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  young adults?
  • Explore what Jewish and other global perspectives offer in confronting our most pressing social issues?
  • Develop your leadership and advocacy skills?
  • Have adventures in Portland and travel in the beautiful Pacific Northwest?

ReubenTivnu is a nine month Jewish gap year program in Portland, Oregon. Participants live together, create community, discover the Pacific Northwest, and explore connections between Jewish life and social justice with their heads, hands, and hearts.

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. We act from the conviction that housing, food security, environmental justice, education, and the overall health of neighborhoods and communities are human rights.

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


What are your passions? Our experienced staff will work with you to customize a program of internships that reflects your varied interests. Work directly with local social justice organizations to plant a community garden at a neighborhood school with Outgrowing Hunger, edit a grassroots newspaper with Street Roots, build affordable housing with Habitat for Humanity, tutor at-risk youth at Portland Youth Builders, prepare and serve nutritious meals alongside people experiencing homelessness at Sisters of the Road’s café, and more. And come together at the end of the week to share stories around the Tivnu Shabbat dinner table. Your experiences on Tivnu will change the way you see the world, and the way you see yourself. Tivnu: tools to build a better world.

Tivnu-9867Grow: Challenge yourself while completing tangible projects that make a difference in people’s lives, and your own. Build skills and develop commitments that last a lifetime.

Learn: Study the issues of poverty, equity, and communal responsibility from Jewish and global perspectives.

Lead: Plan Tivnu educational and recreational activities. Create a compassionate community at work and at home.

Explore: Live with other young adults in beautiful and vibrant Portland, sharing communal meals and approaches to Judaism, exploring nature, and building lifelong friendships.

Mitzvah Corps trip to Columbia River Gorge


“It’s hard to add up how much I’ve learned on this program, but I can describe the feeling of satisfaction I’ve had each time I’ve talked to a new Portlander, played with a homeless child, or made something that I could’ve bought in a store. Tivnu is helping me to become an adult, a citizen, a leader—an upstanding member of my community.”

“On Monday we took a field trip to Dignity Village, a small city-sanctioned area of land where homeless people can live. Life in Dignity Village is not easy, but as a community and a family they can do most of what they set their minds to. Dignity Village was a powerful example of what can be accomplished when you work together as a community.”

“On Sunday we went to the Oregon Jewish Museum for Sukkah PDX, an annual juried outdoor design competition with design managers from across the globe. We helped build different contemporary sukkot. It was amazing to meet people from Italy who had come all the way to Portland to build a sukkah.”

“Now, I’m not saying I’m Wolfgang Puck or Emeril, but I can now put together decent meals. I am so glad I have some sense of cooking right now, because it’s one of those things that you really need to have some grasp on to live a fulfilling lifestyle.”

“Most cities seem squished, dingy and impatient, but following the road less traveled, Downtown Portland was spacious, clean, green, courteous and possessed a relaxed patience unlike any other. The excitement continued when we entered Powell’s Bookstore. The aisles were endless. The smell of aged book in the air was intoxicating and I wanted to spend the entire day exploring, but the call of hunger was growing louder and more sonorous by the minute. Powell’s wasn’t the only thing to take up an entire city block. Next came the food trucks.”


“We appreciate what an important opportunity this is for our son – we can already see how much he has grown in these opening months, and we know this will  be a transformative year for him.  There is no more fulfilling place on earth for him to be right now than Tivnu.  Our deep thanks for making this possible.

“Our daughter has told us about all the wonderful experience you have provided her and we are very grateful.  She was very homesick in the beginning and calling us daily.  Within a short time, however, we are the ones calling her because she is so busy.  Her quick adjustment I credit to the wonderful Tivnu staff!”

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.