When you think of Israel, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For many, the answer may be the seemingly inescapable news of social tensions, political unrest and terrorist attacks. But for Cody Hunter (11), Israel has come to mean so much more.
Hunter first left for Israel in August of 2018 as a part of URJ Heller High, an academic program designed specifically for Jewish teens in tenth through twelfth grade. Along with 27 other students, he spent four months in Tzuba, a small living community just outside of Jerusalem. As a part of this program, he was offered a variety of unique opportunities for experiential learning.
“My favorite experience…didn’t actually happen in Israel. It was when we went to Poland for a week and learned about the Holocaust,” Hunter said. “We went to Auschwitz, Majdanek and Birkenau.”
Through multiple field trips and interactive classes, Hunter was not only given a unique learning experience, he was also given greater sense of identity.
“For the most part, everyone there was Jewish, so it didn’t really feel like I was an outsider,” Hunter said. “Wherever I turned I saw something of my culture, or I would always hear Hebrew, and it kind of just made me feel like I belonged a lot more than I do here.”
Although these four months may seem short in the grand scheme of things, Hunter’s semester abroad has certainly had a lasting impact on his life.
“I would recommend this program to other students because it not only gives you this sense of being independent, it also is just an amazing experience for any teen to go through,” Hunter said. “Doing any kind of semester abroad is just a truly amazing experience.”