Jonathan Mamon is a senior at Beaver Country Day School. His mother, Lauren Mamon, is the author of this post.
“Jonathan, what are you going to do this summer?” This question was a constant in our house last winter and spring. Jonathan’s responses ranged from “I don’t know,” to “Mom, I’m really busy with school, and can’t think about it right now.” As the months went on, he talked half-heartedly about getting a job, but my husband David rejected this by saying that Jonathan would be working for the rest of his life and should have one more summer of fun.
We started talking about different sports camps and travel options, but none of them seemed to spark Jonathan’s interest. He spent the best eight summers of his life at his all boys’ camp in Maine, but at this point he did not seemed inspired to go back and work there. We started talking about going back to Israel. He had spent three and a half weeks the previous summer on a teen tour, touring around the country and pretty much fell in love. However in this discussion we also met resistance. Jonathan reported that no future trip to Israel could compare with the experience, the staff, or the kids.
We had heard about the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) program from the Northeast Director Dana Gerbie Klein. With Dana’s help we presented it to Jonathan. Although Dana used a really soft sell, Jonathan was not convinced. He really did not want to spend his summer in a classroom doing anything remotely academic. However he did speak to a few AMHSI alumni friends as well as those from area Jewish Day schools that had loved AMHSI and the idea seemed to grow on him. Dana also reassured him that academically it could be whatever he made it. We signed him up.
Jonathan went on the Muss trip knowing no one. As we left Jonathan at JFK in New York, he was chatting and laughing among a group of kids. When the phone rang some 12 hours later, Jonathan, although very tired, told us he was already having a ball. Not one for random chatter, Jonathan’s phone calls home were always upbeat, and full of interesting things he had learned or experienced. Not a young man who loves sitting still, he quickly became engrossed in the classroom education about the history, religion, and politics of Israel and the Middle East, and truly felt like he lived what he had learned by going out to the actual sites that he had learned about that morning. Jonathan loved his teachers. Both Yossi Katz and David Sprung had so much knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for their material that Jonathan was constantly enthralled by all they had to share. Yossi, Jonathan’s primary instructor made such a strong impression on him, that Jonathan ended up writing about Yossi in his college essay this past fall.
We knew Jonathan was having a wonderful time judging by the frequently updated pictures on the Muss website. While the program is academic, there were equally as many pictures of the teens seriously wandering through a religious site as there were of the kids drenched in mud, or dressed up for a toga party. Jonathan loved both the staff and the friends he made, and felt that Muss offered a perfect level of independence in being able to explore the area around Hod HaSharon. The Muss campus and the surrounding town quickly came to feel like home.
However, as parents, the most revealing was once Jonathan arrived home, and his amazing ability to be able to engage in ANY conversation about Israel. Always strongly pro-Israel, he had acquired the skills to be able to talk politics, religion, geography, history, conflict resolution, and even to converse using some basic Hebrew. Even six months later, he still uses what he learned from Muss, talking and writing passionately in his World Religion class in school, sharing materials with his teachers, and very respectively guiding others to understand the dilemma of Israel. The Alexander Muss High School in Israel program has truly been a wonderfully defining experience in Jonathan’s life.
For more information about the Alexander Muss High School in Israel and other programs for teenagers to travel to Israel, join us at the Boston Israel Programs Fair on February 12, 2012 from 1-3 PM at Hebrew College.