Gap year programs in Israel, attended by thousands of Diaspora Jewish youth each year, are growing in popularity. Gap year program participants can find opportunities to study about Judaism, Israel, and Hebrew (in some cases for college credit), volunteer, travel, and befriend peers from Israel and around the world. These programs for North American high school graduates often lead to personal growth and strengthened Jewish identity.
SIACH offers a Jewish learning and Israel studies curriculum for academic credit, along with Jewish communal living in a non-denominational environment.
On Bnei Akiva's Hachshara program, participants learn, volunteer and tour (including a trip to Poland) in an effort to develop and deepen their religious identity and sense of personal responsibility for the future of Israel and the Jewish people. Familiarization with real life in Israel helps the students prepare for aliyah or leadership roles within Bnei Akiva and their home community. Participants in Bnei Akiva's Hachshara gap year program grow in Torah knowledge, enhance their leadership skills, and deepen their understanding of Israel and its people.
Nativ offers a year of discovery in Israel to recent high school graduates who want to learn about themselves and explore who they would like to become, while earning college credits. From September to June, Nativ participants engage themselves in Israeli society, exploring the land and enjoying a fulfilling Conservative Jewish lifestyle, which includes university or yeshiva studies, and innovative leadership training.
Habonim Dror Workshop, the oldest running Israel program for North American youth, is a 10-month work/study program for high school graduates. Participants experience Israel from the inside (agricultural kibbutz, an urban collective, and various volunteer positions) and meet peers from around the world (England, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc.). The program also includes a trip to Poland to learn about the Holocaust, with an emphasis on the involvement of the youth movements in resistance.
Kivunim seeks to help Jewish Diaspora youth forge a lifelong relationship with Israel and the Jewish People. This gap year program was founded and is directed by Peter Geffen, the Founder of The Abraham Joshua Heschel School in NYC. Through travels, its academic course of study, its social responsibility/coexistence programming and its spiritual and Jewish life experience, Kivunim aims to give form and content to the Jewish person for the future. Participants are based in Jerusalem, but travel every five-six weeks to countries such as Morocco, India, Turkey, Greece, the Ukraine, Spain, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
Shnat Netzer is a unique 10-month leadership training program for young adults in Israel that develops the skills and knowledge necessary for them to become leaders in the Reform movement. This gap year program in Israel facilitates personal development and offers study about Jewish and Zionist ideals all within a Reform Jewish environment.
Tzofim's Shnat Sherut Tzabar is a community service year of volunteering in a development town/underprivileged neighborhood in Israel. The volunteers live in shared apartments together with Israeli peers in Tzofim, sharing the same budget (a stipend for living expenses is provided), responsibilities of independent living (shopping, cleaning, food preparation, etc.), and goals.
The Yeladim Association, established to perpetuate the memory of the 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust, aims to strengthen the Jewish identities of Diaspora youth. Its post-high school Israel by Choice (IBC) program is a 5-10 month (beginning in February) leadership development program. Participants explore the land, the people and their Jewish identity. This gap year program is unique is its emphasis on empowerment of participants, by helping them design and direct their individual program, and interaction with Israelis.
Young Judaea Year Course in Israel is a 9-month program for recent high school graduates. The program immerses college-bound students into life in Israel, blending academic study, community living, volunteering, travel, and fun. Participants can choose different tracks - athletic, culinary arts, visual arts, performing arts, medicine, fashion design - and add-on trips to other parts of the world. There is a special Jewish enrichment track called Shevet. In addition, Young Judaea's Shalem (Shnat Limmud uMaaseh) program offers a year living, volunteering and studying in Israel to Orthodox recent high school graduates.