Our Story

At Tivnu: Building Justice, we are driven by our 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 as well as a human need. It is a cornerstone for a life of stability, dignity, and opportunity. We recognize that access to housing is intertwined with other vital issues, including food security, environmental justice, and the overall health of neighborhoods and communities. The housing crisis is especially acute in Oregon. As of 2015, Oregon had the third-highest rate of homelessness in the United States: 33 per 10,000, almost twice the national average. From 2014-15, when rates of homelessness dropped in all but 12 states, Oregon recorded the fifth-highest increase in the country. The Portland metropolitan area also ranks in the top 10 nationally for rate of homelessness. As Jews, we draw not only on our historical memory of dispossession in confronting this crisis, but also on our ancient commitment to social justice.


Tivnu draws from many wells: both the early Zionist movement and the American labor movement in their respect for physical work, the rich history of American Jewish involvement in a broad variety of progressive causes, and the many Jewish texts that grapple with issues of communal responsibility. Tivnu was inspired by the legacies of its founder’s great-grandfather, a Hasidic rabbi in Eastern Europe; his grandfather, an immigrant who repudiated his Judaism to become a communist; and his father, a proud Zionist, staunch anti-communist, loyal synagogue member, and activist in a union-created affordable housing development in New York City. Like everything new, Tivnu is built on the foundation of what came before.

Learn how the Tivnu Gap Year changes the lives of participants and the community

Tivnu in the NY Times

Taking a gap year at home can be as meaningful as doing one abroad.
Featured in The New York Times
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