Why Do I Believe in Muss - A Teacher Spotlight

Blog image - Why Do I Believe in Muss - A Teacher Spotlight

Muss Magic

I have been teaching US History at Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss) for almost 8 years.  I have seen the Muss Magic work with every group – whether it is Semester or Mini-Mester groups. Every single time.

What exactly is the Muss Magic and why do I believe in the importance of sending high school students to Israel?

The core of Muss is experiential and site-based learning that brings Jewish and Israeli history to life. This approach is simple and it works.  Students arrive often without knowing anyone, but at some point during their time here, the students not only connect with each other but they also “find themselves”. They connect with their Jewish identities and they absorb what their co-travelers are experiencing as well.

How does Muss create this magic?

It may be all learning – the trips and Israel studies are fun - but Muss is different from a trip. Muss develops connections – you see the country, you feel it and you do this as a group.  While you are fully immersed, you continue with your academic education, making the relevance of this even more pronounced, somehow. Students begin to see the larger picture, how Math and English and History matter, how these subjects bring a skill set that makes good humans. 

In a way, Muss fosters their individual identities…

Muss creates a common experience. In this shared experience students find their place, their commitment to themselves and to something bigger. It's pretty amazing and particularly gratifying to watch.

Why Muss Matters

On October 8, the students on campus rallied and did so much work for the good of the country. Every single student asked teachers: Where do you need me, what help is needed, how are your children, were they called up, how are you? So many voices, so many hands working together  and doing so with united hearts. Filled with compassion and understanding that the community was broken, they knew the importance of stepping up and that each voice matters, whether it be a small gesture or a large action – it all matters and it is all appreciated. Students in the Fall Semester fundraised over $145,000 in a matter of days, showing not only the impact that several passionate individuals can have, but the power of working together. This connectedness to each other and to Israel is why Muss matters, in good times and in bad.

During those first days, I saw students rush to make packages for soldiers and residents from the south – thousands of packages were made. Everything was chaotic in those days, but the Muss family was bonded so strongly. They were singing and - though scared - feeling great: Part of Israel and committed to making a difference.

Before the decision was made to end the programs earlier, several of my students spoke to me about staying in Israel.  Their desire to learn, to be part of Israel at that dark moment, was a testament to the connection they built with Israel and the community here. Their arguments for remaining in Israel were born out of the recognition that Muss was a life-changing experience for them. That speaks volumes about why Muss matters.

Since October 7, so many students have reached out – asking how I am, asking after my family, telling me about their situation in the US. The fact that students reached out meant the world to me, particularly on those days when I felt that I was just focusing on getting through the day. I did not take this lightly. I deeply appreciated the depth of the caring that was being conveyed. Seeing each other on a human level and connecting to each other is one of the reasons why Muss matters.

I’ve been at Muss long enough to see that the vast majority of students thrive in this environment. It also means that teachers, like myself, love teaching at Muss. I don’t know what Alexander Muss High School in Israel was like at its inception over 50 years ago, when it was knows as simply HSI, but I know they created something unique and wonderful. They created Muss Magic, no matter what the school is called, and this will always matter. 


Caitlin Levy is a Canadian native. Her master's studies focused on social equity issues, and she worked in community development and social housing for many years. Living near the Hod HaSharon campus, she and her husband have four children, of whom she is the most proud. 

This month, we are raising money to help support the future of positive Zionist education for American teens, with our I Believe Muss is the Answer campaign! If you want to know how you can support Israel's tomorrow, today, learn more at amhsi.org/believe.