'Gap Year' Allows Young Adults to Do Something a Bit Different Before Going to College

'Gap Year' Allows Young Adults to Do Something a Bit Different Before Going to College

September 14, 2011

By Deborah Hirsch, Jewish Exponent
As students head back to the books this fall, Cheltenham High School graduate Jake Aronson will fly to Israel to work on a kibbutz, study Hebrew and volunteer with 90 other Jewish young adults participating in the Conservative movement's Nativ leadership program.
Even though the majority of college-bound Americans still go straight from high school to higher education, a growing number are joining Aronson in taking a gap year to do something a little different first.
Gap years have been a cultural norm in England for decades, but only recently caught on in the United States as colleges began promoting them as a way to gain perspective and life experience.
Teenlife.com lists almost 300 structured programs; the Center for Interim Programs, a private counseling firm in Princeton, N.J., counts more than 6,000.
Jewish agencies have jumped on the trend, too. While Orthodox students have long been taking a year or two before college to study at a yeshiva, there are now about 30 programs in Israel catering to kids from all affiliations. That's at least five times as many as when Masa Israel Journey, a clearinghouse for Jewish study-abroad experiences, was established in 2004, said Avi Rubel, director of North American operations.
According to Masa, 2,481 young adults participated in a non-yeshiva Jewish gap year program in 2010-2011. That's up from 1,500 in the agency's first year.
The increasing difficulty of getting into top-tier schools might have something to do with the upswing. Rubel said he's heard from students who took gap years when they didn't get into their first-choice school and reapplied while abroad, hoping the school would recognize how much more they could bring to the classroom after their travels.
Masa has also been doing its part to generate interest. For the past four years, it has even flown groups of college advisors on all-expenses-paid trips to visit the Israeli programs.
From Rubel's perspective, it's a prime opportunity to reach out to unaffiliated young adults in hopes of building Jewish identity. For that reason, he continued, Masa has pushed for Israel-based programs to serve more diverse interests such as art, politics and environmentalism. Even decades-old Zionist education programs, like Young Judaea's Year Course, have added tracks focusing on medicine, business, cooking, traveling and other specialties.
"If we have the right content to offer," Rubel said, "then people are interested." ...

Mind the gap

<div class="masa-blog-title">Mind the gap</div>

By Kobi Bordoley, Masa Israel/JewliciousU blogger
I will be spending the 2011-2012 academic year in Israel, traveling the country, volunteering and learning to live communally with others in a program sponsored by the progressive Zionist youth movement, Habonim Dror. I’ve always known that this particular itinerary was one in which I was interested, but the decision to take a gap year was not an easy one.

Habonim Dror Australia / New Zealand Shnat


Program Description

The Habonim Dror Shnat program is an intensive 10 month education and leadership program in Israel. Shnat is the ultimate Habonim Dror program, giving each participant the chance to live, experience and express the movement's ideology, and then return to their home country educated and inspired. 
The Australian and New Zealand Shnat groups joins groups from South Africa, USA, Holland, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, and Argentina (just to name a few).

Bnei Akiva - Limmud


Program Description

On Limmud you'll spend significant time at Yeshiva or Midrasha, Machon LeManhigut and Mechina, and will help you combine more Torah learning with the legendary Bnei Akiva experiences of Israel, including Kibbutz, Marva and Magen David Adom.
Limmud is all about learning and giving. It’s a year for yourself, but also a chance to contribute to society around you.
For participants from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa

Betar Shnat


Program Description

Shnat Betar is a challenging leadership program in Israel. The program is dedicated to creating and inspiring the Zionist-Betar leaders of tomorrow. Shnat Betar provides a unique opportunity to explore new directions on the journey to becoming a Jewish-Zionist adult. From February to December, Shnat participants are immersed in the rich and diverse society of Israel, exploring the land and discovering new aspects of themselves and Israel.
The program includes four months of the "Machon L'Madrichim" course, an unforgettable experience with the army in "Marva" course, movement seminars around Israel and a meaningful volunteering period.
A true year of exploration, Shnat Betar provides the freedom for personal discovery as well as the security of a carefully structured program. This unforgettable experience is created through an intricate balance between studies and volunteer work, learning and teaching, personal challenge and community living. Participants on Shnat Betar return from the year with a stronger attachment to the land of Israel as well as a deeper passion for Zionism and for the Betar movement, enthusiastic to share with their communities what they have learned.



Program Description

Olami is a customizable program which can be designed to fit each participant’s needs to provide them  with their own unique Israel experience.
This program can include any of the following: Hebrew Ulpan, internships, professional training (in bakery, hairdressing, makeup…), volunteering opportunities, etc…

Yeshivat Ohr David


Program Description

For the last 28 years Yeshivat Ohr David has provided young men an intensive Torah learning experience while offering the freedom to discover their own unique place in society. The mission of Yeshivat Ohr David is not only to provide an environment to learn about Jewish heritage, but also to instill the key ingredients that enables the Talmid to realize his true potential in life.
The Ohr David experience is a journey of personal and spiritual growth under the guidance of an incredibly caring and nurturing team of Rebbeim. One of the first Yeshivot to cater to the needs of the post high school boy, the Yeshiva continues to produce individuals committed to continued personal development, to the Jewish community and to the land of Israel.
The yeshiva is currently located on a beautiful campus in the Ramot section of Jerusalem.

Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh Southern Hemisphere


Program Description

Kerem B’Yavneh is an elite center for high-level Torah learning with a rich tradition of devoted, intensive learning in a vibrant Beit Midrash. It is an Israeli-style Yeshivat Hesder with a Zionistic outlook that strives to develop the student’s ability to learn Gemara and Rishonim independently on an in-depth, sophisticated level. The Beit Midrash is the center of the wider yeshiva community, uniting the bachurim, the kollel families, and the families of the ramim and staff. While the spirit of learning spills over into all the corners of the green campus, with casual discussion of the Gemara and Jewish thought and weekly informal learning; Shabbat meals; Friday night tishes; and melave malkas in the homes of rebbeim and sganei mashgichim, the Beit Midrash remains the unquestionable nucleus of yeshiva life.
Every year, Kerem B’Yavneh attracts a number of exceptional students from the Southern Hemisphere, including students from Brazil, South Africa, and occasionally other locales as well. While the Brazilian students participate in Shabbatonim and other programs for the Overseas students, they generally enroll in shiurim for Israelis. They also benefit from the close guidance and mentoring of a Brazilian-born madrich in the Israeli kollel.



Bnot Torah Institute / Sharfman's


Program Description

Are you searching for a place to work on assignments in preparation for class and improve your textual skills while also delving into texts dealing with subjects that are of personal interest to you?
Bnot Torah Sharfman’s courses are interactive, providing real examples of how Torah wisdom connects the disjointed elements of a complex world. The curriculum includes classes in Halacha, Mussar, Sephardic Heritage, Art and Judaism, Tanach and Megillah, prayer, and more. You will leave Sharfman’s better able navigate the issues most often encountered in modern life.
Read more about the program on B'not Torah's blog.
Alison Mervish
FZY Year Course, 2009-2010

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