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Connecting to Judaism Through the Alexander Muss High School in Israel

November 14, 2019

Penn Valley, Pennsylvania

My experience onAlexander Muss High School in Israel was nothing short of life changing. It impacted me in so many ways, and caused me to have a complete turn around in my Jewish Identity. I went on Muss because I had recently joined BBYO, and was starting to see the importance of Judaism. Once I began to feel these connections inBBYO, I knew I wanted to strengthen my ties to my religion. Not only did Muss help me do that, but it also made me passionate about being Jewish, and about the land of Israel.

 Muss is a very unique program, which is why it drew my attention. My mom had been toIsrael twice, and I had never been but had always really wanted to go. However, on Muss you are not a tourist or a traveler, you are a student living inIsrael. The campus is in a town called Hod Hosharon, which is located about a half hour Northwest of Tel Aviv. I lived in a dorm room with three other boys and there were a total of thirty two kids and two madrichim, who were basically like our parents during our stay in Israel. While in Hod Hasharon, we took our traditional subject classes and another called CORE.

 CORE was a mandatory class that taught us all of Jewish History, from creation to the present. While on the program we got to step outside of the classroom setting and engage through experiential learning.This style of learning allowed us to take trips called tiyulim. On tiyulim we would travel to new cities and get to learn about the place we stayed in. My two personal favorites were the Atlit beach and Masada. Both of these locations have a huge place in this history of Israel. For those who don’t know, at the beach in Atlit is where the most successful illegal immigration of Jews took place at in 1946. And Masada is where the Zealots, a radical sect of Judaism, fled to after The Great Revolt. The day before each of these, we were left on a cliffhanger, which led us into the next day. The next morning, we got up, and took a bus to each location. I fell in love with this style of teaching as it made me so excited to want to learn and find out what happens next.Experiential learning kept me engaged throughout the whole trip, and it allowed me to retain almost all of the information I learned. To this day I find my self hearing, and talking about things related to Jewish history. Because of Muss, I feel so much more educated and equipped to have a well thought out conversations about a wide variety of topics in Judaism.

WhenI first started on Muss, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it, or if it would connect me to my Judaism. But little did I know that Muss would flip my world upside down. While on the trip, I never really felt the connection until we spent Shabbat at the Kotel. Being at The Western Wall, the holiest of holies, on shabbat is the experience I miss the most to this day. That night we joined the circles of people praying and jumping with joy. All the guys on the trip joined into a group that was gathered around a table. Here we sang prayers and popular shabbat songs at the top of our lungs. People were getting on each other’s shoulders, and everyone was jumping around and dancing with pure love and joy. The reason why this night impacted me the most was because I was finally able to see clearly what it meant to be Jewish. I was able to realize how our people still celebrate and look at the good in life no matter what we’ve been through. For thousands of years people have hated and tried their best to get rid of the Jewish people, but guess what? We are still here and stronger than ever. This realization turned my life upside down, which gave me the passion I have today about being Jewish, and expressing my Jewish Identity.

OnceI got back from Muss, I knew I wanted to maintain this newfound passion. Muss inspired me to bring my sense of Judaism back home, and celebrate it publicly. BBYO has given me this opportunity, and I am so thankful for it. I have become one of the most active members in my chapter. Not only that, but I went on CLTC8 2019 and met some of my best friends. This year I will be attendingInternational Convention 2020, and I plan on attending Perlman Summer 2020 as well. None of this would be possible if I had not gone on Muss.

My experience inIsrael helped shape me into who I am today, and who I plan to be in the future. Living in Israel for two months allowed me to form my own opinion of what it means to be Jewish. I was able to craft my own views, values, morals, and I gained skills that will last me the rest of my life. I am forever grateful for this life changing experience.

Corey is an Aleph in Yitzhak Rabin AZA #2562 in Liberty Region

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