What is Leadership Israel?

Leadership Israel is the premier Israel education and advocacy program for Chicago-area Jewish teens. This yearlong program combines the study of history, current events, journalism and advocacy skills to prepare knowledgeable, articulate, passionate high school students to share their views about Israel in school and the broader community. Applicants must commit to attend seven day-long Sunday seminars, travel to Washington, DC, during the spring semester and to Israel in the summer. 

Who can apply?

Leadership Israel is open to committed, capable Jewish teenagers who currently are sophomores or juniors in public or private high schools in the area. While most of our applicants have outstanding academic credentials, we are always looking for teenagers who are determined to share their passion for Israel and to make a difference on Israel’s behalf. Applicants complete a form, and submit an essay, a writing sample, a recommendation, and their high-school transcript. Qualified applicants will be invited to a personal interview.

Who runs the program?

The program is sponsored by JUF’s Israel Education Center. Seminars are led by an experienced team of journalists, educators, advocates, and professionals from a spectrum of the pro-Israel world. Guest lecturers and teachers include journalists, academics, rabbis, and Israeli government officials, among others.

How has the pandemic impacted the program?

In order to ensure the health and safety of our Fellows, during the pandemic the program pivoted to a virtual model. Seminars and activities have been adapted to the virtual learning setting, making use of cutting-edge remote learning tools and strategies. Some of the travel components have been postponed. We look forward to resuming in-person programming as soon as public health and safety conditions make that possible. Whether in-person or remote, Write On for Israel remains committed to equipping Fellows with knowledge, skills, and tools to lead.

Will I get personal attention?

All Fellows are assigned to a mentor who works with them in small groups and in one-on-one settings to ensure they get the most from the program. Written work is reviewed and substantive feedback is delivered each month. Fellows and their parents always can turn to mentors or the program director to discuss individual needs or to pursue specific areas of interest.

What does it cost?

Thanks to the generous support of JUF's Israel Education Center, participants pay only $2,500 for the entire program.  Some other small fees may apply. Nobody will be turned away because of financial need. Prospective Fellows should complete an  application and, upon acceptance, they will have an opportunity to seek financial aid.

Can I use The Send-a-Kid-to-Israel-Partnership (SKIP) savings incentive program to pay for the program?

If your family participates in JUF’s SKIP program you can apply the funds you’ve saved toward the Leadership Israel participation fee. More details are available  here.

Does the program endorse a specific ideology or political line?

Fellows should embrace the belief that the state of Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish, democratic state in the Middle East. Beyond that big-tent statement, we do not tell Fellows what policies to endorse or what to think. We do demand that every participant in the program engage in rigorous critical thinking and be willing to grapple aggressively and respectfully with a wide range of views.

Does the program follow a specific religious observance?

Leadership Israel is open to Jewish high school students. Our Fellows come from public and private schools, and from homes that are affiliated with all of the major religious denominations.

We take steps to ensure that all Fellows feel equally welcome. All food served at seminars, in Washington, DC, and in Israel, is kosher. After eating meat, we wait three hours before serving dairy foods; accommodations will be made for Fellows who wait longer.

In Israel, our program observes Shabbat, and we ensure that every Fellow’s religious needs are met.

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"Leadership Israel made me who I am as a leader on campus and gave me confidence to advocate for Israel coherently and effectively."

— Leadership Israel Fellow