Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair Offers Diverse and Enriching Programs for 2016 Graduates


Ruth Judah.

Get ready for the upcoming Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair, taking place on the evening of November 16th. With the national endorsements of the American Gap Association (AGA), USA Gap-Year Fairs and Masa Israel Journey, this year’s Los Angeles Israel Gap-Year Fair will be a prestigious and meaningful resource for parents of high school students.

Gap Year Fairs are building in momentum to keep up with the increased appreciation of the gap-year phenomenon. The AGA has reported a 294% increase in attendance at Gap Fairs since 2011. Colleges around the country, from Ivy’s to State Universities, are encouraging graduating high school seniors to explore the world in organized programs that build their emotional intelligence which is a proven benefit to college success. With renewed energy, gap year students repeatedly show a college readiness that translates into academic success and satisfaction with their chosen career. There are Gap Year programs available throughout the world, but for Jewish students, a gap year in Israel is life-changing.

Last year’s Fair welcomed hundreds of students and parents who interacted with representatives from over 40 diverse Israel gap-year programs. The Fair will continue to focus on a broad selection of learning programs, to community and army service and will take place on Shalhevet’s beautiful new campus.

Masa Israel Journey is the presenting sponsor and are providing scholarship funding so that 1000’s of students can find a way to afford the programs. Representatives will be attending the Fair to answer questions about the application process.

The Fair is offering a variety of programs that will allow new graduates to immerse themselves in their religious identity, develop an understanding of their individual spirituality and absorb Israeli culture. For many years, observant Jewish families have known instinctively that the year in Israel is the best way for their child to develop a unique sense of self as they drink up the character of Israel.

The first year after high school is the first time a young adult is able to investigate their personal connection to who they are Jewishly and how they connect to Israel. The rest of the world is catching up with this reality. The Gap year creates an environment for maturity and self-awareness without parental guidance and this emotional intelligence is the key to quality life choices.

There are a variety of programs on offer with seminary learning and certain organizations offer a half day of seminary study combined with additional opportunities. Emunah Ve Omanut is based in Jerusalem and offers a music and arts program. Other programs offer volunteer assignments in orphanages. Machon Maayan is situated on the impressive Givat Washington Educational campus. The program allows students to attend seminary and simultaneously enter a groundbreaking music track with a state-of-the-art recording studio. Meanwhile, seminaries take enrollment from a diverse group of Jewish students who live in countries across the globe.

A year after participating in a program, Los Angeleno Sarah Katchen reminisced about the opportunity, “Today is exactly one year since I’ve been home from Israel. It was such an educational, emotional, and life changing year. From volunteering at Yemin orde to meeting family from Israel, from living in Jerusalem to studying and just having fun. I learned so much about Israel and even more about myself. I made lifelong friendships and incredible memories. I am so grateful to my parents for allowing me to go on such an amazing program. My life has completely changed since this experience and I have formed such an inseparable connection with Israel”

Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair is the brainchild of Director, Phyllis Folb, whose company Find Your Direction specializes in a college/gap year counseling and educational events. She explains her passion for the programs, noting that, “All the introductory trips to Israel, either with family, school or outreach opportunities can provide an initial burst of passion, but it is the year in Israel, living, working, and learning, that builds a deep relationship with Israel and the Jewish people, solidifying personal religious values. It is also the best way to prepare college bound kids for campus anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism that they may soon encounter for the very first time.” The essence of gap year, Folb explains, is to ask, “How am I going to being fortified in who I am? How comfortable am I in my own skin?”

Folb loves promoting the Gap Year program because she is certain of its significance. “Parents and students and educators need to begin think of the Gap Year as, not an extra or bonus year to post-secondary education, but a necessary and inclusive year of a student’s academic endeavors. I am convinced that the year spent in Israel prior to beginning college prepares Jewish students to remain true to their religious values and fortifies them against the pressures to conform once they begin their freshman year. The Gap Year in Israel is your Torah dollars at work.”

Rabbi Binny Freedman of Dean, Orayta Yeshiva said, “The Fair gives an opportunity for a large group of people to see a broad swath of schools all in one place in a short time. As a direct result of conversations with students and parents at the Fair many students came to Israel (in 2014), so I can unequivocally recommend this fair as worthwhile.”

Long-time co-sponsors YULA Boys and Girls High Schools, Valley Torah, Harkham GAON Academy (formally Yeshiva High Tech) and NCSY continue their support and are joined by synagogues, Beth Jacob, B’nai David-Judea, Beverly Hills Synagogue, Mogen David (Ashanzi and Sephardi minyans), Shaarei Tefila, and Shaarey Zedek, Young Israel Century City and Westwood Kehilla. This ever-growing list of sponsors make the Fair a true community event.

Additionally, Touro College and Yeshiva University will be among the table sponsors to discuss their Israel option enrollment, which can give up to one year’s worth of college credit for the gap-year experience.

The Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair is designed for high school juniors and seniors and their parents but all teens interested in learning more about Israel programs are welcome to attend.

The event is produced by Find Your Right Direction-Educational Services and Events. For more information, contact: Phyllis Folb, LA Israel Gap Year Fair-Director 310-702-0644, findyourrightdirection@gmail.com. Like us on Facebook!

New Location: Shalhevet High School, 910 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036 2015 Event Details: Monday, November 16th, 2015, 7pm- 10pm.