March 2, 2016

What I Think Tivnu is All About

By Nadav Furgang

I have had the great privilege of representing Tivnu as a current participant at a bunch of cool events.  Most recently, I got to go to a huge BBYO International Convention (basically, just a couple thousand Jewish high schoolers in one place) out in Baltimore! Besides the family, friends, and random people I meet that feel the need to know exactly where I am in life as a 19 year old (“But you’re not in college? or working? or doing some personal creative project? HELP!”), I’ve explained  what Tivnu is to people countless times. Every time is a bit of a struggle, though, because there’s so much to say! There are the super short and vague descriptions (“build, learn, explore, grow” or something like that) you’ve probably seen, which are good at hooking people into learning more. However, when I am talking to someone and I want them to understand the program, I feel the need to go into at least a little detail about the volunteer schedule, communal living, the fun activities we do as a group, how Judaism fits in, and the more formal educational side. But, it’s so hard! There’s just too much to say in such a short amount of time.

My stand at the BBYO International Convention!

My stand at the BBYO International Convention!

I personally believe that the volunteer work is the central piece of the program. That was primarily what I wanted to do with my gap year, and every other slice of Tivnu is just bonus for me (which, all together, made Tivnu the clear best option). I love how we get to go on field trips, I love how it’s in Portland, and I love how it’s Jewish. The thing is, others are interested in Tivnu for different core reasons. That’s why I like to say that Tivnu is a great balance of social justice, communal living, and Judaism (it doesn’t say anything about what takes up the most time, and what is the most important. Anyone can interpret it in the way that sounds best to them! I am an evil mastermind.)

Building homes (not just houses) at the Habitat job site.

Building homes (not just houses) at the Habitat job site.


I believe that everyone should do at least one year of service, and that post-high school is one of the best times for that.

I believe that everyone should do at least one year of service (especially people with privileged childhoods like mine), and that post-high school is one of the best times for that. I do cringe a bit inside when people want to go on gap years solely for self-exploration or resume-building (though Tivnu accomplishes both of those as well). When I describe Tivnu to people, I mainly want to talk about where I volunteer. Living in a house with 8 other young social-justice oriented Jews is a very unique experience that I want to talk about as well, but for me, the most valuable pieces of Tivnu are that I get to work with my hands, building homes (not just houses) for people that can’t afford to live in healthy conditions. I’ve also formed honest and personal relationships with people that have had completely opposite upbringings than mine- abuse, poverty, drugs and violence (some both victims and perpetrators, just to be very clear) completely fill up some people’s timelines. I try to be humble about this (Do I lose humble-points by saying that?) but some people point out that most teens aren’t doing work like this. Here’s the the thing- it’s not difficult, and I do not deserve a pat on the back. This is the kind of work that anyone can do, and I strongly feel that everyone should. Especially for Jewish teens, when such a perfect program (with tuition assistance!) exists as Tivnu.


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