How Muss Helped Me Become a Jewish Leader - An Alumna Spotlight

Blog image - How Muss Helped Me Become a Jewish Leader - An Alumna Spotlight


In January of 2023, I left my friends, family, and everything familiar to me behind in order to spend a semester in Israel at Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss). I nervously sat on the plane that day, not knowing anyone that would be on my program, unaware of what to expect, and having no idea that this experience would completely change my life, shape me into the person that I am today, and turn the group of strangers that I was about to meet into family. I grew up attending Jewish day school and going to a Jewish sleepaway camp every summer, however I was never satisfied with what I was learning and always craved more depth. I wanted answers to my intricate questions and intense discussion about Jewish history and Judaism. I truly wanted to be challenged and ultimately fully understand what it meant to be a Jew. I discovered that the only way to achieve this was to fully immerse myself in the land of Israel.  

Throughout my semester, I traveled all around Israel, creating incredible memories with my new best friends while learning and seeing over 4,000 years of Jewish history. I spoke Hebrew every day, became best friends with Israelis, indulged in delicious Israeli food, and, unlike any other time I had visited before, I felt that Israel had become a huge part of me, and I had truly become a part of Israel.  

From the beginning, my Israeli Studies teacher, Doni Kandel, became an inspiring mentor to me and my classmates. His engaging and immersive classes were unlike anything I had experienced before, despite spending my entire life attending a Jewish day school. Trips and classes with Doni and my classmates were filled with laughter, energy, and enthusiasm, all while learning about our Jewish history and discovering what our Jewish identity really meant to each one of us. 

On the first day of classes, I entered Doni’s room where a huge question mark was drawn on the white board. Doni began to explain the significance of the symbol by asking us questions, “How will this experience change your life?,”  “What will you learn and take away from this experience?,” “What is the most important thing you want to gain from studying in Israel?”. Doni’s questions resonated with me instantly. I knew that this experience in Israel was going to prepare me to return home as a strong Jewish leader. Each tiyul (trip) taught me so much about my heritage and helped me discover even more about myself. I began to formulate my own Jewish identity that was not just influenced by my parents, Jewish day school, or synagogue, but, more importantly, was influenced by my own meaningful experiences in Israel with Muss.  

My class revisited Doni’s giant question mark on our last day before returning home. With tears in our eyes my classmates and I entered our classroom for the last time and said goodbye to the place that had truly become our second home. We were all surprised to see the giant question mark from our first day on the board again, however Doni quickly explained that this question mark was different. We had already answered everything about the question mark we saw on the first day. We had finished this incredible experience and learned so much about ourselves, our Jewish identities, and our history, but Doni asked us one last question: “What are you going to do with everything that you learned throughout this experience, and what is going to be your next step as a Jewish leader?”  This question weighed heavily on me and still hasn’t left my mind a year later. However, now I can proudly answer this question with confidence.  

Upon my return from Muss, I was beyond inspired and knew that I wanted to remain connected with the Jewish National Fund-USA and continue my journey as a young Jewish leader. I wanted to share my experience with the world and other Jewish teens, to inspire and educate them on the importance of leadership in the Jewish community. Shortly after my Muss experience I became a Sababa fellow and an Alexander Muss High School in Israel ambassador. Through the Sababa fellowship program, I was provided with the incredible opportunity to attend JNF-USA’s Global Conference for Israel and High School Summit, learning even more about Jewish leadership, which has become extremely significant following the atrocities of October 7th. Muss helped me find my voice as a Jewish leader and provided me with valuable experiences that helped me create an unbreakable bond with my homeland, Israel.  

This summer I am continuing my involvement with JNF-USA and Muss, interning in Boca Raton, Florida. Muss provided me with my forever home in Israel and an entire new family. I am beyond proud of the person that I am today because of my experience at Alexander Muss High School in Israel.