Australians and Americans discuss Jewish peoplehood 521.
(photo credit: Laura Kelly)
When I had the opportunity to name the High School in Israel program after my
father, Alexander Muss, in 1981, I realized just how personal this journey had
become. I didn’t yet have any children or grandchildren who had attended. I did
it because I believed the future of the Jewish world needed the school. Now, at
the age of 85, I have finally decided to step down as chairman of Alexander Muss
High School in Israel (AMHSI). I have spent the better part of my life promoting
the future of the Jewish people by bringing teens to Israel for educational
programs, letting them experience the pulsating center of Judaism with their own
eyes, hands and hearts.
It has been an awe-inspiring 42-year experience
for the school, during which time we have brought over 22,000 students to
Israel. I will now be spending more time with my children, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren, knowing that I have done my best to ensure their Jewish
Yet, I feel uneasy. My mind is not at peace when I think of the
next generation. With Jewish youth disregarding their heritage, casting it off
as a “burden,” and taking Israel for granted, the battle for Jewish souls is as
relevant today as it has ever been.
After years of experience and
countless interactions with alumni, parents of participants, and school
administrators, I know that our programs have made a difference in the adult
lives of our participants. We have influenced major life decisions, including
who they have chosen to marry and what colleges they have chosen to attend. The
passion for Israel and Judaism they find in their teen years reverberates for a
The importance of teen programming is a truth that should be
essential to the Jewish psyche. We are told: “You shall teach them diligently to
your children.” But it is a truth that seems to be falling by the
AMHSI and the other proud members of Lapid, the coalition for
high school-aged programs in Israel, are battling to move Israel programming for
While the masses are beginning to accept that fact that
teen education is vitally important to the Jewish future, enrollment is
staggering due to financial constraints.
Make no mistake – AMHSI has a
very bright future. Our new partnership with the Jewish National Fund is only
the first of many exciting new steps in the right direction. But it feels as
though AMHSI and the other Lapid partner organizations have always been fighting
an unnecessary uphill battle. Despite having conclusively proven the relevance
of positive Jewish engagement in the teenage years, the Israeli government is
yet to make teen programming a priority. This remains shocking and
incomprehensible to me.
From a lifetime of personal experience, I can say
with authority that inspired and educated teens are the global Jewish
community’s greatest asset. With their passion for Israel and Judaism ignited by
programs like AMHSI, teens become community activists and
They influence people of all ages, engaging them in Jewish
and Israel advocacy and shaping personal and communal Jewish identities and
connections to Israel.
As the Jewish National Fund takes over the
operation of AMHSI, a new board is being formed, made up of the leaders of both
organizations, all leaders of the Jewish people.
In essence, I am not
stepping down as chairman, I am stepping up – for it is planned that I step up
to chairman emeritus. I am very proud that AMHSI’s outstanding achievements are
being recognized by the JNF. It is now up to the Israeli government and the rest
of the Jewish world to join the crusade for Jewish continuity.The author
is the outgoing chairman of the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI)