Roslyn students Shelby Paragament, a junior at Roslyn High School,and Dina Hollar, a senior at The Wheatley School, are both studying abroad in Israel at the NFTY High School through the Eisendrath International Experience (EIE) program for the fall semester.
Both teens, who have also been involved in similar programs at Temple Sinai, are dedicated to immersing themselves into Jewish culture through education.
EIE is based on Kibbutz Tzuba, approximately 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem, where the students live in dorm-style housing. With very small class sizes, students take an advanced Jewish history class, an advanced Hebrew Ulpan, as well as their regular general studies courses to fulfill the requirements of their home high schools.
Shelby became interested in studying abroad when she took a trip to Israel in 2012.
“I went with Ali Stamm [Temple Sinai’s Director of Youth Engagement] and SORTY, Temple Sinai’s senior youth group,” she said. “It was an amazing and fun trip. While we were in Israel we visited Kibbutz Tzuba and the students of EIE. My first trip to Israel opened my eyes to this NFTY program.
“The classroom experience here is very different from my old classroom experience at Roslyn High School,” she continued. “First off, in the mornings we study Hebrew and Jewish history for five hours. My general studies classes never have more than five other students in them. Although the school days and the EIE experience can be tiring, it is something you learn to get used to and enjoy.”
EIE students also have the opportunity to benefit from experiential learning. Tiyulim (field trips) are taken to visit areas they are learning about in their Jewish history class. Approximately three days a week are spent out of the classroom on field trips. There are also numerous weeklong trips throughout the semester, including a pilgrimage to Poland to study the Holocaust, a week of Gadna, and a simulated Israeli army training experience, and a weeklong hike across the country from sea to sea in the north.
Dina is thoroughly enjoying the field trips during her time spent in Israel.
“Since I started EIE, I’ve seen various beautiful sites all around Israel,” she said. “In the first week I went to the old city, and I got to see the Kotel [Western Wall]. Later that month, I went to Eilat and saw the most beautiful beach in all of Israel. I’ve been on various trips pertaining to Jewish history. I went to Masada, City of David, Bar Kochba tunnels, the Old City, and Beit Shar’im.” She explained, “Being able to see these magnificent sites all around Israel really makes this trip extraordinary.”
Both students gained valuable experiences from their semester in Israel.
“Having been in Israel for the last three months, I can tell you that NFTY EIE has definitely left me with many memories and unforgettable experiences that I know I will never forget,” Shelby said. “I am sad to leave, but I miss my family and friends. I would love to take my children here to show them where I spent four months of my life, and the importance of their Jewish identity.”