Hartman Institute to Open New Joint Israeli-American Gap-year Program

The idea is to get young Israelis and North American Jews to learn about the challenges facing each of their societies.

The Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem’s landmark religious and cultural center, is about to launch a gap-year program based on a unique concept: bringing together young Israelis and North Americans for an extended and intensive learning experience.

The program, which will open its doors in September to a select group of 20 Israelis and 20 North Americans, is being run in collaboration with Hebrew College, Boston’s largest Jewish educational institution and home to the area’s only rabbinical school.

“There are lots of gap-year programs for American students in Israel,” said Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, “but in most of them, participants end up living in a sort of American ghetto. The idea here is to get young Israelis and young North American Jews to learn about each other and the challenges facing each of their societies. This is not about having Israelis join an American program for a few days, or about having Americans join an Israeli program for a few days. What makes this unique is that it’s a joint program for an extended period of time.”

He said this is the first gap-year program to offer such an option for Israeli and North American high-school graduates.

During the course of the year, he said, participants in the program, which will be called Hevruta, will take a three-week trip to North America.

Masa, a joint partnership between the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency, currently runs more than 150 gap year programs in Israel.

“The future of Jewish peoplehood is dependent on the two major world Jewish communities finding new ways of learning to work together and developing new models of understanding,” said Hartman.

Union of Reform Judaism