Whether you’ve got a sudden hankering to explore your nascent Jewish identity or you miss your rabbinic training of yore, there’s probably a program of study for you in the Holy Land. Although many associate Israel study options with the post-high school “gap year,” this diverse array of programs welcome adults of all ages.
To examine Judaism as an intellectual, but with limited background, men in their 20s can try the three- to five-week Aish Essentials (Israel.aish.com/essentials) which, along with Aish’s women’s JEWEL program (jewel4women.com), for women ages 19-30, explores basic tenets of Jewish belief, ritual and practice. Aish Essentials is free, JEWEL costs up to $2,500, with many scholarships available, and both include housing and meals. For those in their 30s looking for more in-depth learning, there’s Eyaht (eyaht.org) for women and Bircas HaTorah (bircas.org) for men; cost and length of study vary.
BE’EROT BAT AYIN
As the only Jewish holistic women’s seminary in Israel, B’erot Bat Ayin (berotbatayin.org) mixes textual study of Tanakh, halachah (Jewish law) and chasidut (Jewish mysticism) with organic gardening, herbology and studying Jewish sources on healing and sustainable living. Located in the village of Bat Ayin, a 20-minute drive south of Jerusalem, the program aims to engage students’ minds while allowing them to develop their creativity through writing, music, movement and drama. Tuition for semester and yearlong programs is $820 per month, which includes housing and four meals per week.
The Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem (conservativeyeshiva.org) features intensive ulpan or Talmud study, textual study in Bible, halachah, Jewish thought and more, plus skills workshops, tours and volunteering. For ages 19 and up, the yearlong program costs $7,250; summer program is $800 for three weeks or $1,100 for six weeks, and does not include housing, food or books. Summer students can also opt for the intensive Volunteer and Study track where you volunteer half-days with an Israeli nonprofit.
Israel Way/Oranim (destinationisrael.com) offers a variety of study, volunteer and internship options in Israel, including an NYU-Poly master’s degree program, where you can earn a master’s in management or organizational behavior in 10 to 12 months ($28,840 tuition includes housing, studies and trips); Israel Teaching Fellows, where college graduates volunteer for 10 months to teach English in low-performing Israeli schools ($1,000 tuition includes airfare); and numerous internship and volunteer opportunities at kibbutzim, hotels in the Negev and more. Cost and length of programs vary.
The five key aspects of the Livnot U’Lehibanot (livnot.com) experience are explore, challenge, empower, inspire and connect. Through exploring Israel intimately (think jumping off a 30-foot waterfall in Yehudia), learning in and outside of the classroom, performing community service like apartment painting for the elderly or restoration of the Jerusalem forest, and becoming part of a global community, students leave the program revitalized and inspired. Based in Jerusalem and Tzfat, the programs range from one to six weeks and cost about $100 a week, including room and board.
Makor (makorjerusalem.org), a new gap-year program started by the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem and based on Israeli mechinot — self-study programs prior to army service — blends classical Jewish text study with leadership-skills development, social action and immersion in Israeli culture. Zionist, Israeli-style and co-ed, the program features traditional learning and Israeli mifgashim — encounters — for both Sephardim and Ashkenazim. Tuition of $18,000 includes meals, books, trips, an on-campus gym and medical coverage.
Women of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to study for any amount of time at Neve Yerushalayim’s Jerusalem campus (nevey.org) to discover a deeper connection to Judaism. There’s a six-week Mechina program for those with limited background; Shalhevet, for those with a solid learning background; and a general year-long program, all of which aim to provide increased Jewish knowledge, enhanced spiritual growth and answers to fundamental Jewish questions. Tuition, room and meals are $1,600 per month.
Nishmat’s Alisa Flatow International Post-College English Program (nishmat.net) for post-college women teaches students the skills needed to understand and analyze classic texts and reflect on how they inform modern Jewish thought and practice. The international student body also volunteers in the local community and goes on organized trips. While the English-speakers program is a unique community, students also share holidays and Shabbat with the larger Israeli Nishmat community in Jerusalem. Tuition for the year is $8,000, and room and board is $4,000.
A co-ed seminary for post-university students in Jerusalem, Pardes (pardes.org.il) combines in-depth textual study with social action and learning opportunities beyond the text. Committed to traditional Jewish halachah, Pardes welcomes students of all religious affiliations and backgrounds. Tuition for the year is $5,750 and covers classes and extracurricular activities only. Half-year and summer study programs are also available.
Shapell’s (darchenoam.org) in Jerusalem aims to provide a holistic Jewish education to meet the challenges of modern Jewish life for male college graduates and professionals. Through helping students develop textual and analytical skills and approach classic Jewish sources, the school promotes a sophisticated and balanced approach to Torah Judaism. Tuition of $15,500 includes full room and board, activities and classes. Shapell’s sister school, Midreshet Rachel, targets educated, adult Jewish women to study, build skills and cultivate a Torah background. Tuition is $9,600 and does not include room or board. Students can opt to live in the school’s housing for $325 per month.
YESHIVAT TORAH HAMIVTAR
A religious-Zionist and Modern Orthodox post-college yeshiva for men, in Israel, Yeshivat Torah Hamivtar (ytyh.org) in Gush Etzion focuses on exploring Talmud and classic Jewish texts with intellectual honesty and rigor. Tuition of $15,000 includes housing, a monthly trip, room and full board. Students can also come for shorter periods of time, paying a rate of $1,500 a month. l