But this week, Noa Miriam Gilbert-McNabb is leaving for high school in Kfar Chabad through the Elite Academy, a program supported by the Jewish Agency for Israel and Israel's Ministry of Education.
Sixty students from North America, including six from the Los Angeles area, will have their tuition, travel expenses and pocket money covered so they can attend one of four Israeli high schools -- including a mixed secular school, a Modern Orthodox option and a Chabad program. The Jewish Agency hopes the program will help the students create lasting bonds with Israel, possibly inducing them to live there but at least making them strong advocates for the Jewish state.
Elite students live in dorms, attend Israeli high schools, have host families as surrogate homes, and go on field trips, seminars and extra curricular activities with Israeli peers.
The program for international students was founded in 1992, and four years ago began accepting students from North America. Five Californians have participated in the last two years.
Noa Miriam, 14, has never been away from home for more than a few days, but she's excited about broadening her world: "I wanted to go somewhere, to visit different places, and this was a great opportunity."
Her mother says Noa Miriam's independent spirit should help her -- she went bungee jumping and white water rafting while her four older siblings never did. And not only did she convince her parents to let her go, she got her own passport, learned Hebrew at an adult ulpan and worked at the family's Pizza Station on Pico Boulevard to earn spending money.
Elie Klein, who runs the Elite Academy, said 96 percent of students who start the program end up matriculating from their Israeli school.
"Students apply to the program for a variety of reasons, from learning Hebrew to meeting new friends, but they all agree they have something important to contribute," Klein said. "We allow them to develop their talents and hone the skills that will enable them to be part of Israel's future."
For more information visit http://www.israelprograms.org or call (866) 472-4772.
Kickoff Meeting for Boychik Scouts
A Shabbat and kashrut-observant Boys and Cub Scout troop is holding a kickoff meeting this week. The troop meets once or twice per month for activities that focus on character, outdoor skills and citizenship. Last year, more than 75 boys participated in camping, pinewood derby car racing and field trips.
Boys ages 6 to 17 are invited to attend the meeting, Sunday, Sept. 9, 5 p.m. at Beth Jacob Congregation, 9030 Olympic Blvd. in Beverly Hills.
For more information contact Cubmaster Jeffrey Feuer, call (310)338-1171, ext. 10 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Handling Those 'God Forbid' Situations
Worrying about worst-case scenarios is an unpleasant but inevitable part of parenting. The Shalom Institute in Malibu is holding a Family Safety Day to help parents and kids prepare for -- and possibly prevent -- all kinds of "God forbid" situations. Child predator safety educator Pattie Fitzgerald will present an age-appropriate workshop for kids about how to handle being lost, how to keep safe at home and what do in situations that make them uncomfortable. Attorney Eric Grodan will help parents navigate issues such as wills and trusts.
Lunch will be provided.
Saturday, Sept. 8, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. 34342 Mulholland Highway, Malibu. $15 (per person with advance registration), $20 (at the door), free (children under 4). For more information and to register visit www.grodanlaw.com or call (818) 206-2222. www.shalominstitute.com.
Preschool Teacher Going Back to School
Marcy Stieglitz, a kindergarten teacher at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, was one of 18 educators nationwide selected to take part in a new fellowship designed to groom teachers to become leaders in their fields.
The Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative, a project of the Covenant Foundation in collaboration with Bank Street College of Education and Project Zero at Harvard University, is designed to bring educators together to study Jewish texts and Jewish life while learning about leadership and the emotional and social well-being of young children.
The program will include two summer institutes and frequent seminars featuring cutting-edge leadership development and dialogue-based Judaic learning, with monthly phone conferences and guided online discussion groups. The third year features individual mentorships and a culminating trip to Israel.
Teachers Receive Excellence Honors
Five Los Angeles teachers are among the 76 nationwide recipients of the eighth annual Grinspoon-Steinhart Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education. The awards, given by the Jewish Education Service of North America, in partnership with the Grinspoon Foundation and the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundations, honor outstanding classroom-based teachers in formal Jewish education settings.
This year's honorees from Los Angeles are Jeri Dubin, a preschool teacher at Adat Ari El Rose Engel Early Childhood Center; Meri Hever, a Gesher teacher at University Synagogue; Hilary Steinberg, a teacher at Valley Beth Shalom Nursery School for 20 years; Joshua Hearshen, who taught for five years at Los Angeles Hebrew High School while pursuing his rabbinic studies; and Rebecca Green, a Jewish educator.
Each winner is awarded a $1,000 cash prize and a $1,500 stipend to be used for professional development, part of which is underwritten by local donors.
For more information, visit http://www.grinspoonsteinhardt.org.
-- Derek Schlom, Contributing Writer
Presidential Honors for YU Grads
Two Los Angeles students are among 12 recent Yeshiva University graduates selected to serve as Presidential Fellows in University and Community Leadership at Yeshiva University (YU) in New York.
Michal Kalinsky, a business management major at YU's Sy Syms School of Business, is working at YU's Center for the Jewish Future in their community initiatives department.
Lauren Pietruszka, a business and marketing major at Sy Syms, is working in the office of the dean at YU's Stern College for Women.
Established four years ago by YU President Richard Joel, the fellowships aim to in train top graduates to expand YU's service to the Jewish community.
For more information, visit http://www.yu.edu.