(JTA) — The Union for Reform Judaism received a $5 million endowment gift to expand its high school program in Israel.
The endowment from a New Jersey family announced Wednesday will provide scholarships for North American students to study for a semester in Israel with the URJ Heller High: Isaac and Helaine Heller EIE High School in Israel program. The gift will also be used to improve marketing and recruitment for the program.
The gift was provided by Helaine Heller of Scotch Plains in memory of her husband, Isaac, who cofounded the major U.S. toy manufacturer Remco.
“This is my way of honoring my husband, Ike, preserving his memory, and carrying on the love that we’ve both had for this program for 41 years,” said Heller, whose daughter attended the program, in a statement.
“Since we saw its wonderful impact firsthand when our daughter Audrey came home, we have wanted to help even more students to have this important experience.”
Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said the endowment “will have a tremendous direct impact; it will also inspire others to support our sacred work.”
“As we make great strides in our continued efforts advocating for a progressive, pluralistic Israel, the Reform Movement is guaranteed to have future leaders passionately committed to Israel because of the continuity and growth of URJ Heller High,” Jacobs said.
URJ Heller High participants spend four months on a kibbutz, taking classes, learning Hebrew and traveling around the country.
The Union for Reform Judaism is raising additional money for scholarships to complement the gift.