The American Israel Gap-Year Association’s 5th Annual Successful Fair


The American Israel Gap-Year Association’s 5th Annual Successful Fair

Yehudis Litvak

Over 300 enthusiastic students, parents, and educators gathered at YULA Girls High School on November 16th to participate in the annual Israel Gap Year Fair, cornerstone event of the American Israel Gap-Year Association (AIGYA). The participants were able to meet with representatives of 40 different programs, each offering a unique experience to high school graduates.

Phyllis Folb, Executive Director of AIGYA, says that this year’s host, YULA Girls High School, created a warm and inviting feeling. “There was such warmth, such heart in the room,” she says. “The different programs all had a collective vision – we want to inspire your students, we are here for you. There was an enormous feeling of greater good.”

Rabbi Joshua Spodek, Head of YULA’s Girls School, says, “The Gap Year Fair is an incredible evening for students and parents alike to learn about all the amazing and diverse opportunities for study in Israel post high school. With dozens of options and schools to learn about and choose from, the Gap Year Fair brings so many of these yeshivot, seminaries, and Israel programs to one location for one evening. It is quite an empowering, inspiring, and educational evening, and one that, we have no doubt, will impact many students and parents with their decision to spend a year in Israel following high school.”

Israel Guidance counselor Shira Hershoff adds, “As a strongly Zionist school, sending our graduates to Israel for a year is an important part of YULA Girls High School’s mission statement, and the fair was an important event in line with that mission. More importantly, it allowed parents to be active participants in the process of choosing a Gap Year experience that best suits their child’s needs. We are so proud to have hosted this year’s highly successful Gap Year Fair and look forward to partnering with AIGYA in the future.”

The students attending the fair were filled with excitement and anticipation. They were glad for the opportunity to include their parents in the experience of choosing the gap year program. One student said that the fair “gave me more options to consider than just the school visits and [emphasized] how every program is different.” Another student said that the fair “reminded me how important Israel is and how [gap year] impacts your identity.”

Ms. Folb says that a major goal of the fair is to help each student find a program that is the right fit for them. “The right fit is crucial in order for the student to have a transformative experience,” she says. “This is when students take ownership of [their Jewish involvement.]”

The program representatives were impressed by the Los Angeles event. “I travel all over the world going to fairs,” says Simon Cohen of Aardvark Israel Immersion Programs. “This past year I was in ten different countries, and this is by far the biggest, most successful Israel Gap Year Fair in the world.”

Ms. Folb was very pleased with this year’s fair. “It is inspiring to see the faces of parents and students from all our Jewish high schools – Shalhevet, Valley Torah, YULA Boys, de Toledo, and Harkham GAON Academy, Milken, and our public schools – with such passion, interest, excitement, and to know that they will experience and embrace this bridge year. It is a bridge from all the learning they’ve had so far that will jump off the page for them in Israel. They will become our ambassadors, go to college campuses, and speak about Israel in such a positive way, because they’ve experienced it. AIGYA is proud to have been a part of furthering Jewish continuity.”

In addition to the local high schools, the event was also sponsored by NCSY, synagogues Beth Jacob, Beth Am, Bnai David–Judea, Beverly Hills Synagogue, Young Israel of Century City, Adat Shalom, and Westwood Kehilla, and Masa Israel Journey and Jewish Community Foundation.