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COVID Or Not, Here They Come

Niva Cohen

Executive Editor

The Muss campus in Hod Hasharon, Israel

The COVID-19 pandemic has halted countless programs over the last couple of years, but luckily for the class of 2023, this year’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) is not one of them. Eleventh graders are spending the first trimester studying and traveling in Israel, as Barrack juniors almost always do. Not everything will be the same, as health concerns persist, but at least the highly anticipated trip is happening.

AMHSI is a campus in Hod Hasharon where international students -- usually American -- receive an immersive education about Israel and Judaism. In addition to their general studies classes, students take a Jewish Studies course called Core. Core is the cornerstone of the AMHSI curriculum. The students often leave their “home base” in Hod Hasharon to visit the sites about which they are learning in Core, getting to know Israel in the process. This technique of teaching about events where they happened is called experiential learning; it engages students by getting them to see beyond the textbook. While away from campus, the Barrack Juniors will also partake in cultural activities, holiday festivities, and sightseeing.

Although the spirit of Muss is the same as it always was, some of the programming has changed. Previous Barrack students traveled to Poland for a week to see the concentration camps -- that won’t happen this year because of the pandemic. While past AMHSI students have spent weekends visiting family in Israel, it poses too much of a risk this year. These modifications are cause for disappointment but certainly not for dismay; upon their departure, most juniors felt lucky to be going at all.

The dominant feeling regarding Muss is general excitement. Ellie LaVoe ‘23 said she was excited “to learn, build relationships, and to make memories that will last a lifetime” in a new country with a new routine. Abby Greenspan ‘23 was “excited and getting more excited every day” as her August 30 departure approached. Despite her worries about the Delta variant, she trusted that AMHSI would navigate it well and that it wouldn’t interfere with the program’s success.

Many graduates see Muss as the highlight of high school, the defining period of their four years at Barrack. Fortunately, our current seniors who missed their opportunity to participate last fall will get their chance to go to AMHSI this spring. The compromises that COVID-19 has forced the program to make hardly dampen the juniors’ enthusiasm. They are ready for adventure, and pandemic or no pandemic, Muss can promise that much.

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