Tochnit Shalem is nine months. It starts late August/Early September and ends in late May/early June.
What is the application process?
Our application process is similar to the college application process. We request an official high school transcript and an autobiographical essay, as well as 2 letters of recommendation. Participation in Year Course/Shalem Orientation, in the late spring, is mandatory. The application can be completed online here. Participants with a high school GPA of 2.0 or higher are eligible to earn academic credit for their studies in Israel while on Tochnit Shalem.
What is the application deadline?
Applications will be accepted on a rolling admissions basis until July 1. Registration late in the season may impact notification of your application status, and may make it difficult to accommodate participants’ requests regarding section and volunteer placements, etc.
Are most people who apply accepted?
Yes. Our goal is to accept as many people as possible, as long as they meet the acceptance criteria. We do everything we can during the application process to ascertain that the applicant and the Tochnit Shalem program are right for each other.
What are the criteria for acceptance?
We are looking for students who show that they are very interested in the benefits Shalem has to offer and who will be able to contribute in a positive manner to the group.
When do I find out about acceptance?
Candidates with complete applications will be interviewed and then will be notified regarding their acceptance.
Is there a minimum GPA for acceptance to Tochnit Shalem?
In order to be eligible to receive credits for studies on Tochnit Shalem through American Jewish University, applicants must have a high school GPA of 2.0 or higher. For applicants wishing to take classes on a not-for-credit basis, there is no GPA requirement. Attendance and active participation in classes on Tochnit Shalem is mandatory, even for those taking classes on a not-for-credit basis.
I am an Israeli citizen. Can my son/daughter go on the program without getting drafted by the Israeli Army?
Yes, previous participants in this situation have done so by contacting the local Israel consulate and requesting a yearlong deferral from the army. (Find your local consulate by visiting www.mfa.gov.il)
If a Tochnit Shalem participant has Israeli citizenship, it is essential that s/he obtain the yearlong deferment from military service as well as a valid Israeli passport prior to departure. Israeli citizens should be aware that they cannot stay in the country for more than 12 months without endangering their future immigrant rights if they should choose to move to Israel. Compliance with applicable laws is the responsibility of the participant. Tochnit Shalem cannot accept responsibility for the sufficiency of this information or for its applicability in any particular situation.
Is there someone in my area who has been on the program that my son/daughter can call?
Definitely. Please contact your local Young Judaea Israel Program recruiter/shaliach or the Tochnit Shalem Registrar in NY at firstname.lastname@example.org for references.
What is included in the cost of Tochnit Shalem?
Accommodations, meals, medical care, academic courses, and field trips are all included, as well as the social worker on staff. The additional cost for Olami and Kuma includes round trip airfare between Tel Aviv and each of the Olami or Kuma destinations, accommodations and meals in each country, and preparatory weekend seminars prior to each trip.
Are scholarships available? How do I apply?
Yes. Thanks to Hadassah, limited scholarship money is available for those who need it. In order to be eligible you must submit a separate scholarship application by the deadline.To find out more, contact David Goldstein at email@example.com. We encourage you to contact your local Jewish Federation, synagogue, and any other local organizations (including non-Jewish ones) that might have money to give.
Can I pay by credit card?
Yes, we accept Visa, Mastercard, AmEx and Discover.
I can’t afford to pay by the deadlines. Can I pay in installments?
If I pay the $100 non-refundable deposit now but can’t get enough scholarship, will it be refunded?
No. The $100 deposit covers the administrative costs of processing one’s application, and is non-refundable.
If the program is cancelled mid-year, is the tuition refundable?
Tochnit Shalem has never been cancelled. We will make fair and equitable decisions in the very unlikely event that Young Judaea should decide that it is necessary to cancel the program once it has commenced.
Can my child earn college credit while on Shalem?
Yes. Most Tochnit Shalem participants have the opportunity to earn up to a year’s worth of college credits. The academic program is supervised by American Jewish University (AJU), located in Los Angeles, CA, and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. All Shalem applicants must submit an official high school transcript as part of their application. The minimum GPA required for eligibility to earn credits on Tochnit Shalem is 2.0. Acceptance to Shalem is not based on acceptance to AJU in Israel. One can participate in Shalem without earning credits.
Are the credits transferable to a college here in the US?
This depends on the college the student goes on to attend after Tochnit Shalem. Many Tochnit Shalem participants have been able to transfer some or all of the credit they received while on the program to their universities. Applicants should check with each university to which they are applying and ask what their policy is since each school is different. Applicants can show the universities the academic course descriptions located on the Tochnit Shalem website.
Should I apply to a university in the U.S. before going on Tochnit Shalem?
We advise that participants apply to universities while in their senior year of high school and request to defer admission for one year. Many schools are more than happy to do this but applicants are responsible to check with the school to see what its policy is. Some universities will not allow credit to be transferred if it is earned during a “deferred” year. In this case, the applicant can sometimes reapply while in Israel in order to get the maximum credit transferred possible.
Can my child apply to college while on Tochnit Shalem?
There are always a few participants who, for one reason or another, apply to college while on Shalem. Our staff is more than happy to help and will write letters of recommendation if asked.
Do participants fulfill any freshman requirements (science, math) while on Shalem?
Tochnit Shalem does not offer the opportunity to take science or math courses. There simply is not the time and it does not fit into the program. However, most schools have a language requirement and everyone on Shalem studies Hebrew. In addition, many of our courses might fulfill electives in the History and Philosophy departments in a liberal arts program and/or a humanities or general breadth requirement. See our course descriptions and syllabi for more details about our courses.
Year Course Academic Program
What’s the academic program like? What kinds of courses do participants take?
Our courses range from Hebrew language study to philosophy, political science, history and literature.
How much time is spent studying Hebrew?
Hebrew plays an important part throughout the year. Ulpan occurs twice a week on kibbutz and there is a daily Ulpan (Hebrew Study) class during the Jerusalem segment of the program. There are many additional opportunities during Tochnit Shalem for participants to hone their Hebrew skills. Living, volunteering and exploring constantly surrounded by Israelis is the best way to pick up Hebrew conversational skills.
My teen has a learning disability. Will this be a problem? Is there staff that can help?
Every year there are participants on the program who have learning disabilities. Your teen needs to know that he/she has to ask for extra help when needed, and to make the Education Director and instructors aware of his/her needs. Your teen should submit his/her IEP or 504 plan as part of his/her application so our Education Team in Israel can have the proper information. Our staff may be able to work with your teen to help him/her succeed in the academic program, but he/she must take initiative and show effort.
My teen has a learning disability and his/her grades are not very good. Does this mean that my teen won’t be accepted?
When we review an application, we are looking to get to know the applicant as a whole. If there is a specific reason why your teen has a low GPA, he/she should be sure to either write about this in the essay, or attach a special letter explaining the grades. We do need to make sure that your teen will be able to handle the academic program, but we would not necessarily reject him/her solely on the basis of grades. If your teen is planning on taking classes for credit, he/she must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
Housing and Observance
What is the housing like throughout the year?
Living with roommates in an apartment will be a new experience for many Shalem students and will help each student to develop life skills that will serve him/her well in Israel and in life after Shalem! In Jerusalem, participants live in apartment-like suites where they receive a stipend for their food, keep a kosher kitchen, and share responsibility for cooking meals with their roommates. All apartments are single-sex and boys and girls live in separate buildings. While on Kibbutz Yavneh, they live in dorms among the community there.
Can they stay in on a free Shabbat?
Students can absolutely stay in their apartments during Shabbatot and many take advantage of that opportunity to host meals, etc.
Where do the students go for holidays?
Students who have friends/family in Israel are welcome to visit them. Those who do not have people to visit can be set up with host families.
Will the madrichim be living in the same apartment complex? floor?
Madrichim live in the same building (not the same apartment) as participants.
Are you allowed to bring a computer?
Yes, you are allowed to bring a laptop. There is a fast internet connection in all the dorms/apartments. We encourage its use for emails, contacting family and friends, and research for classes. We expect that the students will use this privilege properly.
How much money do the students get for food (per week) while in Jerusalem?
Each apartment is given a stipend card that has enough money for the people in the apartment to make all meals and, usually, to have extra $ so that they can go out for dinner with friends, buy special things for their apartments, etc.
Regarding tzniut, can you please elaborate on the dress code (for young ladies)?
All participants are expected to dress modestly. Young ladies are allowed to wear pants, but nothing that is tight-fitting or short. All students are allowed to wear short-sleeves, but not tank-tops, etc.
What happens if my child gets sick during Tochnit Shalem?
If your teen becomes ill, it is important that s/he take the initiative to let the madrich/a (group leader) know. If your teen would like to see a doctor, the madrich/a will help him/her arrange an appointment. In most instances, the medical coverage Tochnit Shalem provides will cover all doctors’ visits (as long as proper procedure is followed—it works similar to an HMO in the US). Some illnesses (i.e. pre-existing ones) and tests may not be covered by the health insurance provider, which is why we require that participants maintain personal medical insurance while on Tochnit Shalem.
My teen has Attention Deficit Disorder and is on medication. Will he/she be able to get it in Israel?
If possible, your teen should bring a year’s supply of medication with him/her. If it is not possible to fill a year’s supply in advance, he/she will need to bring a doctor’s prescription, including the generic name of the drug. Your teen will then need to see a doctor in Israel to get a prescription that will be honored by Israeli pharmacies. It is important to note that the cost will not be covered by the Tochnit Shalem insurance, so your teen will need to be prepared to pay. Alternatively, if friends or family are planning on visiting during the year, they can bring refills of the prescription with them. Participants or parents should check with their physician and insurance company in regard to specific drugs being available in Israel.
My teen plans to wean off medication in the summer before Tochnit Shalem.
If my teen needs new meds in Israel, will someone be able to prescribe them?
Tochnit Shalem is NOT the appropriate venue to experiment with a medical regimen. Students taking medication for any number of physical or mental health issues should maintain the same medical regimen while on the program. We work with several psychiatrists who can meet with students and evaluate their medical regimen, prescribe new medicine or refills for existing meds etc. Psychiatric visits are not covered by Tochnit Shalem insurance so your teen will need to be prepared to pay at the time of the visit.
Safety and Supervision
What kind of supervision is there during the year?
In general, each Tochnit Shalem location is staffed with 2 madrichim (group leaders), who are in ongoing contact with the chanichim (participants). Madrichim may be Americans, British nationals or Israelis. Israeli madrichim have completed their military service. Cell phones are mandatory and participants are in contact with their madrichim regularly.
The madrichim are supervised by a section head throughout the program. These mekashrim are part of the senior staff of Tochnit Shalem, which includes a director, an assistant director, an education director, and a director of special programs, among others. The director of Shalem is supported and supervised by the central leadership of Young Judaea Israel. Senior staff is based at Beit Ar-El in Jerusalem or at Young Judaea’s office in Bat Yam, and visit the groups in their various locations frequently.
There are two Parent Liaisons, each tasked with serving as the point person for communication with parents about any issues of concern.
What happens during free time? Is staff available just in case?
During free weekends and vacations, there is always a staff member on call. Also, at the beginning of the year, all participants receive materials with the emergency contact information for staff members and are told how to reach a staff person in an emergency. All participants must have a cell phone.
With the constantly changing situation in Israel, what kind of precautions do you take to make sure the kids are safe?
The safety and security of Tochnit Shalem participants is our primary concern. Young Judaea has a designated security officer and committee that constantly reviews and updates our security procedures. We retain as consultant the head of security of the Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature – the agency responsible for field trips throughout the country. This consultant is in daily contact with all of Israel’s security services. We also receive in real time all security alerts posted by the Security Department of JAFI and its subsidiary company, The Israel Experience.
Are participants allowed to use public transportation?
Tochnit Shalem participants are allowed to use public transportation within the current year’s security guidelines. However, we reserve the right to restrict travel if the security situation warrants it.
Are participants allowed to go anywhere in the Jerusalem Old City? The West Bank?
In general, Tochnit Shalem participants are allowed to go to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. They are not allowed to enter the West Bank without permission of the director of Tochnit Shalem AND parental consent communicated to the Parent Liaison no less than 48 hours before the expected travel (subject to change depending on the security situation). Participants are not allowed to enter the Gaza Strip or any areas under Palestinian Authority control.
Money and Communication
How much spending money do you recommend?
We recommend bringing between $3,500 and $4,500 for personal expenses. Olami participants may want to bring more for their international travel journeys.
What is the best way to send money?
We recommend that your teen sign up for a Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard® that has been developed specifically for participants on our Israel programs. The Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard® provides an easy way to manage participants’ spending money while in Israel. Through the use of this card, participants have the ability to withdraw funds from ATMs around Israel and charge items to the card. Additionally, parents can load money to the card through Payoneer’s personalized Young Judaea/Payoneer website, and can manage the account online. As a significant benefit, should a participant lose their card or have it stolen, the Tochnit Shalem staff has the capability to immediately issue a replacement card. For more details and to sign up for the Payoneer ATM/debit card, go to: https://payouts.payoneer.com/partners/lp.aspx?token=0a3d0366482446d4b875d0c1f751797354D6EFCB51.
Do participants have cell phones? Access to e-mail? Fax? What is the best way to reach my teen during the program?
Cell phones are mandatory for all Tochnit Shalem participants. All apartments are equipped with Internet access. At Beit Ar-El in Jerusalem, Internet is available not only in each participant suite, but also on public computers throughout the campus. Some sites—such as Marva—do not have internet access. Feedback we’ve received from parents indicates that cell phone and Skype are the most common ways to stay in touch. Tochnit Shalem participants love getting mail. Even if you are emailing and calling, they love receiving letters and packages. You can also send faxes to Beit Ar-El in Jerusalem and they will be delivered as mail to participants. There is a fee to receive faxes.