What is the Menachem Begin Scholars Program?
The Menachem Begin Scholars Program is a selective two-year fellowship for 9th and 10th grade students from across North America. Menachem Begin Scholars will meet and learn from leading scholars and statesmen like Amb. Ron Dermer, Ruth Wisse, and Daniel Gordis. They will study the foundational ideas and heroic figures of Jewish, Zionist, and American civilization in college-level seminars. They will debate the big questions facing the Jewish people in our student journal. And they will participate in special retreats in Washington, D.C. and a concluding three-week experience in Israel in Summer 2024.
Who are my fellow students, and what is expected of me?
Menachem Begin Scholars will be chosen from a competitive pool of rising 9th graders, based on a demonstrated record of intellectual curiosity, Jewish character, and leadership potential. We understand that 9th grade is a year of transition, and so we begin the begin the program slowly, with a monthly online session. As the year progresses, we will add additional elements—all carefully designed to accommodate the full range of commitments and responsibilities of high-achieving high school students.
The Menachem Begin Scholars program has the following key components:Begin Scholars Program Timeline
- Conversations with Great Leaders
The “Conversations with Great Leaders” series will meet monthly—live and online—throughout the academic year. It provides Begin Scholars with the chance to meet leaders in public life and explore the real-world implications of the ideas they will study. We recognize the impact it can have on a young person to see the kind of leader he or she might become. Every session will include a short background paper, providing background about the speaker, highpoints from his or her career, and the critical questions for strategic discussion. Begin Scholars will be able to ask questions directly and gain advice from these outstanding figures. Immediately after each session, Begin Scholars will participate in seminar-style breakout groups to continue the conversation with their peers. The fall 2022 series will include:
—Israeli intellectual, historian, and Menachem Begin biographer Daniel Gordis of Shalem College in Jerusalem.
—Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, who is now writing a book on the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
—American businessman, political advisor, and author of Start-Up Nation Dan Senor.
—Former Harvard professor, Jewish intellectual, and Tikvah Senior Fellow Ruth Wisse.
- Washington, D.C. Ideas Forum
Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend (January 15-16, 2023)
In January 2023 and again in 2024, Menachem Begin Scholars will gather for a two-day retreat in Washington, D.C., providing them with a meaningful opportunity to spend time together and to meet with decision-makers in American public life. The theme will be “Jews and American Democracy.” Situated in the nation’s capital, the Washington D.C. Ideas Forum will take place in a major think-tank, exposing students to the world of ideas, strategy, and public policy. The program will have two key components:
- We have designed a special seminar, built around the historic events, moments of decision, and lasting significance of 1976: a year of consequence. Why was Israel under attack at the UN—and how did American and Israeli leaders respond? Why were Soviet Jews under assault—and how did Jewish leaders respond? How did Israel respond—diplomatically and militarily—to the threats and challenges it faced?
- Students will meet with policymakers and experts on the key issues in American public life that affect the Jewish people—including the future of religious freedom, the future of education policy, and the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The January 2023 retreat will be the first in-person event of the Menachem Begin Scholars Program, allowing students to form deep connections with each other before beginning their Core Seminars in the Spring.
- College-Level Seminars
January-June 2023 & September-December 2023
The most capable students—and future leaders of the Jewish people—are hungry for advanced classes on the great issues of our age and the big questions of human life: in politics, economics, law, philosophy, war, culture, and religion. Beginning in January 2023, Begin Scholars will choose one area of study to explore in-depth over the course of their participation in the fellowship, selected from a menu of high-level seminars. Every course will focus on a careful selection of primary texts—from Supreme Court cases to books of the Hebrew Bible, from classic works of political philosophy to great stories and novels, from white papers on public policy to the best modern-day commentary on world affairs. Our seminars will be taught by college-level professors and intellectuals, and every class will focus on in-depth discussion and conversation among the students themselves—designed specifically with 9th- and 10th-grade students in mind. For this part of the program, we allow students to choose a specific track focused on an area of learning of greatest interest to them.
- Writing Project
One of the most critical skills for aspiring leaders—in every field — is the ability to write clearly and persuasively. Our world of instant communication can complicate the careful cultivation of the arts of argument, analysis, and rhetoric. Our students will have the opportunity to develop as writers and editors, working with skilled mentors and publishing in our national student magazine: the Solomon Journal. For their Writing Project, students will pick a subject of interest and work closely with our team to produce a polished piece ready for publication.
- Summer Israel Experience
In the summer after 10th grade, the program will culminate in a three-week trip to Israel, providing students with a first-hand opportunity to explore the past, present, and future of the Jewish state. We will focus on great Jewish leaders—from the biblical era to the creation of the Zionist movement to the current age of Israeli democracy. Students will study at the Tikvah Center in the heart of Jerusalem, led by master teachers and seminar leaders. Informed by our two years of learning together, they will visit key sites in Jewish and Israeli history—such as Masada, the Western Wall, and Ammunition Hill. They will familiarize themselves with both ancient and modern Jewish society by hiking historic mountains, visiting Israel’s finest museums, and exploring the vitality of Israeli culture in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tzfat, Efrat, and elsewhere. By the end of the program, students will understand the heroic figures at the heart of Israeli history—Herzl, Weizmann, Jabotinsky, Ben-Gurion, and Menachem Begin. They will develop a deep-seated appreciation for the State of Israel and her historical and intellectual roots, building meaningful friendships with each other along the way. We will also introduce students to a variety of future learning opportunities in Israel—both at the gap year and the college level.
Who is eligible to apply, and how are Menachem Begin Scholars selected?
Anyone entering 9th grade in the fall of 2022 is eligible. This is a competitive program, and all candidates will be interviewed and then selected by the selection committee.
When are applications due?
The priority deadline is August 8th. After that, we will be accepting applications through September 1st.
What does the program cost?
The full-year cost is $750. Need-based financial aid is available to ensure that every candidate can participate in all components of the program.