Idea of the Day: Gap-year programs in America


JTA is soliciting readers’ ideas for reversing the tide of Jewish assimilation in America. Here’s today’s featured idea:

Jewish organizations should develop year-long programs for high school graduates that take place in the United States.

The Israel-based gap year has become an important rite of passage for many young Jews, and such programs serve a vital purpose, but they are not for everyone. Many young Jews don’t feel comfortable going abroad at that point in their lives — and many parents don’t feel comfortable letting them.

Domestic gap year programs that integrate Jewish living with service-based experiential learning would create a new option for bringing Jewish youngsters into the fold, strengthening their identity and inspiring them to see themselves as part of the next generation of American Jewish leaders.

Such programs would also help provide them with models for what it means to be Jewish in America. Most of our young people will choose to live their lives in the United States. Identifying with Israel is important, but exploring how to integrate their Jewish and American identities is equally important. That, after all, is the challenge that the Pew survey revealed.

Steve Eisenbach-Budner
Portland, Oregon

(The author is the executive director of Tivnu: Building Justice)

Read more ideas for stemming the tide of American Jewish disengagement here.

To share your idea, send an email describing one concrete idea in 200 words or less to (include your full name, city, and state or country). Our favorites will be featured online.

Recommended from JTA