Tivnu FAQs

You will stay in a Tivnu house, a bayit, in Portland, Oregon. You’ll have one (or occasionally two) roommates and share all-gender communal space and an ample kitchen. Both houses are in Irvington, a popular, walkable neighborhood with shops, restaurants, and parks nearby. Your tuition includes rent, utilities, communal food shopping and other household expenses.

Tivnu will provide transportation to participate in all scheduled program activities, or provide for rides on Portland’s excellent public transport system. Portland is also a very bike-friendly and walkable city; public transit is a great way to explore it, too. We ask that participants leave cars at home.

Tivnu provides a weekly budget for communal food shopping, which covers meals you prepare for yourself and a few weekly communal meals. Beyond that, you can always branch out with personal food shopping or picnic with some take-out. Not feeling the entrée inspiration? We’ll help out with guest chefs and hands-on workshops to raise your kitchen game, whether you’re a beginner or a Top Chef.

Everyone should be comfortable and well-fed at all our communal meals, regardless of allergies, medical or ethical diet, etc. Individual food requests are typically part of our weekly shopping budget. Our bayit kitchens also maintain a standard of kashrut that keeps us grounded in Jewish traditions of ethical eating and historical connection, and allows us to welcome all kinds of Jews into our dining room.

You can do this! Our program is specifically designed for people of different skill levels, and our construction coach works with everybody, novices to experts. Even if you have no building experience, you’ll be able to participate fully, learn construction skills, and gain strength and self-confidence. Plus, you’ll get to meet some of Portland’s most inspiring makers, from hands-on engineers creating tools for the space program to artists working by hand in wood and metal.

You’ll learn first-hand from activists, professors, people confronting challenges themselves, and Tivnu’s own educators. It’s definitely not school. But if you like to learn how the world really works from those whose expertise comes from hard and thoughtful experience, it’s what school should be.

Most Saturdays, Sundays, and weeknights will be free. We will sometimes have recreational events like hiking, pickling, or enjoying some aspect of Portland’s eclectic culture on Sundays.

Many colleges now encourage taking a gap year because they recognize that students who take time outside the classroom gain maturity, focus, and confidence, all of which helps them socially and academically. We’re happy to connect you with past participants who consider themselves immeasurably more prepared for college having spent a year with Tivnu.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to our challenges. To do the work well, you really have to know the context well. Among the senior Tivnu staff, we have more than 5 decades of experience in the Portland area and this is the context we know intimately. Plus, we’re a city with real problems to work on and extremely creative solutions and non-profit leadership to learn from.

We welcome applicants from every background. A lot of our program engages Jewish sources, values, history, and rituals, and we ask all participants to take part, regardless of their connection to Judaism. If that sounds good, we’re happy to talk about how that would look for you.

We want you to be the kind of Jew you want to be, and we want you to have a great time with it. Living among a broadly diverse group of Jews is what Tivnu’s commitment to pluralism is all about, and it’s the best way to learn about the spectrum of Jewish experience. We make sure you’ll have lots of opportunities to explore those options, from deeply traditional to wildly innovative. That’s true on holidays (when we won’t schedule internships) and Shabbat, which we’ll celebrate together every week. Want to connect with interesting synagogues, educators, rabbis, artists, and more? We’re here for that too.

We love it. Every week, Tivnuniks cook and eat dinner together, lead a group conversation about justice in the weekly Torah portion, sing some Shabbat blessings, and share the triumphs and challenges of the week. Sometimes you’ll join in with prayers, songs, or other Shabbat activities before dinner, organized by your friends and Tivnu staff. Maybe dinner’s a picnic? Maybe it’s a themed party with a mystery to solve? It’s up to you. Saturday is wide open: go for a hike, pick up lunch at the farmer’s market, sing at a synagogue, or just chill after a full week. Ending Shabbat with a Havdalah gathering is a lot of Tivnuniks’ favorite part. There are lots of directions a Tivnu Shabbat can go, and we’ll check in a few times each year about how we want it to look and feel.

Each participant will be challenged by our curriculum in a different way. Some will have their first taste of traditional hevruta learning, where partners explore and grapple with a primary Jewish text. Others will be exposed in much greater depth than ever before to Jewish perspectives on today’s most pressing issues and approaches to social change. Whether you have a formal Jewish education, have picked up bits along the way, or are starting fresh, you have something to offer to the Jewish conversation.

Yes. Tivnu’s Resident Advisors are college graduates with strong backgrounds and training in communal living. They live on-site in each house and work with participants to build a strong, safe, and fun home community.

Tuition information can be found here. Financial aid is available; over 50% of past participants have received some assistance. Since our founding, Tivnu has been able to make our program accessible to every qualified applicant, regardless of their financial situation. Please do not let the cost of the program keep you from applying. If you would like to talk with us about financial assistance, please reach out to Steve Eisenbach-Budner, our Executive Director, at steve@tivnu.org.

We take vacations like on a typical college schedule — you can see them all here. Outside of our official listed breaks, we encourage participants to prioritize their internships and Tivnu programming as professional obligations. Got a plan for some time away — a family bat mitzvah or something? Please discuss it with us in advance so we can make sure we do it right.

We get it — it’s a pretty common feeling for people who are new to this work. The best thing we can tell you is what Tivnunik Noah J. told us: “In all the months of working at Hazelnut Grove (a tiny house village of formerly houseless folks) I never felt uncomfortable because the residents always greeted us with smiles, and made us feel welcome by asking us how our day was going or by offering us food and drinks. Seeing people who have nothing, or close to nothing act so gracious and inviting made me feel happy and inspired to wake up early and volunteer my time there.”

Liberal arts colleges, like: Brandeis, Lewis and Clark, Mt. Holyoke, Muhlenberg, and Oberlin

National universities, like: Brown, Cornell, American, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins

State schools like: UCLA, Pittsburgh, University of Delaware, and UNC Chapel Hill

Engineering schools and technical colleges like: Colorado School of Mines, Cal Poly SLO, Bel-Rea Veterinary Institute, and Worcester Polytechnic

Tivnu requires all participants and staff members to have six current vaccinations, including full vaccinations and boosters against Covid-19, before participating in the program. If you and your doctor feel you have a health condition which precludes vaccination, please discuss this with Executive Director Steve Eisenbach-Budner at steve@tivnu.org.