How Muss Informed the Person I Am Today - An Alumna Spotlight

Blog image - How Muss Informed the Person I Am Today - An Alumna Spotlight

Reflecting On My Time at Muss and How It Informed the Person I Am Today


When I was 16 years old, I eagerly signed up for a semester in Israel, hoping it would be a respite from high school life. Little did I know that Muss would leave a profound impact on me that would shape me for life.  


During my semester with Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss), I learned about 4,000 years of Jewish history and saw firsthand the places in which much of it happened. As my semester progressed, Jewish history felt more real and less antiquated. Stories like the Bar Kokhba revolt and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising opened my eyes to a theme in Jewish history that I had previously overlooked: resilience. Growing up, the idea that the Jews have survived all odds had been reiterated to me a thousand times. I never really stopped to ask how we did it. I didn’t take into account the personal resilience each Jew has had to practice in the face of adversity throughout history. The Jews survived a genocide attempt in ancient Persia because Mordechai and Esther acted bravely and strategically. The state of Israel survived the wars of 1948, 1967, and 1973 because the Jewish people worked together to protect the Jewish state. It was Jewish unity and courage that has allowed us to survive the odds. 


Although what I learned on Muss inspired a newfound appreciation for my heritage and culture, I still had a hard time figuring out where I fit into it all.  


I grew up in Clarksville, Maryland, where my Judaism was rarely under fire and there was very little debate about Israel. I had not faced any adversity that would prompt me to act resiliently. It wasn’t until the latter half of my college experience that I would realize how I’d further the Jewish story. As a Junior in college, I joined the executive board of my university’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI). Luckily, my university had little to no antisemitism at the time, making my job on SSI rather easy. However, on October 7th, everything changed. Suddenly, multiple anti-Israel clubs popped up around campus and students were parading Palestinian flags while chanting for Israel’s destruction. As I sat in my dorm room angry and upset, I remembered what I learned on Muss. The Jewish people did not survive the odds by accident, we worked together and stood tall in the face of adversity. I could no longer ignore antisemitism and anti-Zionism; they were knocking at my doorstep.  


I, alongside the other members of SSI, work hard to advocate for Israel on our campus. We organized a pro-Israel rally, handed out Israel pins, hosted events to help students learn how to combat antisemitism and tabled in the middle of campus once a week to make our Zionist presence known on campus. It was my time at Muss that not only taught me the history and facts necessary to effectively combat antisemitism on campus, but it also reminded me that resilience is in my blood.  


As my time at University of Miami (UM) comes to an end, I look back at the personal growth I have undergone throughout my education. The foundation of my Jewish identity and advocacy was largely born on Muss and was strengthened during my time at UM. Next month, I will leave Miami as an even stronger advocate and a more proud Jew than when I arrived. Next stop: Tel Aviv. 


Natalie Lewis Headshot

Natalie Lewis is an alumna of the 2019 Spring Semester. Natalie is a Maryland native, and a graduating senior at the University of Miami.