Record attendance at Jewish National Fund-USA’s High School Summit

The summit was part of the 2,500 Zionists attending the organization's Global Conference for Israel.

AMHSI President, Ron Werner, addresses students
AMHSI President, Ron Werner, addresses students

In an incredible show of solidarity with Israel, nearly 300 teenagers attended Jewish National Fund-USA’s High School Summit at the organization’s Global Conference for Israel in Denver. With an engaging program and inspiring speakers, the summit educated students on the current situation in Israel while providing useful tools for students seeking to become informed advocates for the land and people of Israel.

Representing the Jewish community’s next generation of leaders, the teens heard from guest speakers, including, filmmaker, documentarian and Emmy Award winner Yuval David; Ambassador Michael Oren; and Israel’s Olympic Baseball Captain Ryan Lavarnway, who shared his personal story of representing Israel on the world stage.

“The teens here are truly some of the most well-educated and best-equipped people to talk about Israel,” said High School Summit co-chair Dan M. “The experiences of the students I’ve talked to here just can’t compare to anything I’ve had to deal with at home, so it’s been really eye-opening and special to hear so many passionate people all over the country be able to talk about an issue that we care so much about.”

The conference also served as a bittersweet reunion for many of the students who attended Jewish National Fund-USA’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss), where their semester was cut short due to the war. The students made sure their presence was felt before leaving, however, making 1,500 care packages for displaced Israelis and raising more than $120,000 for Israelis affected by the war.

“I used to say at Muss, we build the future leaders of the Jewish people,” Muss president Ron Werner, himself an alum of the program, told the students. “But what I’m seeing at this conference and what I saw on stage, is you are not the just the leaders of tomorrow. You are the leaders of today. When I witnessed our students caring more about displaced Israelis, organizing your clothes that you couldn’t take back, washing them, and writing notes with them to give to displaced Israelis … you’re often called kids; I prefer young leaders.”

And while the students have kept in touch over the last few months, for many, this was their first time seeing each other since the semester ended.

“When they announced that the semester would be cut short, it didn’t feel real,” said Alexander K., a sophomore from Hawaii. “I thought I’d never see my friends again. Now I’m happy that I got to spend time with them again.”

In addition, the students learned about several of Jewish National Fund-USA’s projects in Israel, including its support of Israelis with disabilities, its work with displaced residents from the country’s south, and its efforts to support environmental programs. They also attended an interactive session with the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing terrorism through education, empowerment and engagement.

“The future of Israel advocacy is very bright,” said High School Summit co-chair Eliza C. from Pennsylvania. “I think there are a lot of educated and well-spoken teens who are passionate and want to make a difference in Israel’s future.”

Register for the 2024 Global Conference for Israel: jnf.org/globaldallas.

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Jewish National Fund-USA builds a strong, vibrant future for the land and people of Israel through bold initiatives and Zionist education. As a leading philanthropic movement, the organization supports critical environmental and nation-building activities in Israel’s north and south as it develops new communities in the Negev and Galilee, connects the next generation to Israel, and creates infrastructure and programs that support ecology, people with disabilities, and heritage site preservation, all while running a fully accredited study abroad experience through its Alexander Muss High School in Israel.
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