Each year the Bronfman Fellowship in Israel selects 26 high school juniors from across the United States and Canada to visit Israel for a five-week educational experience, and for the first time in its 25-year history, a teen from Nebraska was among those chosen for this prestigious trip.

Grant Glazer, son of Jennifer and John Glazer, hadn’t given much thought to visiting Israel until a counselor at Westside High School mentioned to him the Bronfman Fellowship.

“He knew that I was Jewish and active in my community and so he recommended that I apply,” Grant, 17, said. “He knew that as a Jew from Nebraska I would have an advantage over kids from New York or L.A.”

Even with this unique Midwestern advantage, Grant and his parents still considered his acceptance to be a long shot.

When Grant told me he was applying for a five-week youth fellowship in Israel, I was glad he was going through the process to be considered  for a highly competitive experience,” Jennifer Glazer said. “I thought it would be good practice for college applications. I did not really consider at the time he may actually be accepted for this honor.”

The Bronfman Youth Fellowship in Israel is named for Edgar M. Bronfman, who “dreamed of educating an interdenominational cadre of young Jews who would see their commitments to Judaism and the Jewish people through a lens broader than their own perspective,” according to the Bronfman Fellowship website.

Bronfman wanted young Jews to grow up with a knowledge and understanding of their heritage, so that they will be able to intelligently discuss what the future holds for Judaism both in America and in Israel.

During their five-week visit Bronfman Fellows will explore Israel’s many historic sites and discuss the intricate political and social struggles that have hounded Israel since its founding, and in the fall, the Fellows will reunite in New York City to reminisce about their experiences and discuss how they can apply what they learned to contribute to their own communities and their lives going forward.

The application process for the Bronfman Fellowship in Israel is a lengthy one, including three written essays and a personal interview in Los Angeles.

“When Grant informed me he was a finalist and needed to go to Los Angeles for interviews, with only two weeks notice, I knew I had to start planning on this being a real possibility,” Jennifer said.

Grant wrote essays about his efforts to raise money and supplies for a school in Uganda, his relationship to nature and his thoughts about Judaism. In addition to his extracurricular activities like playing baseball at Westside, Grant spearheaded a drive to raise funds for the AIDS Orphan Education Trust, a group that helps orphaned children in Africa who are afflicted with AIDS. Grant became aware of the AOET after the group’s children’s choir sang at his school.

“Even though the statistics said they wouldn’t live past 50, even though they had already lost parents, siblings, and friends to AIDS, they truly believed there was a better life out there waiting,” Grant wrote.

In the end, he helped collect thousands of pens and pencils, notebooks and money for the children’s school. It is because of this determination that Grant’s mother knew she had to prepare herself for her son’s absence.

“Grant is such a personable young man, and has such a seriousness and passion on topics, that I had a feeling I would have to prepare for missing him for five weeks this summer,” Jennifer said.

When Grant found out he had been selected for the Bronfman Fellowship he “felt accomplished.”

“I had never actually thought that I was a serious candidate for the fellowship, and so it was pretty unreal to be chosen,” Grant said. “I felt like I had been placed among some of the most successful and influential people of my age. It’s pretty impressive, being one of only 26 teenagers chosen each year.”

John Glazer was “happy to hear” his son was chosen.

“It was great to hear the excitement and pride in his voice,” John said. “He worked hard for this and I’m glad he was rewarded. … It’s great that he gets to visit at young age and as part of the Bronfman program, he will get to see things from a unique and up close perspective.”

Grant “loves being Jewish” and hopes visiting Israel as a Bronfman fellow will allow him to learn more about his heritage and the history of the region.

“I am most excited to see and experience a culture that blends modern and traditional elements, from Kibbutz Lotan, which is a progressive, eco-friendly living community to ancient landmarks like Mt. Masada and the Dome of the Rock,” Grant said. “Israel and its people have been a focal point throughout much of human history and it will be amazing to live there for five weeks.”

Grant is also looking forward to meeting the other 25 fellows and learning as much from them as from the trip itself.

Grant credits his parents for preparing him for the experience the Bronfman Fellowship affords him.

“Without their effort and encouragement, I never would have been able to finish my application, make it to LA for the interview, submit the necessary forms prior to the trip, and get me to New York to get to Israel,” Grant said. “However, their biggest role began years before I learned about Bronfman. My parents have, strategically and emotionally, been behind every challenging endeavor of my life. Without them, I would not have had the will to fight through the long hours and constant disappointments to keep playing baseball. Without them, I would not have had the freedom to dedicate so much time to extracurricular activities. Without them as role models, I seriously doubt that I would have been able to stay focused and work hard academically.”

For their part, Jennifer and Jonathan Glazer couldn’t be happier or more proud of their son.

“I am super excited he is having this opportunity,” Jennifer said. “I visited Israel a few years ago and knew I wanted my children to visit someday. I wasn’t sure how that would happen but feel this is a perfect way for Grant to visit. The intensity and promise of learning from this fellowship is a perfect fit for Grant.”