the State of Israel as well
as future leaders in the American Jewish community.”
Fellowship also aims to teach participants the skills needed to lead Jewish
students on college campuses as ambassadors for Israel.
three-year-experience, some graduates go on to enroll at the Interdisciplinary
Center in Herzliya, where they can study in English for a BA while living in
Israel. Some even join the IDF.
Benjamin’s vision comes from her deep
commitment to Zionism, which she illustrated by quoting Theodor Herzl: “If there
is a will, it is no dream.”
The Tiferet program operates by this motto,
especially when it comes to financing the costly program, which is subsidized by
Milken high school.
Out of the $9,000 the course costs for each students,
families are asked to pay $5,000, but Benjamin explained that the school offers
scholarships for families that cannot afford it: “We don’t deprive any child of
going to Israel,” she said. “That will not happen at the school.”
Community High School has many ways of promoting Zionism, such as through its
orientation toward innovation and technology.
One of the flagship
curricula at Milken is the Mitchell Academy for Science and Technology. Roger
Kassebaum, who directs the program, was recently named STEM Educator of the Year
by the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics.
aims to develop scientific excellence through a variety of STEM (The Science,
Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Coalition) courses including
Kassebaum will be bring his students to Israel in March, when
they will be compete in a robotics competition against teams from Israel and
other countries around the world.
“We want to have kids dream and have
opportunities like these,” he said. “We want to make this possible for
Kassebaum said he is amazed at the skills his students develop
during the program: “It’s very rewarding as an educator to see the knowledge
they have. They surprise me everyday.”
Technology is also a way for
Milken high school to connect Jewish American teens to Israel as a start-up
“We want our kids to know that Israel is a smart place,” Benjamin
explained. “We want them to know that science is a value here, and it’s not all
about what they see on TV.”
Benjamin and Kassebaum are visiting Israel
this week to make preparations for the student’s robotics trip in March. Their
agenda includes visiting Israeli high schools and handing Milken students’
letters to soldiers.