Gap Year Program

Do you want to:

  • Learn hands-on skills that last a lifetime?
  • Make a concrete contribution to a more just society?
  • Create your own communal household with other Jewish young adults?
  • Explore what Judaism has to offer in confronting our most pressing social issues?
  • Develop your leadership and advocacy skills?
  • Enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and fun-filled Portland culture?

The Tivnu Gap Year Program is a 9-month residential experience for high school graduates, ages 17-20, from across North America and beyond. Participants work, study, and live together in Portland, Oregon, building homes and doing other social justice service work, creating community, and exploring the connections between Judaism and social justice.

At Tivnu: Building Justice, we are driven by a sense of commitment to the Jewish concept of tzedakah. Often mistranslated as charity, the term derives from the Hebrew word for justice and fairness. Our goal is not to “give” our time and energy to those who are “less fortunate,” but to work together with others for a better world for us all. This is our understanding of the meaning of service. We believe that it is important for Jews to engage in social justice work not just as individuals, but as representatives of the Jewish community in partnership with other communities. We act from the conviction that housing is a human right, intertwined with other vial rights including food security, environmental justice, and the overall health of neighborhoods and communities.

To learn more about Tivnu’s philosophy, read Our Story.

What Will I Do?

The Tivnu Gap Year Program consists of two tracks. The Building Track focuses on learning and applying construction skills in the context of affordable-housing projects. The Organizing Track focuses on internships with direct service organizations.

Engage: You will conduct site visits to local non-profits, gaining insight into ongoing efforts to address homelessness, poverty, and income disparity in Oregon and nationwide. Working in smaller groups, you will also engage in longer-term volunteer partnerships with a number of these organizations, completing concrete projects to assist them and their members. We also co-lead short-term Tivnu programs for members of the local community, magnifying the impact of the skills we gain. Finally, we collaborate with Tivnu staff in planning some of our own educational and recreational activities.

Learn: You will spend approximately one day a week studying the complex issues surrounding housing, poverty, and questions of communal obligation and fairness from both general and Jewish perspectives. With Tivnu educators and guest speakers, you will explore both classical and modern Jewish sources on social justice, learn about the current context and background of today’s issues, and grapple with how to build a pluralistic Jewish community that responds to the pressing social issues of our time.

Lead: You will co-lead short-term Tivnu programs for members of the local community, magnifying the impact of the skills you gain. Finally, you will collaborate with Tivnu staff in planning some of our own educational and recreational activities.

Explore: We live together in Portland, preparing communal meals, celebrating Shabbat and other Jewish holidays, and forging life-long friendships. We also do plenty of recreational activities, like cross-country skiing at nearby Mt. Hood, heading to the Oregon Coast, hiking, and learning how to cook with guest chefs. Mitzvah Corps trip to Columbia River GorgePortland itself is a vibrant and beautiful city. Forest Park–one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves–provides space for running, hiking, and contemplation. Portland is known as the country’s bike capital for its many miles of bicycle routes and cycling’s popularity both for fun and transportation. The city is also known for its hundreds of famously quirky and delicious food carts, which anchor a thriving food culture. On top of all this, Portland’s independent music scene is legendary.

For more information on:

  • Dates, location, eligibility, tuition, financial aid, housing, staff, and college credit
  • Typical week in Gap Year Program
  • Application and enrollment timeline

Read more about the program here.