-Program Overview

The Tivnu Gap Year is nine months of hands-on Jewish social justice engagement. Participants create a community living together, discovering the Pacific Northwest, and exploring the bond between Jewish life and social justice while working with Portland’s cutting-edge grassroots organizations.

The Basics

PDX Living

Portland Living

Begin the year with an introduction to Portland, Oregon – the greatest city in the country. (Except your hometown. That’s great, too.) Move in to the Tivnu home –the bayit– , and get a feel for the neighborhood together with your Tivnu cohort. And then – to the mountains! Get a perspective on your new home on our camping trip in the Western Cascades.

Internships that Matter

Internships that Matter

Here’s where the real work begins. Four and a half days a week you will cook meals, teach GED skills, grow food with kids in the community garden. We match your passions and commitments to the needs of Portland’s grassroots organizations, so that you and the community can thrive. Your hands may get dirty, you may go home each day covered in bits of compost or eraser shavings. But you’ll go home knowing you did real work supporting people who are working to make their lives better.

Community & Home

Community & Home

What does Judaism mean to you in your adult life? Begin the High Holidays with your host family and Portland’s wide range of Jewish options. We’ll put our tool training into action putting up a Sukkah in our own backyard, then head to Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center for a couple of days, and build another temporary shelter outside our mountain cabin.

Wide Horizons

Wide Horizons

In the winter and spring, you’ll see yourself more and more as part of the community at your internship. You’ll broaden your own perspective as you expand the world of people you know and care about. And you’ll study with some of Portland’s most engaging educators, activists, rabbis, and college professors, to explore some of the national, local, and personal context for grassroots change.


Building & Chilling

Hands-on work isn’t a lost art at Tivnu : all of our participants learn building basics with Erik, Tivnu’s expert Construction Trainer. Come wintertime, you’ll learn to build an igloo, too, on our mid-winter trip to Mt. Hood. Are the snowshoeing and cross-country skiing just an excuse to go hot-tubbing in the snow afterward? We’ll leave that up to you.

Bring the World Home

Bring the World Home

Trips to Seattle and the University of Oregon will give you more urban and collegiate experiences on your gap year, not to mention connections with Greater Portland Hillel, Moishe House, and other innovative Jewish young adult communities. By the time you get back from a 50-mile four-day rafting trip on the incomparable Deschutes River, you’ll have plenty of stories for a final Shabbat dinner with your internship supervisors, friends, and host families.

2020-2021 Important Dates:

Arrive in Portland: Sep 1, 2020
Winter Break: Dec 13, 2020 – Jan 12, 2021
Passover Break: Mar 25 – Apr 5, 2021
Depart for Home: May 20, 2021

2021-2022 Important Dates:

Arrive in Portland: Aug 31, 2021
Winter Break: Dec 14, 2021 – Jan 11, 2022
Passover Break: Apr 14 – Apr 24, 2022
Depart for Home: May 19, 2022

Week in the Life

Annual Calendar


1,000 hours a year, every year.

Before you arrive in Portland, you’ll work with Adinah, the Tivnu Program Director, to create an internship program that matches your passions. You’ll put that time to work in ways you’ll never forget, expanding your personal horizons and contributing to the world around you.

Some of the internship options you will choose from include:

Housing & Homelessness

Housing & Homelessness

Habitat for Humanity

Build foundations, walls, and roofs with Habitat for Humanity. Solutions to families’ housing struggles will literally take shape around you as you work alongside the future homeowners. Our Construction Trainer Erik will show you the house-building skills you’ll need to assemble single-family homes for first-time owners. Families will contribute “sweat equity.” You’ll get your own dividend: confidence, resolve, and determination.

Hazelnut Grove

At Portland’s Hazelnut Grove encampment of formerly homeless people, a tiny house isn’t just a novelty you might pop in your backyard. It’s 8’x8’ of autonomy, independence, and integration into the social and economic life of their intentional community. Tivnu participants – first-time builders, mostly — lay the floors, raise the walls, and install the roofs to help residents transition to a more settled, productive life. And solar paneling, shower facilities, and communal spaces? We make those, too. Hazelnut Grove houses might be tiny, but ask our friends there. They’re immeasurable.


Having the time to sit down at the breakfast table is easy for some families. But if you don’t know if you’ll be able to afford breakfast tomorrow, and don’t know where that table might be, it’s hard to imagine life ever taking a turn for the better. Tivnu interns make breakfast at Portland Homeless Family Solutions , and then they make it possible for whole families to rise up to meet the day. PHFS ’s day and overnight shelters help 150 homeless families each year with life skills training, parenting classes, and tenant education; Tivnu interns specialize in working with kids while parents learn. But first they have to clean up from breakfast.

Street Roots

Street Roots isn’t just the best street paper in the country, with exceptional coverage of the issues critical to struggling Portlanders. It isn’t just the network of 160+ vendors, generating income with each paper they re-sell, and lending a
stable, professional face to a community many find foreign or frightening. It’s also the only paper with Tivnu interns helping edit the paper, arrange in-kind donations to support the vendor team, and facilitating poetry-writing workshops to fill the pages every week. Street Roots has a special place in Portland’s network of social services (oh yeah — they also produce a comprehensive guide to Portland’s social services!), and Tivnu volunteers’ hard work gives them a special place helping those who cannot afford free speech.

Ariella Hirsch

Food & Food Justice

Sisters of the Road

Cook the food, serve the meals, and help keep the business – and community – running at Sisters of the Road. Portland has a great café scene: you can get vegan cuisine served in a yoga studio, or a scoop of dill pickle sorbet. But there’s only one Sisters, where the homeless and working poor contribute their time in exchange for a meal that adds healthy food to their diet and dignity to their day.

Urban Gleaners

There’s a harvest that happens every day in Portland, all year round. Not just at Oregon’s farms and dairies, but at restaurants, markets, bakeries, and cafés – who all end the day with unsalable but still edible surplus food. Tivnu interns work with Urban Gleaners to marshal small resources for big impact. Taking in food and preparing it for redistribution to schools, shelters, and low-income housing won’t solve the whole food insecurity puzzle for hungry Portlanders, but ever since the Hebrew Bible we have known that there is no solution without it.

Outgrowing Hunger

At Outgrowing Hunger, Zenger Farm, or Learning Gardens Laboratory, you don’t just see the roots of the problems of hunger, health, and food insecurity – you see the roots of the solutions. And we’re not just talking about metaphorical roots here: if you intern at OH or Zenger or LGL, you’ll make sure those actual roots are taking hold in the compost system you built. You’ll teach school kids how to keep the plants thriving. And you’ll help get the crops they raised home to hungry families and communities that need them.

Immigration & Labor

Labor, Immigration, & Advocacy

Jobs with Justice and NW Workers’ Justice Project

Communities come together with a common factor – it could be a neighborhood, a religion, an ethnicity. If you intern with Portland Jobs with Justice or the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, you’ll be building community through the kind of coalitions that organize rallies, mobilize picket lines, educate about civil rights, and advocate on the street and in the courtroom. What does it take to bring together over 100 labor organizations and community groups, and build a society based on economic justice? Hard-working Tivnu interns find out while playing a part.


When a new immigrant is looking for work opportunities, they turn to the day laborer center at VOZ, the Workers’ Rights Education Project. When you intern here, you and VOZ will build relationships that empower day laborers and immigrants to improve their working conditions and protect civil rights through leadership development, organizing, education, and opportunity. It’s worker-led, education-focused, and a path to long-term employment that many laborers need and Tivnu interns can support. At VOZ, laborers sign in for an upcoming job. As a Tivnu intern, you’ll sign in to work for justice every day.

Criminal Justice Reform Clinic

When a low-level conviction follows a person around for years, keeping them from getting the kind of job that can support their family, the most important call they can make is to the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic. You might be the person who answers that call, as a Tivnu volunteer. You might accompany an attorney to court for a hearing on clemency, parole, or immigration status. And the files you review might be part of a case for systemic change, demonstrated by the kind of data an individual attorney could never collect, but Lewis & Clark Law School’s CJRC can. It’s a chance to work on justice for one individual at a time, and just as much, to work for justice one society at a time, too.

Education & Literacy

Education, Literacy, & Culture

Portland Youthbuilders

Put yourself back in the classroom as a tutor at Portland YouthBuilders, helping nontraditional learners focus on the skills they need to get good jobs, face the world with confidence, and lead successful lives. You’ll help PYB students develop academic, vocational, communication, and leadership skills. Portland YouthBuilders supports young people through meaningful long-term connections, and that goes for Tivnu volunteers as well.

Boise Eliot Humboldt School

What stands out most from an internship at one of Portland’s under-resourced but nonetheless thriving public elementary schools: was it the first day of class, when little faces call you “Ms. ____” for the very first time? Or was it the last day of school, when they hand you their homemade thank-you poster — colorful, heartfelt, and slightly mis-spelled? Something happens in between, for Tivnu volunteers at schools that need your help. During the year “something” might be assistance with reading or integrating technology with the education program. A lot of it will be showing young kids how to grow up to be the kind of person who cares about education, compassion, and responsibility. Tivnu values, every one.

Outside the Frame

“Lights! Camera! (Social) Action!” What does it take for a young person living on the streets to find their voice, to tell their story? It takes an organization like Outside the Frame, where Tivnu volunteers help with production, outreach, and publicity for screenings and discussions of OTF documentaries and short films. Because OTF and Tivnu both know: if you can direct a film, you can direct your life.

Environmental Justice

The Environment & Environmental Justice

Rebuilding Center

Recycling is great. Our partners at the ReBuilding Center show what you can do when you take it one step further. By processing, selling, and supporting the use of salvaged and reclaimed materials, the RC strengthens the environmental, economic, and social fabric of local communities. From de-nailing boards to helping contractors find sustainable resources, Tivnu interns help make it happen.

Columbia Slough Watershed Council

Portland is shaped by the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, but urban life in the city owes just as much of its identity to the sloughs and watersheds that flow through town. Tivnu interns at Columbia Slough Watershed Council take on restoration and stewardship of the river ecosystem with hands-on environmental science and community engagement. In one week you might gather data about conditions in the creek, conduct wildlife surveys, or put on restoration events to remove invasive plants and install native riparian vegetation.


Strengthening a working-class community and protecting the environment go hand-in-hand at Verde, where you might volunteer with a pioneering green landscaping program and help develop community projects. Tivnu workers might set up the classes on sustainable stormwater management, and the next day, swing a shovel to help with the local habitat restoration practicum. The next week it’ll be time to make calls for the training seminar on environmental and community advocacy, bringing heathy change to one of Portland’s struggling neighborhoods. With Verde and Tivnu, sometimes getting grassroots community to grow starts with getting native plants’ roots to grow.

Women & LGBTQ

Women’s, Gender & LGBTQ Issues

Rose Haven

Trauma, abuse, and disruption of home life always threaten the course of a person’s life, but they don’t have to define it. Rose Haven is Portland’s home for support and services to help women and children regain stability in their lives. Rose Haven staff and Tivnu interns open the doors every day to welcome any woman who needs help, with legal advocacy, medical needs, resumé clinics, and more. Art workshops to help nourish the spirit of a scared kid or tired mom (or pet turtle!)? Tivnu interns do that too.

Q Center

Community doesn’t happen by accident — and neither do community centers. The Northwest’s largest LGBTQ is also a place where community gets built one relationship at a time. And so when a member or a newcomer walks in the door, it’s especially important to see someone — a Tivnu volunteer, in fact — who is welcoming, enthusiastic, and can connect clients with the Q Center’s community resources, affinity groups, and social network. It’s how the Q Center and Tivnu make lasting impacts in the lives of everyone they serve, while creating valuable bonds with each other.

Our House

Care for people with HIV/AIDS has changed a lot since Our House Portland opened its doors in the bleak days of 1998. There are still Portlanders — like the 14 low-income or otherwise houseless residents — whose independence and accomplishments rely on the services and support they find at Our House. Tivnu participants join the team of volunteers who are available for a conversation, for help connecting with nursing and medical services, and sometime, just frying up breakfast. Each year, 700 residents and clients find that the compassion, collaboration, and respect that inspire Our House and Tivnu volunteers make life supported, independent, and lived well.



Pacific NW

Scott Lake, OR

4 days of camping and hiking the Obsidian Trail and Mt. Scott with campfire singing and our poetry slam

Seattle, WA

3 days of fun and culture in Seattle, from the Underground Tour to the Seattle Art Museum and Arboretum

Mt. Hood, OR

3 days of fun in the snow, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and igloo-building

Deschutes RIver, OR

5-day camping and rafting trip along 50 miles of the Deschutes River, with visits to Warm Springs Reservation and Smith Rock

Cannon Beach, OR

Weekend trip to the Oregon Coast to explore the seashore and estuary ecosystems

Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center, OR

3-day Sukkot retreat, including hikes, meditation, building a sukkah, living off the grid, and unplugged talent show

Eugene, OR

Weekend visit to university of Oregon, with programs at Hillel and Akiva and time to explore

Columbia River Gorge, OR

Hikes, visit to Multnomah Falls Lodge, and fresh salmon from the Columbia



Powell's City of Books

Explore the world’s largest independent bookstore

Portland Night Market

The Portland Night Market blends food, culture, music, drinks and retail together for an adventurous evening in the Industrial District.


The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is one of the nation’s leading science centers, from the submarine to the planetarium, and the whole world in between

Timbers/Thorns Soccer Game

Be sure to pick up a songsheet for the cheers and don’t be afraid to wave a giant Portland flag in the stands

In-House Celebration

In-House Celebration

Seder & Rosh Hashanah Dinner

Make dinner with your friends and bring in the sweet New Year together.

Host Families and Teachers for Sukkot

Nothing makes the Jewish holiday of temporary housing feel meaningful like building a sukkah in the backyard, and welcoming our larger community to join us.

Rosh Hodesh

Marking the start of a new month with our friends from Greater Portland Hillel.


From the Phantom of the Opera to… that lady from the insurance commercials? Tivnu participants love a chance to dress up, wrap up Shabbat together, and invite the neighbors in for a party!


The challenges Americans face have deep roots in the make-up of our country. For solutions, we will have to dig even deeper.

  • capaces leadership trip to woodburnWhat can we learn about participatory democracy from folks in a homeless encampment?
  • How does an LGBTQ lens help us understand youth homelessness?
  • How do Jewish roots in the labor movement affect fair labor practices today?
  • How do we expand environmentalism by considering environmental justice?
  • What does Maimonides teach us about affordable housing?

Tivnu meets with educatorsTivnu Program Director Adinah Miller designs a year-long sequence of learning opportunities with leading educators, activists, rabbis, and college professors. The goal? To understand social justice work – the kind of work Tivnu participants do all week long – from Jewish and global perspectives. We want to look straight at the challenges facing our world, and steer straight toward solutions.

In Tivnu’s experiential, participatory program, you will:

Ari at MuseumTour homeless encampments, maker spaces, and re-building sites

Meet with high school-aged children of farmworker union activists

Delve into economics from the perspectives of both privilege and poverty

Investigate Jewish immigrant history, and the impact of urban renewal on Portland neighborhoods

Dive deep into Jewish texts on nature and society, activism and justice

Study with Professor of urban studies Naomi Adiv. Bestselling author William Deresiewicz. Director of Portland Jobs with Justice Will Layng. Engaging rabbis Rachel Joseph and Josh Rose. Theater pioneers Dr. Elliot Leffler and Sacha Reich. President of the Oregon Farmworkers’ Union Ramon Ramirez. And a dozen more amazing educators who make the Tivnu: Building Justice program an incredible opportunity for hands-on tikkun olam – repairing our broken world.

Please note: Tivnu is working with an academic partner to grant college credits through our program. Check back here, or check in with us directly for more details and the latest developments.

Tuition & Financial Aid

Tivnu is committed to making its Gap Year accessible to young adults of all economic backgrounds. Over 60% of past participants have received some financial assistance. Please see information about financial aid below. Priority consideration for tuition assistance and for internship placement will be given to early applicants. Late applications will be accepted as space permits.

$28,180 for early bird applications received by January 1, 2020
$30,180 for application received by March 1, 2020
$32,180 for applications received by May 1, 2020

Tuition covers:

  • Housing and utilities
  • Food
  • Supplies for internships
  • Educational sessions, field learning, activities, excursions and trips
  • Transportation to and from the worksite and all Tivnu programs
  • Staffing includes consistent one-on-one coaching and mentoring

Tuition does not cover transportation to and from Portland for the Gap Year program itself or incidental living expenses such as entertainment, personal items, personal travel, etc. The tuition represents a large percentage of the total cost of supporting each participant; the remainder is offset by the generous support of donors.

Financial Aid: Tivnu is committed to making its Gap Year accessible to young adults of all economic backgrounds. Please contact Steve Eisenbach-Budner at info@tivnu.org or 503-232-1864 with any questions about the affordability of the program for your family. Need-based financial aid is available. Please note that financial aid applications are due at the same time as program applications and priority consideration for tuition assistance will be given to early applicants. The financial aid application is located at https://sssbynais.org/parents; please use the school code 201518. For assistance with the financial aid application steps, call 1-800-344-8328. Those applying for tuition assistance must also send copies of their W2 and 1040 forms to Steve@tivnu.org.

We are deeply appreciative of the Zidell Family Foundation, which sponsors two $10,000 scholarships. Two applicants who have completed our tuition assistance application will be chosen by Tivnu; no extra application is necessary. If needed, additional assistance may be granted as well.

Refer a friend discount. If you tell a friend about Tivnu and both of you are accepted by the program, each of you will get a $500 discount off the program price.

Application and Enrollment Timeline for 2020-21


Application Period Priority Application Standard Application Final Application
Tuition* $28,180 $30,180 $32,180
Application Deadline
($72 non-refundable application fee)
Jan 1 Mar 1 Jun 1*
Acceptance Notification Feb 1 Apr 1 Jun 22
Commitment Deadline
($1,500 non-refundable deposit)
Feb 15 Apr 15 Jul 1
Half Tuition Due May 15 May 15 Jul 5
Balance Due Jul 1 Jul 1 Aug 1
Program Begins Sep 1 Sep 1 Sep 1

*Deadline extended due to COVID-19 circumstances. Priority consideration for tuition assistance and for internship placement will be given to early applicants. Late applications will be accepted as space permits.

Payment Details

Full payment for the program must be made by personal check or wire transfer.

Cancellation Policy: For cancellation less than 1 month before the program start date, Tivnu will retain 25% of the Gap Year program tuition. For cancellations after the program begins, Tivnu will retain 100% of tuition.

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Taking a gap year at home can be as meaningful as doing one abroad.
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