What is Tivnu's vaccination policy?

Tivnu requires all staff members and participants to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before participating in the program. There are very few health conditions which preclude vaccination, but if you feel you have one, please discuss this with the Executive Director before applying.

Where will I live?

You will stay in a Tivnu house, a bayit, in Portland, Oregon. You’ll have one or two roommates and share co-ed communal space and a spacious kitchen. Both houses are in a popular, walkable neighborhood with shops, restaurants, and parks nearby. Tivnu takes care of rent, utilities, communal food shopping and household expenses.

What is the educational program like?

Our educational program combines in-depth study of Jewish and others sources with hands-on exposure to change-making. Every week you will spend time learning with our educator, local experts, non-profit organizations, and one another. Our curriculum focuses on housing, Jewish notions of collective responsibility, and related issues of social justice such as labor, poverty, ethnicity, and the environment.

How will meals work?

Tivnu provides a weekly budget for communal food and other household expenses. You will take turns doing the group grocery shopping with your Resident Advisor and preparing communal dinners. Different pairs of participants cook communal meals two to three times a week. Guest cooks from the larger community will sometimes cook with you, helping to sharpen your culinary skills. You will be responsible for your other meals, which can be eaten as you wish.

Will I be able to keep Kosher? Will I be able to eat gluten-free? Vegan?

Tivnu believes that buying food, cooking, and eating together provide rich opportunities for weighing ethical choices, building community, and having fun while developing skills in this important part of life. All communal meals will fulfill the needs of all participants, whether those needs stem from allergies, the observance of Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), or other religious, ethical, or health motivations.

Do I have to be Jewish?

No, you do not need to be Jewish to join Tivnu. But you should be aware that Jewish texts, values and history will often be a part of our discussions in educational and other programming, and we follow both the American and Jewish calendars in terms of holiday observance. We do ask that all participants enter with an interest in living and learning in an environment that is structured around a Jewish lifestyle, regardless of an individual’s faith.

Will there be adult supervision on-site?

Yes. A Tivnu Resident Advisor will live on-site. Like a college R.A., the Tivnu R.A. will work alongside you to build a strong, safe, and fun home community.

How will I get around Portland?

Tivnu will provide the necessary transportation to participate in all aspects of the Gap Year Program. Portland is also a very bike-friendly city with great public transportation.

How much does the program cost?

Tuition information can be found here. Financial aid is available on a sliding scale. Approximately 60% of past participants have received some financial assistance. Tivnu is committed to making its Gap Year accessible to young adults of all economic backgrounds. If the full cost of the program is prohibitive, please inquire about financial aid.

What will Shabbat be like?

You and your housemates will take turns planning and cooking Friday night Shabbat dinners in your bayit, with the support of Tivnu staff. You will be working hard during the week. Coming together to celebrate Shabbat will give you a chance to relax, reflect on and appreciate all that you’ve accomplished, and experience a part of Judaism that has sustained Jews for millennia. About once a month, Shabbat dinners will be enjoyed outside of the house, individually with your Portland host family or as a group with other organizations like the local Hillel. Saturdays will typically be free and the way you choose to mark the day will be at your discretion.

What about Jewish/religious practice?

Tivnu is dedicated to creating a pluralistic environment, striving to make the Gap Year Program accessible to a broad spectrum of the Jewish community. We believe that living with Jews of diverse backgrounds and beliefs provides a rich environment for learning about different parts of the Jewish world, for reflecting on one’s own practice, and for generally increasing one’s ability to welcome difference. The Tivnu Gap Year helps its participants explore the Jewish tradition in its many manifestations, including holidays, contemporary and classical texts and literature, and cultural expressions. Tivnu staff will help any participant who wants to connect with synagogues, Jewish Educators, Rabbis, or any other Jewish resource of interest.

How much free time will I have?

Most Saturdays and Sundays will be free. We will sometimes have recreational events like hiking, cross-country skiing, or enjoying some aspect of Portland’s eclectic culture on Sundays. There will also be occasional programs over Shabbat, which will never require anyone to break traditional Shabbat observance. Program participants will usually be free after work on weeknights.

What about vacations?

There will be three breaks: a short break for Thanksgiving, a few weeks around January 1, and a break for Passover. Full schedule information can be found here.

Do I need to know Hebrew or have a formal Jewish education?

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 as well as various approaches to social change.  Whether you have a formal Jewish education, have only picked up bits along the way, or have no background at all, you have something to offer to the Jewish conversation.

Do I need to be 17 to 20 years old?

This is not a strict cut-off, but we are looking for people who have either just finished high school or have done so within the last year or two.

Will I be able to walk to a synagogue?

There will be several synagogues within walking distance of Tivnu housing:
Havurah Shalom
Congregation Beth Israel
Congregation Shaarie Torah

Will I be able to defer college admission?

Yes, it’s easy to defer college for a year. Once you decide you would like to defer, you will usually need to submit your reasons to the Dean of Admissions of the college you plan to attend, along with a deposit. You should also contact the admissions office as soon as you can to see if there are other steps you need to take. Tivnu will help you work with your college to satisfy these requirements.

Will doing Tivnu’s Gap Year Program help me in college?

Many colleges now support the idea of 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.

Will I be able to receive any college credit?

Tivnu is  currently in discussion with a potential academic partner. Check back for more details and feel free to contact us for the most up-to-date information.

I’ve never built anything before. Can I really do this?

Yes, you can, even if you’ve never picked up a hammer. The program is specifically designed for people of different skill levels. Even if you have no building experience, you’ll be able to participate fully, learn construction skills, and gain self-confidence and strength.

If I already have some building skills, what will I gain from Tivnu?

You will rapidly improve your skills to an intermediate level, and much faster than you could by volunteering informally. For details about what types of construction skills you can expect to learn, check out the program overview.

What’s the connection between construction and Judaism?

Tivnu means Build! Jewish tradition strongly supports our conviction that housing is a basic human need as well as human right. Building affordable housing is a great way of acting on the Jewish imperative of tzedakah–justice and fairness. Jewish tradition has long valued physical labor and competence; many of the Rabbinic sages were tradespeople. By learning construction techniques, we acquire a way to contribute to society, grow spiritually, challenge ourselves physically, and cultivate respect for work and workers.

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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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