Next Gen Young Judaeans Unpack Yom Ha’aztmaut!

This year on Yom Ha’aztmaut, Israel is celebrating 74 years of independence! In honor of the day we reached out to six Young Judaeans who have returned from Young Judaea Gesher, or are about to head to Israel for Young Judaea Year Course, to talk Israel and Yom Ha’aztmaut!

 

Have you been to Israel before? How would you describe your connection to Israel?

 RAYNA: Gesher was my first trip to Israel, but it was not my first connection to Israel. I have spent almost a decade strengthening my connection with Israel without once stepping foot on the ground and I think that prior connection is just as important as my first visit this past summer.

DAPHNA: I had been to Israel several times to visit family. My connection to Israel was mostly based on the family and cultural traditions that I had formed through those experiences.

RYAN: I have been to Israel before Gesher.  I think my connection to Israel is strong because I’m passionate about being Jewish and am glad to be able to have Israel as a home if I would want.

SARA: I have been to Israel twice before, once with my middle school and once with Young Judaea. I think my connection to Israel has definitely strengthened over the years. Before I ever went to Israel, and even the first time I went, I felt very disconnected to it. In Israel this summer with Young Judaea, I felt that I really got to know the country and got to understand my role in the country.

MADI:  I am very fortunate to have had my Bat Mitzvah in Israel in 2016, and I visited previously in 2013. I feel a very strong connection to Israel, and I am so excited to spend my next year there.

ZEV:  I went to Israel this past summer and it was so amazing. After that trip, my connection grew stronger and it feels like a place I can call home.

Was there a particular experience on your Gesher trip that was particularly transformative in shaping your feelings about Israel? What was it, please describe in detail.

RAYNA: During our trip we had several guest speakers talk to us about different Israeli policies. These speakers ranged from topics on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Ethiopian refugees, but they all had one thing in common that opened my eyes to the people of Israel. While you could see the love for the country in the eyes, they made sure to have us understand that just because you love the country, does not mean you have to love everything the country does. This showed me that while I may not agree with every law or policy in Israel, that does not diminish the love that I have for the country.

DAPHNA: The conversation with a Jew, a Christian, and a Palestinian Arab was particularly transformative because after hearing stories and perspectives of the three individuals, I was able to form a more complete view of the dynamic between the different cultures. We heard about the difficulties of obtaining residency and citizenship for non Jewish individuals, and were able to discuss how the Israeli laws were meant to protect a Jewish state, but still presented enormous difficulties for those who were not Jewish, even if they lived within the region or within a Palestinian territory. Also, I was able to discuss the religious aspects of the issue with the Christian, particularly in response to the Palestinian Arab telling us that he did not believe Israel’s lack of right to exist was based on religious beliefs. In this conversation, the extent to which Hamas and Fatah were at odds was brought up, which was an aspect of the issue that I was aware of but not knowledgeable about.

RYAN: I was able to see in more depth how much Israel needs to protect itself from hurt.  The Israeli culture built on hope and gratitude was cool to see because it is different than in America.

Were there any preconceived notions you had about Israel that were changed after your trip?

RAYNA: I never could fully understand the sense of community that Israeli culture values until I visited. The first place we stayed was Kibbutz Keturah and it was there that I got my first taste as to how strong and welcoming the Israeli community is.

DAPHNA: I had no preconceived notions that were changed. However, I was surprised by the extent of the cultural overlap that occurred, especially in the cities.

RYAN: No, I began to see Israel as an even stronger state after leaving.

What is your favorite thing/things about Israel? (this could be anything –  place, food, people, culture)

RAYNA: My favorite thing about Israel is the people. Experiencing the way they all interact with one another is incredible. You can feel the community that has been built and makes everyone feel welcome, whether you understand the language or not.

DAPHNA: My favorite thing about Israel was the food. Ice cafe was delicious and I spent way too much money on an ice cafe at every stop. Also, shuk food was delicious and getting to experience the variety of different cultures through the foods at a shuk was filling and fun.

RYAN: I really liked the art and the food.  The Art in Tel-Aviv was really interesting and the food everywhere was phenomenal.

SARA: I love the culture in Israel, it is very unique in my eyes. The food, markets, and Judaism draws me closer and amazes me.

MADI: There are so many things I love about Israel, but I especially love how welcoming and hospitable everyone is. Everyone treats each other like family and it is so comforting to be surrounded by warm, caring people.

ZEV: My favorite thing about Israel is the culture. It is very different than what we have here in America and it is so much fun. I also love the food and people in Israel.

Do you have plans to go back to Israel?

RAYNA: I would love to go back to Israel! My brother is going on Year Course next year and I would love to find a way for me to visit him.

DAPHNA: Currently, I do not have plans. However, I have thought about doing Year Course because I would like to experience more of Israel in a cultural sense. My family and I will also be traveling back at some point to visit relatives.

RYAN: I don’t have current plans, but I will end up back in Israel at some point.

What is the importance of celebrating Israel Independence Day in 2022? How is it different from/similar to celebrating July 4th?

RAYNA: Celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut is more important in 2022 because we need to be reminded how precious and glorious it is that we have a country for the Jewish people. The way that American and Israeli Independence Day is viewed and celebrated are extremely different. The Fourth of July has barbeques and fireworks, but doesn’t really focus on the history of the country, while Yom Ha’atzmaut embraces and honors the history of the country.

DAPHNA: The importance of celebrating Israel Independence Day is to celebrate the fact that we have survived as a nation and as Jews. We are also celebrating the success of Israel’s autonomy as well as its accomplishments culturally, politically, and technologically.

RYAN: Israel’s freedom was fought for, not given, just like America’s.  It’s important to recognize Israel Independence Day in 2022 to keep the vivid culture alive.

SARA: The importance of celebrating Israel Independence Day is to show that we did it, all of the hardships we have been through as Jews will not stop us. In addition to this, it is to celebrate unity of Jews around the world coming together to celebrate their own country. This holiday is the same as July 4th is to us Americans, it is to show that we made this country.

MADI: It is so important to celebrate Israel’s Independence because it is still a fairly new country, yet it has provided so much for Jews around the world. Having a homeland is such a special aspect of the Jewish religion, and the country itself is what many Jews feel a connection to.

ZEV: The importance of celebrating Israel Independence Day in 2022 is to show how the conflict won’t break anyone’s connection to our holy land. It is similar to the Fourth of July because we celebrate our day of independence.

How might we meaningfully mark Israel’s Independence Day in North America?

RAYNA: We meaningfully celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut in America by celebrating it within our own Jewish communities. I’m sure it will look very different than how it does in Israel, but that does not mean it has to be any less memorable.

DAPHNA: We can mark Israel’s Independence Day by having meals that include Israeli food. We can also congregate with other Israelis to remember the community that Israel has formed and has continued to promote within the Jewish people.

RYAN: Cook Israeli food, play Israeli games, sing Israeli songs, and hang out with family while bonding over a shared love for Israel.

SARA: Meaningfully celebrating Israel Independence Day in America means joining together with your fellow American Jews and celebrating in whatever way you see fit.

MADI: One way to meaningfully celebrate Israel’s Independence Day in North America is to embrace Israeli culture through eating Israeli food and listening to Israeli music.

ZEV: We could meaningfully mark Israel’s Independence Day by having celebrations and having parades all throughout the country.

For our pre-Year Course interviewees…

What made you decide to take a gap year in Israel and what are you most looking forward to?

MADI: While attending Camp Young Judaea Midwest, many of my counselors attended Year Course, and they told us how life changing that year was for them. This past summer as a counselor at CYJ Midwest, I decided that I want to take a gap year after talking more with Year Course alumni.

SARA: I have wanted to go on Year Course since I was a young kid at camp getting put to bed with my counselors’ stories of their Israel experiences. I always felt like it was almost my duty to go on this 9-month adventure. I am most looking forward to getting to know the land and learning about the conflicts of the land.

ZEV: I decided to take a gap year because I wanted the experience of exploring and finding who I am and what I want to achieve before I get to college. I am looking forward to creating new friendships and connections during the trip.

What are you hoping to gain from this experience?

MADI: I am hoping to gain a deeper understanding of Israeli culture and embrace how special the country is. I am also excited to live in a different country to learn about myself and become more independent.

SARA: I am hoping to gain an understanding of the conflict happening in Israel. I feel like whenever I hear about the conflict it is very one-sided and I want to understand the side that I do not hear a loud voice from.

ZEV: I’m hoping to gain life experience and new skills to help me in my chosen career.

A National Children’s Program with YJ Roots

By Betsy Diamant-Cohen

Belonging to Young Judaea was instrumental in giving me the tools I use every day.  

In Jr. High School, each organization gave a little pitch for membership, and I chose to join Young Judaea. After two years in Tsofim, I joined Bogrim.  My good friend Joe Pomper told me that the nearby town of Westport, Connecticut was going to be starting a YJ club for Tsofim and were looking for a madricha and asked if I would take the job. Without stopping to think about the fact that I was only one year older than the kids I would be leading, I agreed.  For two years, I met regularly with our Senior Advisor, Judy Targan, to plan out the programs. Since I couldn’t yet drive, I’d take the Sunday morning train to Westport and a woman from Hadassah would transport me to whichever child’s home was hosting the meeting that day.  Through leading the club, I learned techniques for getting people’s attention such as pausing and speaking more softly rather than trying to shout loudly, and clapping to a rhyme and starting a song which brought people together and directed their attention without needing to say a word.

Becoming more active in the movement in high school meant programming on a local level. Israeli folk-dancing and singing Hebrew songs were all part of the club’s weekly meetings; we had over 70 members in the Stamford Club!  I learned how to teach songs and dances and how to speak in front of a crowd without self-consciousness.

These skills came in handy when I was elected National President / Mazkira in 1974, and was given the incredible opportunity of field-tripping regions across the US.  Concepts of peer leadership as expressed eloquently by Elana Paru in her article about supervision, the creed “enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm,” the desire to make the world a better place, and the belief that everyone’s contribution – no matter how small – makes a difference, became part of my soul. 

After attending Year Course in 1975-76, I edited the Hamagshimim journal for a year or two and led YJ clubs in the Boston Area while studying at Brandeis. I studied library science and began work as a children’s librarian. In 1986, I made Aliyah, and shortly after I arrived in Israel I began working at the Youth Wing of the Israel Museum as their English Language librarian where I offered weekly preschool story times in English through a volunteer organization called JELLY (Jerusalem English Language Libraries for Youth).

In 1988 my son was born and I attended a music class with Canadian music educator, Barbara Cass-Beggs. Her class, “Your Baby Needs Music” was so wonderful that I continued to study with Barbara until I became a certified instructor using her “Listen, Like, Learn” approach.  Since story time at the Museum was for 3-5 year-olds, I combined what I had learned from Barbara with what I already knew about sharing books with young children, and developed a 30 minute program called “Mother Goose on the Loose” (MGOL) for parents with babies from birth to age 3.  MGOL programs ran weekly in the Young Wing library up until I moved back to the US in 1998.

During a job interview at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, I asked if I could present Mother Goose on the Loose programs.  The interviewer told me that recently published brain research showed that the architecture of the brain is built in the first few years of life, and that early experiences are important for influencing a child’s successful future. Not only could I do MGOL programs, but I was encouraged to start doing them as soon as possible. The need was great since programming for children under age three in the public library world at that time was rare and library directors were anxious to offer programs that parents wanted. Most librarians did not know what to do when directors told them to start programming for infants and toddlers; library literature on programming for babies was scant, and Google was not fully developed so searching online was not an obvious option.

Since MGOL was a time-tested program, I presented at a local library conference and wrote an article about it in a national library journal. Library systems from around the country began asking me to come out and train their children’s librarians. Each of my workshops started with the story of Mother Goose on the Loose’s origins, explaining that MGOL originated from the Youth Wing of the Israel Museum with a 30-minute weekly nursery rhyme program for an audience of Jews, Muslims, Christians, people of the Bahai faith, and others. Because we were all singing together and clapping for each other’s children, a magical sense of community was formed. To this day, the same sense of community grows wherever MGOL is offered.

Because of my time in Young Judaea, I was comfortable presenting about MGOL to large crowds, telling stories, explaining how to teach songs, and using enthusiasm to breed enthusiasm.

So my workshops went smoothly and Mother Goose on the Loose spread. (I also loved being able to talk about Israel and present it in a positive light – especially when I was in areas where people had not met any Jews in person before.) MGOL won a national award in 2002, I won an award because of MGOL in 2004 and a publisher asked me to write a book about it. Eventually, MGOL became so popular that I left my salaried job at the public library and formed Mother Goose on the Loose, LLC.  I now earn my living by providing trainings, workshops, webinars, and online classes. I often present at conferences and occasionally give keynotes. I’ve had 9 books published (how-to manuals for librarians.)

I credit Young Judaea for giving me the courage to tackle new situations and meet new people with confidence, to share my ideas with others and to listen carefully when they are sharing their ideas with me.

Because of the respect given to the ideas of others, fruitful partnerships have enabled MGOL to expand and be adapted for use in hospitals, laundromats, WIC centers, prisons, homeless shelters, elementary schools, synagogues, churches, and more. Now that I’ve had have plenty of time to learn about the research behind early childhood development, I do believe that giving children a strong start in the early years can set up the framework for their success. I am grateful that Mother Goose on the Loose has been able to have a positive impact on so many people, and I am grateful to Young Judaea for giving me the exact tools needed to bring Mother Goose on the Loose this far.

Last month, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) named me as the recipient of their 2022 Distinguished Service Award. This is a huge honor; ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and  enhancement of library service to children. Although I did not become a Jewish Professional, I am certainly have used all of my Young Judaea skills to help make the world a better place.

Midwest Convention 2022

On March 3-6, 50 chanichim attended Midwest Convention at Camp Nageela Midwest!

Read below for a note recapping the weekend from the Midwest Mazkirut‘s Pirsum (Communications Chair), Noa Shimshi

Thank you all for coming to convention this past weekend! The theme for convention was “better together,” showing many instances of when togetherness is important. With many activities planned focused on said theme, chanichim had the chance to expand on personal experiences, while also listening to other peoples thoughts and ideas. Besides activities, everyone had time to spend with their YJ family and focus on building strong, thoughtful relationships with each other. We really cannot thank you enough for coming, and we hope everyone had an amazing time!

Despite making countless amounts of funny jokes and unforgettable memories, one that stuck with me most was the bus ride to convention. My first convention in winter of 2019, on the bus ride to Camp Nageela Midwest, I was a little anxious about meeting so many new people. This year, the bus ride reconnected all of the bonds with my friends that I hadn’t seen since TY or even my last summer at CYJ Midwest! Although being a very small part of convention, the bus ride to Nageela is where I catch up and refocus my camp relationships with everyone.

 

The 2021-2022 Midwest Mazkirut (teen board) from left to right: Noa Shimshi (pirsum), Akiva Weinkle (OTP), Rafi Nagorsky (SAP), Elan Lerner (AVP logistics), Melanie Silver (advisor), Aliya Dahlin (mazkira), Raizel Landman-Feigelson (BP), Gabe Hirsch (AVP finance)

During convention, the teens participated in asepha (elections)

Congratulations to the newly elected Midwest Mazkirut for the 2022-2023 Year!

The 2022-2023 Midwest Mazkirut from left to right: Elan Lerner (mazkir), Evelyn Aizenstein (pirsum), Jonah Rosenberg (OTP), Noa Shimshi (SAP), Gabe Hirsch (AVP logistics), Rafi Nagorsky (AVP finance), Akiva Weinkle (BP)

If you want to access the pictures from the weekend, check out the Young Judaea Flickr Album for Midwest Convention 2022

To keep up with Midwest Young Judaea, like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram

Look out for upcoming details regarding Young Judaea’s National Convention on Memorial Day Weekend at Camp Tel Yehudah!

Thank you for an amazing weekend!

Your Midwest Convention Staff,

Emma Stricker, Evan Ressel, Melanie Silver, Miriam Alexander, Tamar Lerner, and Yoni Preuss

Northeast Day of Service

By Samara Kohn, LINYC Pirsum, 11th grade 

On February 27th, I, along with 25 other young Judaeans attended an event called “Day of Service”. At the event we participated in programs relating to a variety of worldly issues such as mental health, gender inequality, antisemitism, and much more. I participated in the educational station that discussed the effect of fast fashion and the materials and work that goes into making the clothing that we wear. It made me think about the clothing I own and how I don’t always need to follow the trends. Along with that I went thrifting the day before the event and after participating in this program I am sure I will be doing it again.

Half way through the event we switched to a Zoom session with an organization called Dorot. Dorot focuses on assisting elders in isolation. Each group was put into a breakout room with one of the elders and we each got to have meaningful conversations with them. On our call most of the discussion was based on Jewish topics. Our elder told us about his bar mitzvah and the hilarious yet tragic story of the cake falling on the floor. My whole group couldn’t stop laughing, including him. It meant a lot seeing that he still finds joy in something that at the time was very sad but, now he looks back and gets a good laugh out of it. My group was very engaged in the conversation and didn’t want it to end.

 

Overall, I had a great time at this event! It was also a plus that I got to see all of my friends and share this experience with them.

Moving towards a Universal Gap Year

Reposted from the Times of Israel in response to “Can a year in Israel transform your teen?”

By Rabbi Adam Drucker and Adina Frydman

“I’ve been able to explore and learn so much about myself on Year Course – figuring out how to live and share with other people, discovering a passion for cooking, learning more about Israel’s history…it taught me what it feels like to be part of the broader Jewish family here in Israel” – Recent reflections from participants in Young Judaea’s Gap Year Program

 

We affirm Gil Troy and Natan Sharansky’s strong statements about the importance of a gap year experience and their vision of an expansion into a “universal gap year.” As we at Young Judaea celebrate our 70th year as one of the largest non-Orthodox gap year providers, we aim to suggest some pragmatic solutions and relevant success stories towards the vision of making a large-scale expansion for the Israel gap year market a reality.

Despite the many challenges of the past two years, we have seen significant growth in the gap year market with Young Judaea’s Year Course’s participation increasing from 110 to 225. With many universities going virtual, incoming students elected instead to spend their tuition on a gap year abroad while things went back to “normal” back home.  And now, as we round the corner of the second year of the pandemic, many families are continuing to choose the gap year path, opting for a year focused on more than academics, but of experiences and travel. This year there are close to 200 participants on Young Judaea’s Year Course and next year’s numbers are pacing ahead of last year. How can we continue to build on this upwards growth trajectory and move to scale?

The article posits that one of the challenges to a universal gap year is the quality or content of the programs in that they lack the “resume building appeal,” rather than acknowledging their value in providing a life changing journey of self-actualization and growth.  The market is looking for value-added programs, not just a college year in Israel. A gap year in Israel provides much more than a resume building opportunity with the chance to develop soft skills.  Participants begin a self-actualizing process by immersing themselves in a diverse community, taking part in experiential education, participating in identity building exercises, all while exposing themselves to a wide range of ideas.  In addition, participants learn to master the seemingly benign but critical life skills of living independently, having to manage a budget for the year, cook an occasional meal, do laundry, and manage social situations. For a young person, the opportunity to spend a self-actualizing year abroad provides an accelerated track of maturity that is incomparable to their peers who go straight to university.   It’s easier to fill gaps in knowledge than to fill gaps in character.

So, how do we create a tipping point towards a “universal leap year”?

A Rite of Passage

For gap years to become universal and culturally normative for all Jewish teens graduating high school, there needs to be a grass roots groundswell. Families that are currently sending teens on a gap year need to become the top promoters of the idea, as do the teens themselves.  There is nothing more powerful than peer-to-peer recruitment.  In addition, past participants of gap year programs, in particular influencers such as rabbis, educators, and podcasters, must tell their story to inspire others. Another possibility is talking about the 13th year as the true year of graduation, opposed to the 12th grade year. Gap year ought to be seen as the culmination of one’s schooling and a rite of passage to university.  And finally, exposure to the thousands of non-Orthodox Israelis who are participating in a gap year program in Israel, could further accelerate the normalization of a gap year in North America.

Financial Viability

Culturally normative is not enough. A gap year program could cost anywhere from $20-50k/year.  As future college students and their parents are telegraphing ahead at mounting college debts, there is little appetite for adding another year of costs to that financial obligation.  One suggestion to overcoming this barrier is to lower the cost of participation across the board, regardless of need.  Birthright Israel became culturally normative because it was free.  We have seen the role of incentive funding in the form of vouchers as one successful model to lowering the psychological barrier to participation.  One successful model that was launched last year was JumpSpark in Atlanta.  Funded by the Zalik Foundation and powered by the local Jewish Federation of Atlanta, young adults were awarded between $10-15k in vouchers to attend a gap year program of their choice.  This increased the number of gap year participants coming from Atlanta significantly.  We see a similarly successful model in incentive funding in the camping space with One Happy Camper powered by the Foundation for Jewish camp and funded by various local and national funders.  This has enabled thousands of new campers to come into the system each year.  Most recently, Root One, a project of the Jewish Education Project funded by the Marcus Foundation, provided $3000 vouchers for Jewish teens towards a summer of Israel travel. The program brought thousands of teens to Israel in just their first year.  Of course, for families with financial need, additionally increasing the pool of needs-based scholarships would certainly make an impact as well.

Another solution is to work with universities to more universally accept the credits earned from gap year programs.  Even the accredited programs are not accepted by all universities.  In Young Judaea’s Year Course, you can finish your gap year and begin university with up to 26 college credits, essentially entering as a second semester sophomore! This mitigates the challenge of the cost of an additional year of university and, in the best case, might even save you a semester.

Resume building

Gap years are becoming more acceptable in the secular academic sphere. Beyond academic rigor, all students identify a higher-level of preparedness and maturity compared to their peers who chose not to take a prep-year. While many universities accept and even encourage deferrals for the purpose of gap year programs, a growing number of universities are not allowing deferrals, making it an impractical choice for graduates.  We must work with universities to continue to endorse the gap year experience.

Another possible addition to gap year programs for the purposes of academic benefit, are robust and serious internships.  Although a growing area in post-college Israel programs, it is a bit more challenging for pre-college, because most companies will not hire high school graduates in a foreign country for a serious internship.  Despite this, Young Judaea has successfully partnered with numerous organizations and corporations in Israel to create impressive and exciting internships in a variety of chosen fields to match the interests of the individual participants.  To address the systemic problem identified by Troy and Sharansky, we will have to expand beyond the elites for high-level internships. In addition to academic institutions, the high-tech sector in Israel has much to offer.  If the Israeli government were to provide incentives to companies for offering positions and training to young interns from abroad, companies would be more inclined to develop internship departments and structured programs.

Jewish and Zionist Identity

One of the opportunities made possible by an extended stay in Israel is the chance to engage with the real Israel and to develop an authentic and personal perspective.  True, a year in Israel could be a year of “arming” the next generation with propaganda and pro-Israel rhetoric but what we are seeing, particularly within the non-Orthodox Gen Z and increasingly among the modern Orthodox, is a growing frustration with Israeli politics and policy as dissonant with more progressive values, and this frustration is leading to disengagement and anti-Israel sentiment. Gap year programs ought to be scaffolded in an intentional way to help young adults thoughtfully and carefully engage critically with an authentic Israel. Much has been written about the shock that sometimes comes when young adults encounter alternative narratives about Israel in college.  Gap year programs should not be governmental propaganda, but rather an opportunity to develop a sophisticated, thoughtful, and personal connection to Israel and an opportunity to acquire the tools to encounter narratives other than one’s own.  Of course, the ideal is that a young person is not waiting until their gap year to begin to encounter the complexities, but that is a discussion for another article about how we might scaffold a developmentally appropriate Israel education through the arc of one’s Jewish education.  Since it will be some time before all programs make this shift, gap year programs should be prepared to act as a bridge and to provide the tools to manage the cognitive dissonance and disappointment that no doubt will come when we move from falafel and Israel day parades to encountering contemporary Palestinian narratives and meeting settlers in the West Bank.  Just imagine these gap year alumni becoming the future leaders on campuses and if this becomes a universal gap year, they would no longer be the minority but find solidarity within a critical minority if and when they encounter dissenting views.

A robust marketplace

To move toward a universal gap year, there needs to be a radical expansion of the non-Orthodox gap year marketplace.  Diverse programs that cater to the diversity of participants out there.  One approach to this is to have various providers with differentiated approaches for various audiences.  Another is a small but strong market of providers offering a variety of tracks.  We would want to create opportunities for participants in similar niche programs/tracks to meet with one another, but that could easily be done with cohorts, fellowships, or cross-gap year retreats.   To significantly scale gap year, there will need to be an infusion of resources to develop existing and new programs as well as to grow the recruitment and marketing infrastructure in North America.  Some of this infrastructure could be collective – raising the overall brand and perception of a gap year program in Israel with a regional recruitment model not so dissimilar from those of summer camps, where recruiters are embedded in local communities and provide a concierge referral model to gap year programs.  Additionally, there are opportunities to leverage communal investments by directly marketing to the thousands of teens now making their way to Israel through Root One’s summer Israel programs.  Creating a pipeline from a summer teen Israel experience to a gap year in Israel will deepen and extend the impact of the initial travel experience across various markers of Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

In this article we have proposed various strategies to move towards a universal gap year.  Through a change in in culture, a lowering of barriers, and a strategic infusion of resources, we may create the tipping point that will make the gap year a universal rite for all Jewish teens.

Rabbi Adam Drucker is the Director of Education for Young Judaea Israel and Cantor Adina Frydman is the CEO of Young Judaea Global.