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?
  • Have fun in Portland and the beautiful Pacific Northwest?

ReubenThe Tivnu Gap Year Program is a 9-month residential experience for high school graduates, ages 17-20. Participants work, study, and live together in Portland, Oregon, building homes and doing other hands-on 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. We act from the conviction that housing is a human right, intertwined with other vital 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?

Tivnu Gap Year Program options include:

Building Track: Learning and applying construction skills by building affordable housing projects with Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East. Participants also intern one day a week with local direct service and advocacy groups.

The new Direct Service and Organizing Track: Participants work hands-on with local social justice organizations that align with their particular interests, including affordable housing/homelessness, food security, and environmental justice.  Possible placements include JOIN, Portland Homeless Family SolutionsSisters of the Road, Portland Youth Builders, Outgrowing Hunger, Rose Haven, and Johnson Creek Watershed Council.

Tivnu-9867Work: All of our program options involve hands-on work to build healthy communities. Whether you’re interested in building a house, maintaining an organic farm, working on a grassroots newspaper, or more, we have the right fit for you.

Engage: We partner with local non-profits to complete concrete projects that benefit them and their members.

Learn: We study the issues of housing, poverty, and collective responsibility from Jewish and other perspectives.

Lead: We co-lead short-term Tivnu programs for members of the local community and plan our own educational and recreational activities.

Mitzvah Corps trip to Columbia River GorgeHave Fun: We live together in beautiful and vibrant Portland, preparing communal meals, celebrating Shabbat and other Jewish holidays, and forging life-long friendships. We also hike in nearby Forest Park, cross-country ski at Mt. Hood, head out to the Oregon Coast, and dip into the city’s legendary food scene by learning how to cook with guest chefs.

What some of LAST year’s participants are saying:

“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.”

What some of their parents are saying:

“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.