“I didn’t want to choose between my education and my social life,” says Amana student Rachel Cohen. Teens want the chance to develop their social interactions but not at the expense of their educational future. Like many Modern Orthodox American teens, Cohen found the right balance at Amana, part of the Naale Elite Academy program.
“At Amana I get the social life I wanted with the quality religious education I need. I get to learn with my friends and the teachers really care about each and every student, no matter where they come from,” said Cohen, an exuberant 11th grade student from the American Southwest.
This ringing endorsement of the Naale Elite Academy program at the Amana Orthodox High School in Kfar Saba, Israel was echoed by all of the young students who live and learn throughout the year on the well-kept campus. In a quiet Kfar Saba neighborhood, a growing city located in the agriculturally colorful Sharon region, Amana has also garnered an impeccable reputation within the Israeli educational system.
The Naale Elite Academy program enables Jewish high school students from all over the world to study in Israel on a full scholarship. Students who complete the program, which runs from the 9th-12th grades, graduate with the internationally recognized Israeli matriculation (graduation) Bagrut certificate. Amana, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, is revered for both its dedication to religious values, as well as a superior educational curriculum. Each and every student is able to explore the wonders of the Holy Land through religious texts and stimulating class trips many historical sites.
Throughout the day, girls from all over the world can be seen chatting with their Israeli classmates. Many of the Sabras even help their foreign friends navigate the Hebrew language homework. They live, learn and socialize in a laid back atmosphere, an element that is encouraged by Amana’s teaching staff. With a full Ulpan as part of the program, girls don’t need to know Hebrew before they come to Amana but they quickly learn.
“At first I felt lost when I first came here in the 10th grade, as I didn’t know the language and didn’t know whether the other girls would even like me,” Mia Murciano, from Montreal, Canada, vividly recalled. “But everyone helped me feel at home. If you like new experiences, this is the place to be because you are never alone. I’ve made so many friends at Amana and I am so much happier here.”
Amana’s educational coordinators work closely with the girls and their parents to maximize their experience. Chaim Meyers, Head of Naale Western Division, explained, “The first challenge for any student is the transition from living at home with their parents to the new environment, in a new language with new friends. At Naale this transition is made as smooth as possible thanks to the dedicated staff, special study program and the support of the friends that become like a family.“
Sending your daughter to boarding school overseas might seem daunting to some parents, but the staff at Amana make sure to keep parents informed. “We know how to protect them and push them forward, and along the way, make them a bit more independent. We are always in contact with the parents, keeping them involved with their daughter’s progress.”
The school encourages the Israeli girls, who comprise 75% of Amana’s school population to engage and invite their foreign classmates for Shabbat and the holidays, as well as helping them explore the many fascinating cultural and religious activities that the country has to offer throughout the year.
Chana Freedberg summed up the Amana experience, “This has been an eye-opening, life changing experience for me, a small town girl from Bangor, Maine, who threw herself into all of it and made my dream of living in Israel come true.”