On November 16th, the 2015 Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair was attended by nearly 500 students and their parents, who met with 49 Israel and support representatives. Yaki Lopez, from the Israel Consulate, greeted the crowd with inspiring words and thanked them for the support they showed for Israel.
Lopez said he was appreciative that so many people showed support for the Gap Year experience even during challenging times. With the recent tragic news of Ezra Schwartz, many parents are concerned about the reality of taking the trip in today’s world. Parent Marlene Frankiel listened to Lopez speak and said, “Naturally I am concerned for my son’s safety and well-being, but the opportunity to be able to listen and then to speak directly to the representatives made me feel much better.”
“We were so gratified that the community has embraced the Fair,” said Director, Phyllis Folb, whose company, Find Your Right Direction, produced the Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair. “We literally were bursting this year. Many programs were unable to exhibit because of space limitations so we are already looking for a bigger location so that next year we can accommodate everyone comfortably.”
Aside from parents of students from schools and student organizations (YULA, Shalhevet, Harkham GAON Academy, Valley Torah, and NCSY), there were families from public and private schools and from all regions of the City and all religious affiliations. Many traveled from outside California, including Arizona and Nevada.
In addition to the direct Israel programs, Yeshiva University, Touro Los Angeles, American Jewish University and State University of New York, Binghamton were available to discuss their Israel Option programs. These colleges are Israel Gap-Year friendly with a strong Jewish infrastructure on campus. Many accept credit for classes taken in Israel during the student gap year. The smooth transition from gap year to college makes the year in Israel all the more feasible.
Parent Joanne Halperin shared her thoughts saying,”This year’s Fair was much more comprehensive with more Israel representatives including colleges, MASA and Jerusalem Tours, which I think was very important. Los Angeles parents need to have these resources and it is great to have everything under one roof. Speaking directly to the representatives from all the yeshivot we were researching was extremely helpful. The Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair continues to get better overall.”
Meryl-Lee Avraham, Assistant Director, of Machon Maayan seminary, confirmed the fair has been, “…created as a resource that has aided many families in making the difficult gap year decision, The Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair is now the centralized location to hear about Israel options on the West Coast!”
“The Israel Fair was a great opportunity for me to learn about Israel programs that I hadn’t even heard of through my school,” said student Kesser Frankiel. “It gave me more to think about and consider for my gap year than what I would have just seen in the single school visits”.
Associated with the Fair from the beginning, Masa Israel Journey was a presenting sponsor and continues to let parents know about the funding opportunities they offer. City-wide synagogue sponsorship included Beth Jacob, Bnai David-Judea, Mogen David, Beverly Hills Synagogue, Shaarei Tefela, Shaarey Zedek, Westwood Kehilla, and Young Israel Century City.
This was an event of “achdus” (unity) with Israel on all levels.