The Los Angeles Israel Gap Year Fair made history this year with six Jewish high schools across the denominational spectrum warmly embracing the Gap (Bridge) Year experience in Israel. Their joint sponsorship of the 4th annual Fair, the cornerstone event of the American Israel Gap Year Association, speaks to the growing importance the bridge year provides for Jewish continuity and academic success.
Long time sponsors, YULA, Shalhevet, Valley Torah, and Harkham GAON Academy, were joined this year by de Toledo and Milken High Schools. The response across the board has been warm and inclusive. Masa Israel Journey continued their founding sponsorship, as well as area synagogues: Beth Jacob, Young Israel Century City, Beverly Hills Synagogue, and Westwood Kehilla.
This year’s site, Bnai David-Judea Congregation, hosted organizations representing a genuine cross-section of Israel programming. Everything from traditional learning programs to arts, culture, university and army preparation were included in the options.
Sue DeRuyter, college counselor for de Toledo explains, “I strongly encouraged my students to attend the Fair that provided not only a broad range of program opportunities, but a chance to hear from students and alumni from various Gap Year programs which was very beneficial in their decision making process.”
Gap Year Fair speakers, Michelle Moreh from the Israel Consulate and Ron Krudo of Stand With Us, emphasized the strong connection the bridge year plays in establishing a lifelong relationship to Israel. Krudo stated the Gap Year experience ensures greater involvement in Jewish life on campus. Student speakers were equality effusive. Their personal experiences particularly resonated with the audience, making their visits with Israel providers more productive.
Aliza Benporat said, “Going to Israel was more than just a year in seminary, it was a year of self-development. It was a year to solidify myself, my values, and my foundation so I can keep moving in a positive direction.”
The Gap Year is recognized now as the key to academic success. This is expressed through increased emotional maturity, more focus and goal oriented decision-making for major and career choices. Gap Year participants also enjoy better overall college retention, translating to a straighter line to graduation (often faster than the national average of six years).
The “Gap” year world is beginning to change the marketing identity from Gap to Bridge year emphasizing the transitional nature of this year from the high school experience to the real world of college life.
For the Jewish student, this bridge year is more than the just a key to the academic success, but the place where they will take ownership of their Jewish identity. This year can provide direction in deciding what kind of role Judaism will take in their life.
Phyllis Fob, AIGY Executive Director, says, “AIGYA wants to be more than a Fair. We want to provide counseling to those that don’t have accesses to on-campus help, digital resources, and workshops. This takes people power, and I am actively seeking board members who can help direct and support AIGYA to further its mission of changing lives through the Gap (Bridge) Year experience.”.
Ms. Folb welcomes anyone who would like to discuss the Gap Year, its advantages, and how to plan for it. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.