For the third consecutive summer, a group of Arizona high school students is headed to Israel to connect with their Jewish roots and further their education at the Jewish National Fund’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI-JNF).

The students, who left June 21, will serve as fellows of the 2017 Arizona Impact Fellowship, which was established in 2014 to provide Jewish high school students from Arizona a meaningful opportunity to explore and discover their connection to the land, people, history and culture of Israel.

The first group of students visited Israel through the fellowship in the summer of 2015. This summer marks the final year of the initial program, although additional funding is currently being sought for future summers, according to Audrey Lewis, senior campaign executive, Arizona, for the JNF Desert States region.

A study released last week by the Brand Israel Group may indicate how important high school trips to Israel could be in establishing young Jewish adults’ connection to the land of Israel.

The study found that support for Israel is significantly declining among American Jewish college students, with the number of Jewish college students in the United States supporting Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians dropping from 84 percent in 2010 to 57 percent last year. The results matched trends across other demographic groups in the country.

Through the Arizona Impact Fellowship, the students receive tuition (less $350), on-campus housing, a meal plan and educational materials to attend the 2017 six-week summer session at AMHSI. They are required to fulfill a $650 fundraising goal through the JNF Plant Your Way to Israel program and share their experience through activities on Arizona high school campuses after they return.

This year’s Arizona fellows are Rachel Falk of Chandler; Ayden Raphael of Phoenix; Jordan Brooks, Sophie Setton, Amy Shugar, Josh Sidi and Jessica Zucker of Scottsdale; and Emily Jones, Nathan Rix and Max Silverman of Tucson. Hailey Fischer of Chandler was selected as an alternate for the Impact Fund, but will attend the school this summer as a Boruchin fellow, according to Lewis.

Alexander Muss High School in Israel is a pluralistic, college-prep international study abroad program for high school students, where AMHSI-JNF educators use Israel as “a living classroom,” meaning the students tour the country as they learn.

The Arizona Impact Fund was created by Phoenix philanthropist Sheila Schwartz, along with her daughter and son-in-law, Lesley and Eli Hammer; as well as her son and daughter-in-law, Frank and Jennifer Schwartz.

The Arizona Impact Fellowship was also made possible by a grant from JNF’s Boruchin Israel Education and Advocacy Center.

For more information about AMHSI and the Arizona Impact Fund, contact Audrey Lewis at 480-447-8100, ext. 983, or JN

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