A djusting to high school once can be difficult.
But some North Jersey high school students are willing to do it again, only this time, they’ll be 6,000 miles away from home.
This year, 58 students from North America were selected to spend the last three years of high school in Israel with the Elite Academy program run by the Jewish Agency for Israel and Israel’s Ministry of Education.
Esther, left, and Batya Karp
Shoshana Eisenman of Teaneck isn’t worried about the adjustment.
"I’m mostly excited. I’m barely nervous because I’m excited," she said.
Shoshana, who is 15, went to Bat TorahThe Alisa M. Flatow Yeshivah High School in Suffern, N.Y.
She heard about the program through a friend and was interested right away.
"One of my best friends knows I love Israel. I don’t know how she found the program, but the second she did, she showed it to me," she said.
So far, the program has sent over 14,000 students to schools in Israel from all over the world.
"Naale, the international version of the program, has been around since 199′. The Elite Academy, the North American program, has been around for four years," said Elite Academy Program Director Elie Klein.
When the Naale program began in 199′, it was originally designed for students from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia and helped cater to the needs of students from those communities. It gradually opened up to students from South Africa, South America, and four years ago, North America.
Frisch student Ori Dayan, 14, had a few more reservations than Shoshana, but is now looking forward to the Sept. ‘ group flight to Israel.
"My mother and father just came up to me and told me about it. I was really surprised, I didn’t see it happening," he said. "I didn’t know if I wanted to go or not, but I said sure."
Before his freshman year at Frisch, Ori went to public school. Many of his friends were surprised that he went to Frisch instead of Paramus High School.
"They were confused," he said. "But I really like trying new things. So this experience will be another new thing."
But a unique high school experience is only one of the program’s benefits.
"It’s fully subsidized," said Elite’s Klein. "It’s full tuition, full room and board, full medical insurance. We take care of the phone plan and give them pocket money on a monthly basis. All travel expenses in Israel are paid for. We have a big group flight that’s on us. All the trips throughout the year are all paid for. The schools also offer their own field trips that are paid for as well."
Fourteen-year-old twins Batya and Esther Karp of Teaneck are particularly excited.
"I’ve never been to Israel before," said Batya. "They’re going to take us on trips and tours. We always wanted to live in Israel, so it was just a great opportunity to go live there."
Participants can choose from a number of schools participating. Shoshana, Batya, and Esther will attend Neve Sarah, an all-girls modern Orthodox school, and Ori will attend Mosenzon, a secular co-ed school. Many of the students live in dorms, which all have house mothers. In addition, each school has a support staff, along with a homeroom teacher.
"I have an amazing love of the land of Israel and I’m so excited to be learning there and meeting new friends from all over the world. There’s something amazing about actually being there and learning in the land. That’s exciting," said Shoshana.