Participants of the JNF-USA’s Muss Study Abroad Program
Participants of the JNF-USA’s Muss Study Abroad Program

Tali Rubenstein encourages other students to take advantage of a gap semester at Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss).

Tali Rubenstein, a senior at Groves High School from West Bloomfield and the daughter of a Conservative rabbi and a Jewish educator, went on a journey with Jewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF-USA) flagship study abroad program, Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss). 

One of the most impactful programs for Jewish-American high school students, Muss blends a traditional high school education with a unique curriculum that teaches Israel’s history through interactive and rigorous academic programming. 

Judaism has always played a significant role in Tali’s life, she says. She attended Hillel Day School until eighth grade and went to Camp Ramah in Wisconsin for years. Hence, upon discovering an opportunity to study abroad in Israel, she had to seize the moment. 

Like many students during the pandemic, Tali was not particularly fond of Zoom schooling. “I would still be online on Zoom, and that just wasn’t something I was interested in,” Tali says. “And when I found out I could study abroad in Israel, and I could have a normal school semester, that was the main appeal … It was something new, totally out of my comfort zone, but it seemed great.” 

She did more research into Muss, discovering that some individuals she knew had previously gone on the program. After contacting JNF-USA, 

Tali decided this was the next step in her schooling and was thrilled to join like-minded individuals passionate about enhancing their Judaic studies. 

Tali joined other teens in this voyage to Israel during the Fall semester of her junior year. She said that Muss supported students of all different streams of Judaism, regardless of religious observance level. 

Every Friday, students gathered for a Shabbat meal.

“Everyone was open,” Tali says. “They made sure both people who observed Shabbat and people who didn’t were comfortable. Whether you were Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or secular, everyone fit right in.”  

Muss also strengthened Tali’s connection to Judaism. Despite her previous experiences growing up in a Jewish household and attending Jewish day school, she discovered newfound knowledge while living in Israel for four months. In this time, she was able to take a deep dive into Israel’s immersive culture, with Muss using the Land of Israel as a living and breathing classroom. 

“What impacted me was talking about the political situation on the ground,” she says. “I feel like before, I was sheltered, and I was only learning one side. But Muss allowed us to take the time to hear from all perspectives.” 

Throughout the program, Tali also enjoyed taking Hebrew classes. “My Hebrew was more advanced than a little over a majority of my classmates,” she says. “I took Hebrew since kindergarten but, going into high school, I lost some of it. It was nice to have a refresher.” 

The program also offered various levels of Hebrew for different Hebrew proficiencies.  

Not only was Tali intrigued by the coursework at Muss, but she was also excited to experience Israel’s beauty firsthand while traveling with her Israeli studies teachers.

One of Tali’s best memories from Muss was traveling to Jerusalem and seeing the Old City for the first time. Tali recalls all of the students being blindfolded and escorted onto a bus. Once the bus came to a halt, everyone formed a trust walk. Upon removing their blindfolds, the sunset elegantly dawned over Jerusalem as the group chanted the popular song, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold). 

“I think for everyone, this was a powerful moment. We barely even knew each other because we were just coming out of quarantine, but we were all still so connected. I think that was the best moment for me,” she says.  

Tali hopes to someday return to Israel, furthering her Judaic studies with a college study abroad program. In the meantime, she remains connected through weekly celebration of Shabbat with her family, summers at Camp Ramah, and keeping updated on Israeli current affairs. Additionally, she plans to have an active Jewish life on campus when she starts college in the fall. 

Tali encourages other students to take advantage of a gap semester at Muss.

“I would 100% recommend the program to friends,” she says. “I feel like Muss gives you everything you need back in America. All the classes you need to take are synced with everyone else at home. You get to meet a whole new group of people from all different backgrounds.

“I met my best friends on Muss, my college roommate for next year, and even created special one-on-one relationships with many of the teachers there. These relationships will shape the rest of my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.”  

Alexander Muss High School in Israel offers both semesters abroad in Israel and summer programs. For more information, go to or contact Sunny Nayberg at

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