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Why take a “gap year?”

A gap year is: “A structured period of time when students take a break from formal education to increase self-awareness, learn from different cultures, and experiment with possible careers.” (American Gap Association)

One third of all first year college students drop out of college. Forty percent of college students take five to six years to graduate with an undergraduate degree. Burnout and alcohol use of college first year students are at an all-time high. Participating in a gap year program prior to the start of college has been shown to be an effective response to these challenges. Students who take a gap year state that it helped to set them on their current career path/academic major or confirmed their choice of career/academic major. Gap Year students are perceived to be more mature, more self-reliant and independent than non-Gap Year students. It is also important to note that 90 percent of students who took a Gap Year entered college within a year.[1]

“More than 5% of colleges and universities have a formal gap year deferment program, including Amherst College, Indiana University, University of Colorado, Princeton, Baylor University, University of Maryland, Harvard University”.[2]

Data and Gap Year Benefits

Why Tzedek America?

Tzedek America provides a program that allows Jewish young adults to explore their Jewish identity in the United States as well as where they will live, work, and potentially build families. It shows them that they can be active citizens and strong, involved, and knowledgeable Jews in the United States.

Tzedek America will expose participants to a broad spectrum of Judaism in the United States — Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, Conservative, Orthodox, Ashkenzi, Sephardi, east coast, west coast, southern, urban, rural, emerging congregations and long-standing ones will allow Tzedek Americans to make informed choices about their religious practices and carry these choices into adulthood. This exploration includes deep and meaningful work facing the challenges that face communities in the U.S.: poverty, education, health, and the environment. Participants will engage in sustained, hands-on service, as informed by study of Jewish text and tradition.

Before young adults enter college and become focused on their academic major and how they will make enough money once they graduate, Tzedek America provides an experience that creates civic minded individuals, who are able to articulate their personal philosophies and gain the skills to put those person philosophies into action.

[1]American Gap Year Association, http://americangap.org




Who will look after my child on a daily basis?

An adult House Guide will live in the Tzedek America house. Any one of the following people will interact with the Tzedek Americans on a daily basis: Either the executive director, assistant director, house guide, adults mentor, internship mentor.

How will spending a year on Tzedek America affect my child’s college experience?

According to the American Gap Year Association, a year participating in a “gap year” experience increases GPA and greatly decreases dropout, burnout and drug use during college. In addition to their enhanced academic experience their Jewish experience will be completely different. They will have a redefine sense of their Jewish identity and the confidence to make ritual and ethical Jewish choices. We do not guarantee involvement in campus institutions such as Hillel, but we do aim to help young adults make informed Jewish choices, give them an increased Jewish awareness, and exercise their leadership capacity.

How will the internships be arranged?

Tzedek Americans want to use their skills, talents and passions for the purposes of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). Tzedek America internships are unpaid opportunities to do the hard work of social justice in the city of Los Angeles. Participants will be matched with internship organizations after an interview process.

What is the alcohol and drug policy?

Tzedek America is a tobacco, drug and alcohol free program. Students who participate in drug or alcohol use on the premises or, if their discovered usage interferes with their internship or the group dynamics, will be counseled. Any decisions about dismissal will be decided on a case-by-case evaluation of each situation.

What is the car policy?

Tzedek America is a no automobile program. Bicycles and public transportation will be used on a daily basis.

Can I have food or packages sent to the Tzedek America house?

Yes. Packages may be sent to the Tzedek America house at any time. Tzedek America is institutionally kosher. All food in the house needs to be vegetarian and/or kosher. Food choices of the individual participants made out of the Tzedek America house is left up to each participant.

How much additional spending money will my child need during the year?

We approximate that each participant will need $100 a week for discretionary money. The majority of meals will be provided by the Tzedek America program, but the participants will have the opportunity to eat off site on designated days. If you are interested in partnering with us to teach your child budgeting by arranging for a debit card, we are happy to work with you.

What will happen in my child becomes sick?

Tzedek America has a relationship with a local physician who is on call for our program 24/7. The Tzedek America house is nearby an urgent care facility and several major hospitals. Students who are sick and need to stay in their room or in the house during the week will “call in sick” to their internships. In the event that a hospital visit is necessary, your child will be accompanied by a staff member of Tzedek America.

How will my child get around in Los Angeles and on trips?

Tzedek America is a no automobile program, but bicycles are welcome. During our orientation week we will learn how to use public transportation including the buses and metro. Companies such as Uber and Lyft are available in Los Angeles for unplanned side trips. During our explore LA days we will either use public transportation or chartered transportation services.

What is the living situation?

The Tzedek America house is a large secured house with multiple bedrooms, a semi-commercial kitchen, and plenty of hangout space and a dining room which accommodates 30 people. Roommates will be shuffled systematically and periodically. Participants will be responsible for daily and weekly chores around the house. The house will be cleaned professionally once a week.

How will meals be provided?

This is a Jewish program, so there will be plenty of food. Tzedek America participants will learn to cook as part of the curriculum and cook in teams in rotation. The Tzedek America house will be institutionally kosher. Individual participants will be able to make their own dietary choices. When meals are not provided for communally, participants will have a choice to make their own dishes or go out to local eateries.


Breakfasts will be prepared by the “breakfast team” several days week and on the other the days, breakfast will be made by individual participants.


Lunch foods such as peanut butter, hummus, salads, will be available for the participants to make their own lunches. A festive Shabbat lunch will be provided each Saturday.


For the majority of the dinners during the week, the Tzedek America participants will prepare and cook the meals for each other. Not only will the TA participants be professionally trained but they will learn about food justice and where our food comes from as part of the yearly curriculum.


One of our goals is to teach a healthy living lifestyle. That doesn’t mean an absence of snacks but it does mean that popcorn, vegetables, hummus, homemade iced tea, and homemade baked goods will be prepared and available on a regular basis. Personal snacks may be purchased or acquired by each TA participant

What if my child wants or needs to leave in the middle of the program?

Tzedek America is a yearlong program. Full participation is crucial to the arc of its curricular goals. The spot your child has taken was not given to another potential applicant and therefore will no funds will be refunded.

Can I visit my child during the program?

YES! We have scheduled parent weekends during the year and in addition we would love for you to visit your child during the program. Weekends are the best time for visits. We will have special programming on Shabbat and Sundays will be a free day. You are welcome to join us. If you would like to schedule a visit with your child, please contact info@tzedekameirca.org. Unfortunately, there is not room for you to stay overnight at the Tzedek America house. Your child will have internship responsibilities during the week, so we prefer that you limit your visits to weekends.

Will there be official “breaks” during the year?

Yes. The Tzedek America year will mirror the academic year of major universities in addition to time off for the Jewish holidays.