Ramaz Upper School Students Will Embark on Israel Mission in May


Julia Feit '22

Ramaz students attending a full-school assembly to learn about the Israel Mission.

After almost two years of fragmented school days and missed opportunities, the entire Ramaz Upper School will embark on an unprecedented trip to Israel through the week of May 23rd, 2022. 

The inspiration for the trip was rooted in Ramaz’s deep connection to the state of Israel coupled with the recognition of all the hardships endured by students and faculty alike throughout the pandemic. Mr. Jonathan Cannon, Head of School, explained that this trip is a message to Israel that there has been a void at Ramaz that has been created by the lack of our standard Israel trips. According to Mr.Cannon, the Ramaz community is beyond excited to fill that void by returning to Israel to celebrate our love for the state and people, together as a school.

“In ten years when you think back to your memories from high school, you will not remember every detail  of each quiz you took. Rather, you will remember the special experiences you had. You will now be able to tell your kids that you went with your entire school on a mission trip to Israel, engaged in chesed missions, celebrated Shabbat in Jerusalem with your entire school, and lastly, met Israel’s president,” Mr. Cannon explained. This once-in-a-lifetime experience encapsulates all that Ramaz preaches to its students each day — combining Ahavat Ha’aretz with chesed, learning, and bonding as a school. 

The Ramaz Leadership Team feels that this school year is the appropriate time for the school-wide Israel trip because of the special circumstances endured by each high school grade. For instance, the current freshmen and sophomores who attended Ramaz Middle School did not have the opportunity to go on their eighth-grade Israel trips due to the pandemic. Because students missed out on this critical opportunity for spiritual and communal growth, the school hopes to rekindle their connection with the state of Israel. Additionally, Mr. Cannon believes that the current juniors and seniors grades have had the most disruption to their high school years. Between the hybrid learning last year, canceled shabbatons and other trips, and overall stressful atmosphere, the school aims to reward students for their academic drive and resilience. Additionally, the current Ramaz eighth-graders are already planning to be on their eighth grade Israel trip the same week as the high school. Mr. Cannon expressed his immense excitement at the idea of all five grades spending Shabbat together in Jerusalem. 

The itinerary for the trip is in the making. Seniors will be coming straight from Poland on Thursday, May 26th, and will most likely fly home on Saturday night. Mr. Cannon explained that seniors will have no additional cost for the extension of their Israel trip – the two additional nights in Israel will be free of charge. Throughout the week, the other three grades will circle through different activities all around the state. Mr. Cannon emphasized, “Our goal in planning activities is to cultivate unique experiences for our students. We know that some students might wonder how they will benefit from an additional Israel trip, considering that they’ve been to Israel numerous times with their families or on various teen programs; we plan to expose our students to new experiences on this mission and are trying to plan activities off the beaten track.” 

Additionally, Ramaz students will have a remarkable opportunity and honor to meet Ramaz alumni, President Herzog. On Thursday night, once the seniors arrive, the entire school will join together for a special concert in Jerusalem. On Friday, all grades will follow their own programming. The whole school will then congregate on Friday afternoon in a reserved space for singing and will welcome in Shabbat with a meaningful davening at the Kotel. Mr. Cannon explained that the hotels have not yet been confirmed, but each grade will likely stay at a different hotel in Jerusalem for Shabbat. 

While this trip may sound like an absolute dream, it, of course, comes at a cost. The price per participant is tentative, however, through fundraising, the cost has already been reduced from $4,300 per person to less than $3,000 per person. The school will also be supporting families that need additional financial assistance.

For those who cannot attend the Israel trip, there will be special classes and programming back at school to ensure that all students are still learning and benefiting from the Ramaz education. Mr. Cannon explained, “It won’t be like regular classes: the atmosphere will be much more relaxed and there won’t be any tests or major assignments during this time period,” He added that the amount of faculty attending the Israel trip is dependent on the student participation and the number of kids who stay back in New York. He recognized that despite all the faculty being invited, some of them have very young children or other commitments which may prevent them from attending. 

Although the prospect of this trip is extremely exciting, there are many logistics that still need to be sorted and refined. Mr. Cannon noted, “Normally we would plan this sort of trip way in advance – the earliest being the year 2024. However, in this case I think we all just felt that we miss Israel so desperately and Israel is missing us desperately, too. Since we already had the eighth grade and seniors going, we ultimately decided, let’s just go! Let’s be the first school to do it.” Encapsulating Ramaz as an institution, we are answering Israel’s calls and leading other yeshivot by example. The Ramaz Upper School will be the first school to bring all four upper school grades, the middle school 8th grade and the gap year students together in Israel.  This mission will create an outstanding experience for their students following a sometimes dispiriting two years in a pandemic.